Rochester-area native Liana Gabel's latest album, "Go Outside" — written during a residency at the Sanctuary Arcata in California — is surprising. The music is more than just standard indie singer-songwriter fare. The exuberant Gabel sings about love gone awry, ecological preservation, and the nature of creativity, all while wasting no time in accentuating her unconventional strengths. On quirky tunes like album opener "Oh Ma," "folk, indie – Journey," and the title track, Gabel showcases her talent as a tap dancer. Idiosyncratic and intricate tap shoe rhythms warmly meld with minimal, chamber pop instrumentation.
The album's strongest songs are also its most stylistically refreshing. Elements of gospel, smooth jazz, and soul elevate "Fly Away" and "Magic Powers." With an earnest, soulful voice somewhere between languishing and liberated, Gabel variously channels singers like Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor, and Rubblebucket's Kalmia Traver. Gabel's charm especially shines on "Do to you," in which she embodies water in an impassioned plea to humanity that is both sobering and funny. With plenty of authenticity and emotional vulnerability to spare, "Go Outside" seems designed to shorten the distance between people and affirm the life that unites us.
Gabel and her band will play an album release show with Ben Morey at South Wedge Mission on February 24.