Published Feb 17, 2016"This is not a sing-along song / It will not rally anyone," Jim Bryson sings wearily on "Stuck In The Middle," a subtle standout performance three songs in to Somewhere We Will Find Our Place, the Ottawa songwriter and multi-instrumentalist's powerfully vulnerable fifth album, out on his own Fixed Hinge label and Fontana North. The thing is, the entire album is a sing-along, just not of the blasting-out-of-a-car variety (though some songs, including "Breathe," with its explosive drum and electric guitar finish, beg to be blasted).
Bryson's tentative explorations of the ups and downs of Canadian mid-life, of quotidian worries — of depression, anxiety, love and malaise — ring true, as they're funny and moving, never merely complain-y. It's the kind of album that demands listener engagement, and, like a good Canadian quilt (albeit a modern one, with bright and busy, abstract geometric patterns) offers comfort and solace.
The sense of shared inner experiences is underlined by backup vocals courtesy of Caroline Brooks (the Good Lovelies), Kathleen Edwards and Kelp's Jon Bartlett, Andrew Vincent and Jon Lomow, and further illustrated in the collaborative video for "The Depression Dance" (edited by Jeremy Fisher), for which fans and friends sent in videos of themselves dancing to the song. Now how's that for rallying?
It should be noted that the sonic playground over which Bryson's thoughts play never finds him resting on his laurels: Somewhere We Will Find Our Place is a quietly restless, urgent and quirky listen, tightly wound and sounding a little like Michael Feuerstack backed by Bahamas on songs like "Changing Scenery" and waxing atmospheric and spacious in other places (such as "Cigarette Thin"). Bryson's rich guitar, keyboard and percussion tapestries are augmented by Charles Spearin's production and Shawn Everett's mixing — the latter has preserved the homemade, heartfelt vibe while helping to make it a great and original-sounding record. (Fixed Hinge / Fontana North)