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New Ways of Letting Go

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Album Review

For his second album, New Ways of Letting Go, which appears nearly four years after his first, This Is a Beautiful Town, singer/songwriter Michael Zapruder has assembled a small orchestra of strings and horns, and dubbed the ensemble Michael Zapruder's Rain of Frogs. The music is engaging, melodic chamber pop that harks back to the psychedelic days of 1967 and the Beatles and the Moody Blues, all in support, of Zapruder's resonant, slightly flat baritone. That voice is first heard on the opening song, "The Alchemist," singing, "I do my work, a hundred milligrams is all I need." A hundred milligrams of what?, one may well ask, but the answer seems clear from the context, and for the rest of the disc, it sounds like Zapruder may have ingested those milligrams, since his lyrics, while full of flora, fauna, and, occasionally, fire (titles include "On the Arms of a Burning City" and "The Institute Is Burning"), don't seem to make any literal sense at all. That, too, is arguably in keeping with the psychedelic tone of the music that accompanies them. But it works to the disc's detriment, since the arrangements are built around the vocals, which are high in the mix and are sung clearly, as if Zapruder had important messages to convey. If so, those messages are almost entirely private.

Customer Reviews


From the moment the opening piano chords of "The Alchemist" introduce a pop fantasm where the mantra "I do my work" attempts to convince freedom to the plaintive yet triumphant spiritual release of "Phainopepla," this new album from songwriter Michael Zapruder and his ensemble Rain of Frogs is a lush, introspective visitation of fantasy, insanity, pathos, celebration, and recovery knitted up in the weft of some truly beautiful compositional kites. While Zapruder demonstrated that he was capable of writing radio friendly songs on his first album, notably with the pop-perfect "That Is What I Want," the almost-ode to Lennon of "See You In Paradise," or the Nielsen-does-Newman "Summer's Last Day," here he footnotes the magic of the Beatles circa *Magical Mystery Tour* and *Sgt. Pepper's*, refrains of Rungren with gypsy instumentation, and the interludes of Emerick-produced Costello. But Zapruder exhibits a writing maturity with these songs that marks a not so subtle turning point from someone who shows musical promise to someone whose wisdom truly warrants our attention if we are to learn something about ourselves. Whether the streetwalker turning tricks in "Haymaker Market" with its raucous catcall of horns, the palpable sense of loss and bittersweet promise of renewal in "Elm Yellows," or a megalomaniac's pangs of love for the other amid the apocalyptic destruction he has wrought in "On the Arm of a Burning City" -- quite simply, a songwriting masterpiece -- this album like any important work of art deserves careful and repeated listens to apprehend and appreciate its secrets.

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