Brian Shapiro Band’s first single from their third album You Me Future Now, “Better in TX”, mixes the band’s musical excellence, quirkiness, and topical songwriting in a timeless brew. It’s a bit tamer than some of Shapiro’s customary experimentation. There are traditional musical elements reinforcing the song’s foundations without ever normalizing its individuality. Guests often augment the Philadelphia-based trio and “Better in TX” is no different. Amelia Bushell’s contributions provide an excellent counterpoint to Shapiro’s vocals. This is far from radio-friendly mainstream fare, but nonetheless accessible and an excellent representation of Shapiro’s new album.
The piano running through the single helps tether it to earth. It gives the song a slightly rollicking air without ever sounding omnipresent. They achieve an improbable swing that adds a lot as well. “Better in TX” highlights a side of Shapiro’s songwriting talents we don’t hear often enough as the lyrics open with a quasi-narrative before moving off into other territories. It possesses a directness, as well, many other Shapiro songs do not share.
It has a classic structure with a repeating refrain. This helps soften the subject matter. Shapiro never adopts a high-handed tone in his writing, but any attentive listener will understand where his sympathies lie. Despite this, however, it isn’t necessary for you to agree with him to enjoy the song. Shapiro and his cohorts, including Bushell, deliver a compelling and entertaining musical turn listeners will not soon forget.
Bushell’s singing compliments Shapiro’s voice. The mix naturally favors the latter but not by an enormous margin. Inventive and smart vocal arrangements are a hallmark of Shapiro’s songwriting and the tradition continues with this single. The overall presentation packs quite a wallop thanks to an astute understanding of how to frame the band’s strengths. It isn’t a recording that ever steamrolls listeners but, instead, engages you physically from the first and manifests outstanding presence.
It continues a tone common in Shapiro’s music. He has led the band through three albums now and the confidence marking his songs from the beginning is stronger than ever. “Better in TX” has an idiosyncratic approach, without question, but Shapiro is in full command of the musical proceedings. You will not hear even an inkling of misgivings. Shapiro emerged as a musical artist harboring a clear vision and continues refining it as time progresses.
Shapiro introduces You Me Future Now to longtime fans and newcomers alike in fine fashion. “Better in TX” is Shapiro and his band at their most recognizably musical. Shapiro’s identity never allows him to pander, and he takes his position with intelligence and sans any browbeating. His emotion and thoughtfulness shine through in every composition and “Better in TX” shines brighter than most.
He’s set a prolific pace for himself and bandmates drummer Ben Kutner-Duff, second guitarist Rory Flynn, and bassist Ed Moman. “Better in TX” gives us a first taste of the band’s third full-length in as many years. It shows no signs, however, of the band’s creative engine winding down – if anything, they sound as invigorating as ever.