The Brian Shapiro Band’s second full-length collection It’s Amazing consolidates and builds off the success of the outfit’s debut All That We See. To some listeners familiar with the first effort, it may even seem as if Shapiro’s songwriting doubles down on the first album’s iconoclastic self-expression. Despite coming together during the pandemic, the Shapiro Band’s songwriting landscape is insulated from the scourge. Shapiro isn’t a topical songwriter. Instead, It’s Amazing’s songs explore inner landscapes and boasts impressive skills at characterization. The latter quality contents itself with rendering certain “types” clear for listeners, but it’s effective, nonetheless.
There’s definitely an art rock component driving Shapiro’s music. The opener “Ambitigeddon” introduces newcomers to an unique songwriting sensibility they haven’t encountered before now that doesn’t tackle just weighty themes, such as human ambition and its effects, but examines them in thoroughly idiosyncratic fashion. “So Much” spotlights Alex Posmontier’s piano and Behn Gillece’s vibraphone contributions for the first time. They give the performance a skewed elegance many listeners will find appealing, and the lyrical content has an interesting circular quality in its observations. Its another interesting themes, as well, with Shapiro’s lyrics taking a look at how mistakes of perception influence self-appraisal and interactions with others.
“Am Now” goes even further within. Shapiro and his bandmates build this track around acoustic guitar, a notable departure from its predecessors, and it’s appropriate given the song’s introspection. It has a sour and desperate edge of self-loathing in its lyrics but the backing and Shapiro’s vocal delivery sweetens the message. It’s a crucial factor in what gives Shapiro’s music its appeal despite its often off-kilter point of view.
Posmontier returns again for the track “More Memories”. His piano provides the right accompaniment for, arguably, one of the more unpredictable love songs you’ve likely ever heard, but there’s no gimmicks present in this tune. It connects with surprising power. It is the song’s leanest track musically as the only instruments carrying the cut are Shapiro’s voice and Posmontier’s piano.
It’s Amazing turns its songwriting point of view outward again with the next track. “LALA” is caustic satire but, once again, Shapiro and the band smooth out any potential rough edges in the message with the song’s loping pattern. It has a cockeyed sort of affability you don’t always hear from any kind of song. “New Newz”, however, slides the album into post-punk territory. Ben Kutner-Duff hits the snare drum and the song’s off with energetic thrashing driving the track out the gate. The lyrics are a surprise, for sure, as Shapiro opts for cataloging modern media platforms and allowing listeners to draw their own conclusions. It’s effective and doesn’t feel like it’s grafted onto the album despite its punk rock sound.
“Savor” is the sweetest expression of pragmatism you may ever hear. Behn Gillece’s vibraphone pops up for a final time and helps give musical levity to a song that might have otherwise been accused of taking itself too seriously for its own good. It’s a slightly unexpected ending for the album perhaps, but nonetheless wholly satisfying.