A Subtle, Soaring New Art-Rock Gem From Carol Lipnik
Singer Carol Lipnik‘s career was derailed by the lockdown in more ways than one. By March of 2020, she was already putting the icing on the sonic confections on her album Goddess of Imperfection, She ended up in limbo until March of this year, when she finally released that long-awaited follow-up to her 2015 art-rock masterpiece Almost Back to Normal in But there’s more. She had two other albums in the can! She wrote the second of the three, Blue Forest – streaming at her music page – in an 1893 stone tower at the Yaddo artist retreat, where she’d been invited. It was worth the wait.
Lipnik may be a streetwise Coney Island-bred New Yorker, but her songs are galactic. Where Goddess of Imperfection is lavish and orchestral, Blue Forest is more intimately ethereal. Lipnik’s practically five-octave range mingles within a sometimes swirling, sometimes cascading mix of Kyle Sanna’s guitar alongside her longtime pianist Matt Kanelos, with Mathias Künzli on percussion.
The loosely connecting thread between the songs is the imperiled state of our natural world, a persistent theme throughout Lipnik’s music. She opens with the title track, a gorgeous, ELO-tinged mini-anthem with a towering, glistening coda from Kanelos.
“While our world was coming apart, we dreamed,” she intones soberly in the second song, All the Colors of the Sky, Kanelos’ stately, rippling, baroque-tinged piano behind Sanna’s spare fingerpicking. “Will we miss it when it’s gone?” she asks, on the way to one of her signature, breathtakingly operatic crescendos.
“There’s radiant energy, fire in the sky, darkness is coming to open our eyes,” she sings in the stately, similarly baroque Birds of a Feather. You want prophetic or what?
Sanna’s chiming guitar and drifting synth provide a starry backdrop for I Don’t Work Hard, an elegantly soaring cabaret number. The album’s only cover is Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes, a rare gem by Elizabethan composer and poet Thomas Campion, Lipnik channeling both grit and poignancy over Sanna’s elegant lute-like ukulele work.
She goes back toward a sly, knowing cabaret ambience as Sanna and Kanelos supply bouncy cheer in Tick Bite: “The flame that burns within you is the same flame that burns you,” Lipnik observes. The final cut is A Pure Dose of Mercy, a spacious, minutely nuanced meditation on the pros and cons of staying on the sunny side of the street…including when it gets dangerous. It’s a characteristic blend of deceptively simple, straightforward songcraft and vocal pyrotechnics. and an apt way to close the record. Even better, there’s another one on the way!