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April Rose Gabrielli’s “I Woke Up Alive” Reviewed

The pandemic derailed so many people’s life trajectory, the trip, especially Millennials on the road to find out suddenly in stasis. This affected the Italian American singer songwriter April Rose Gabrielli especially as just as she started up her career again disaster struck. April sees herself in motion on her debut solo album I Woke Up Alive, and wherever she arrives at the end is to see her life as a new thesis and story. That’s what the strong arrangements and simple melodies add up to: a journey into mortality saved by true love after years of interruption.

By the summer of 2021, April had released two singles (one of which appears on the debut) and a breathtaking live set at The Bitter End on July 23rd (here), I Woke Up Alive opens IRL with a doctor’s office confirmation from July 22nd. We know what happened next, April had five epileptic fits and almost died, instead she lived and “I Woke Up Alive” takes place on that same bed where she returns from a near death experience and is confused and not what you might expect. Thus we kick start the album, 17 songs, seven of each we’ve heard before, two vignettes and eight we don’t know. Between the start and the romantic “Seeds”, April is reacting to the distraught horrors by retreating, by the halfway mark, April stops pursuing heartaches and has find what she wants romantically, and by the end of the story she forwards the moral of the story.

The album has a thrilling spiral to it, for all its drama everything sticks. This includes the gorgeous, 80s pastiche “Beg For You” which sounds like Bleachers at the top of their game, the Bleachers of “Rollercoaster”. No, April isn’t turning to Lorde, Lana, or Taylor, she doesn’t work in electronic dreamscapes at any price, Jack Antonoff isn’t an influence, the vibe on the album is analog pop vibrations interspersed with deeply dramatic tracks. The two interweave so April can share a truth about being alive.

If the pop songs, “Beg For You”, “Need A Break”, “Happy”, the personal best “Do You” are the hooks, the Americana quietness of “Low” is the change up and the “I’s” – “I Woke Up Alive”, “I Don’t Want To Be Alone” and the handclapping roar of arrival that is “I Will Never Leave You” are the signposts up ahead. For her debut, April is searching for a thru way to her music, her love, and her health, to reach the other side, and while clearly some of this was written before her epileptic fit, I had seen her perform “Bad Habits” and the “fall in love on the road,” “Firestarter” in 2021 before it happened, it is all of a part locked in emotional transparency. The story cleaves to its vision not a million miles away from Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True for its romantic travails and Fiona Apple’s art and alty pop sounds Tidal without the rawness of the singing, like it could be power pop. The drumming is good enough but the keyboards and guitars keep on carrying the song and the anthems soar and the others can sink you to your knees, it’s a nightmare that becomes a dream and a dream that becomes a daydream and eventually reality.

On Soho Records, I Woke Up Alive is released tomorrow August 12th, 2022

Grade: A

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