Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Rebecca Lappa moves popwards with her new EP collection, Tales Of A Taurus.
Release Date: 5th May 2023
Label: Tonic/Fontana Records
High achievement seems to come naturally to Canadian singer-songwriter Rebecca Lappa. Blessed with a heavenly singing voice, she plays guitar, piano, banjo and what she (I suspect modestly…) refers to as “a bit of” ukelele. She’s a Bachelor of Music Therapy – she completed the course last year at Capilano University in North Vancouver – and she’s received five nominations for the Canadian Folk Music Awards, winning the prestigious Young Performer of the Year Award in 2015. She wrote her first song aged nine and has been performing since she was 13. Rebecca Lappa is, indeed, a lady on a mission.
Tales Of A Taurus is the latest in Rebecca’s impressive string of singles and EPs, and she’s taking the opportunity to move away from her folky roots and towards a direction that I’d describe as “Thinker’s pop.” Her new tunes are upbeat and accessible and coated in a robust topping of sophistication and the production is lush and carefully layered. But if that description leads you to expect a collection of light, fluffy candy-floss tunes, then think again. The clue is in Rebecca’s educational background – she believes in using music as a therapeutic tool – and Tales Of A Taurus is loaded with songs that reflect Rebecca’s personal experiences as a woman in her 20s – and the pain and struggles that can entail – and of healing and change.
And it is, perhaps, the focus on such potentially sticky subject matter that has prompted Rebecca to move in that new, poppy, direction, as she explains: “Just like people change over time, my choice of how I express myself as an artist has changed over time. I am currently at a point in my life where the most raw and authentic version of myself feels best expressed through pop and alternative music. With this EP, I am continuing my journey of creative expression. My focus is making music and stories that matter to me and, hopefully, it will impact others.”
I’ve already mentioned the quality of the production on Tales Of A Taurus, and that quality is largely down to Louise Burns, former bassist with Cranbrook BC pop-rockers Lillix, who’s handled the album’s production. She’s also added bass, synth and backing vocals and commissioned the services of drummers Alex Glassford and Flavio Cirillo, and guitarist Max Cunningham and, with those ingredients, she’s achieved the perfect accompaniment to Rebecca’s bright, clear and utterly enchanting vocals.
And it’s those vocals that deliver the impact on opening track, Your One, the most recent of the three singles to be taken from the EP. With lines like: “I don’t wanna be your one-in-a-million, I just wanna be your one,” the song’s lyrics deal with self-realisation and the obstacles to forming a relationship, and Rebecca delivers them with a passion and intrigue that puts me in mind of latter-day Fleetwood Mac. With an opening apparently inspired by 80s/90s Brit-pop, Blue Lips, the lead single from the collection, is a somewhat grittier affair. It’s driven along by Louise’s twangy bassline and a tight, crisp drumbeat, and Rebecca is, once again, on top vocal form. Rebecca explains the song’s story: “It’s the story of a friend who had been in a ‘friends and benefits’ relationship. I used the ice and snow imagery [of the song’s lyrics] to show the lack of care from the one person and how the other is hoping it turns into something more, but, deep down, knows it’s not.”
Described as the collection’s “atmospheric standout,” the tender, pleasant, Forecast is, perhaps, the most melodic of the songs on offer. The lyrics deal with a failing relationship and Rebecca’s delivery, sweetened by some delicious backing vocals, is tender and sympathetic. Lolita, the last of the EP’s three singles is, by some distance, the darkest song of the collection – and it’s my personal favourite. The song is inspired by the 1955 Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name – a grim tale of obsession and sexual abuse – and Rebecca pulls no punches as she explores the sinister relationship that forms between protagonist and victim in the novel. The chugging guitar lick that propels the song doesn’t detract from the evil lurking within the lyrical content, exemplified by lines like: “You crave control, your hands in her clothes.” It’s creepy, but irresistible.
The folky Witch’s Way is maybe the only song on the EP that offers any clue to Rebecca’s singer-songwriter roots, but, even here, we’re never far away from that new poppy direction. Rebecca’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar provides the background for yet another excellent vocal that, this time, reminds me of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and Louise’s production, particularly her treatment of the backing vocals, is excellent.
This short collection is brought to a close by the country-flavoured Brick By Brick. Rebecca’s slightly world-weary vocal delivery (this time, it’s Lucinda Williams that comes to mind) is lifted by Louise’s mystical harmonies and the whole thing is topped of by some delightfully light touches of slide guitar. It’s a pleasant way to round off a highly enjoyable collection of songs.
And, if you’d like to delve a little deeper into what Rebecca Lappa has to offer, you might be interested to know that she has a couple of UK shows lined up in the very near future. She’ll be at the Canadian Music Showcase at London’s Strongroom Bar (tickets available here) on Tuesday 9th May and at this year’s Canada House @ The Great Escape at The Green Door Store in Brighton on Friday 12th May.
Watch the official lyric video to Lolita, one of the EP’s standout tracks, here: