Where the Bungalows Roam
If you lament the loss of the rock-out side of Jim Bryson, you're not alone. On his 2000 solo debut The Occasionals and on parts of his second record, 2003's North Side Benches, the music often had the muscle to push the singer-guitarist, particularly his voice, to a frayed, ragged glory. On Where the Bungalows Roam Bryson's voice, and the music, is gentler. Ballads and swaying soul-rock (Blue Rodeo- and Wilco-style) dominate. All said and done, this quieter, contemplative place Bryson has settled into allows a couple things to happen. Without the sonic volume and intensity, his words and thoughts—his interior—emerge fully. He's a friggin' great wordsmith. "The Wishes Pile Up" is a fine example. And so is "All the Fallen Leaves," a song that contains the album's best line, "Burned down the whole forest just to feel the breeze." This line captures the album's main concern: trying, sometimes desperately, to figure shit out, to find the way forward. With its cello backing, "Don't Fail Me Now" is apparently inspired by a Ken Babstock poem. Thoughtful words are backed by like-minded album arrangements, nuanced production accents and appropriate instrumentation. Even the album design, always a strength of this guy's records, shows care. And still if you want to rock, you know where to go.