In spite of everything, 2021 was an amazing year for music. I had the pleasure of working with many incredible artists, and here’s a playlist featuring my favourite songs by 26 of them. Of course, the majority can be classified as Americana, but there’s also some power pop, experimental pop, Reggae, and even a sea chanty. I’m looking forward to sharing even more great sounds from Canada in 2022!
Bryce made Across The Neuro Seas — his first collection since 2015’s Immovable Feast — in his home studio during a month-long creative burst at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
Curating the songs as if they were a short story collection, Bryce didn’t hold back musically, performing all vocals, guitars and keyboard tracks along with a variety of other instruments, only making exceptions for drums and some bass— performed remotely by Marito Marques and Chris Monster, respectively—a horn section, and additional vocals by his wife Lisanne. Tracks were later mixed by Josh Bowman and mastered by João Carvalho.
On songs such as first single “Perpetual Motion Machines,” “Young Lovers” and “Summer Nights In Summertime,” Bryce exquisitely captures a range of emotions in an immediate manner through his distinctive brand of folk-rock, while expressing the power of experience elsewhere on “Widow’s Walk” and “Hope And Chance,” two songs that had sat on the shelf for 25 years until finding their moment.
Indeed, when asked to describe his musical evolution, Bryce gives a straightforward answer: “Long.” Making music has been a part of his life since early childhood, and he became an active figure in the Toronto indie scene of the 1990s, recording an album with his art rock band Pellet at the city’s leading rock radio station Q107 and later creating and hosting a weekly songwriter’s circle at Queen Street West club Holy Joe’s that ran for two years.
During that period, Bryce was a regular on Toronto stages and a passionate supporter of numerous Canadian singer/songwriters of that era. Across The Neuro Seas pays tribute to some of them with the song “Up Around The Bend,” incorporating lyrics by Hawksley Workman, Joel Plaskett, Sarah Slean and Danny Michel.
The final results on Across The Neuro Seas clearly show that he made the right choice. While there are sure to be many “what I did during my pandemic lockdown” records on the horizon, Bryce Thomas’s Across The Neuro Seas bears all the hallmarks of a true folk-pop auteur, with its timeless sound sure to remain relevant long after we’re allowed to once again get close to our loved ones.
Get Bryce Thomas’ Across The Neuro Seas from Bandcamp, and watch the video for “Perpetual Motion Machines.”
As demonstrated by the previously released singles “If You Wanna Change My Mind” and “Waitin’ For the Summertime,” it is his most experimental collection of songs yet, veering away from the gritty alt-country sound of his acclaimed 2019 album Out Of The Past, and experimenting with looser, Kurt Vile-esque vibes. The change is partly a reflection of Picco’s experience during pandemic restrictions, as eight of the new album’s nine songs were written over a three-month span in 2020.
“I guess you could say that this about is about coming to terms with the fact that life never turns out as planned,” Picco says. “I would describe it as contemplative, but musically I was going after something more dream-like and ethereal.”
Produced by Mark Feener and featuring an all-star cast of local St. John’s players, Live It Down is certainly a glimpse into the new world of sonic possibilities Picco has embraced, part of an evolution that has been playing out since the mid-‘00s when he was a member of the roots rock band Jet Set Motel. From there, he became a familiar face within the Toronto roots rock scene, working closely with producer Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) and cult hero songwriter Kyp Harness.
Following his move back to St. John’s in 2015, Picco released the album Start Again, which was warmly embraced by CBC Radio. Out Of The Past built on that success, being hailed by Americana UK as “a rock-infused country [album] with echoes of The Velvet Undergroumnd.”
With Live It Down, David Picco begins a new chapter, one that offers hope for renewal for all of us.
Whether you’re into folk-rock or blue-eyed soul, Matt Zaddy covers all the bases. Plus, the songs on his new album Be contain a lot of life experience that all of us can relate to. Get it now on your preferred platform via Distrokid, and check out the lyric video for first single “Busy.”