Dan Bryk
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Dan Bryk

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Pitchfork Feature: Found Sound"

Dan Bryk: Lover's Leap [Scratchie; 2000]
It's no small feat to simultaneously evoke Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, They Might Be Giants, and Momus, but Canadian songwriter Dan Bryk pulls it off with style and wit. Bryk has three assets that help his classic piano-man style find purchase in this cynical age: A fatally gorgeous and tactfully deployed falsetto, a minutely specific worldview, and a dash of lo-fi indie rockery to deflate accusations of retrofetish. Bryk deftly slaloms between the romantic and sardonic in Lover's Leap's lovely ballad "Memo to Myself": "We lay together for what seemed like hours/ You probably think that we touched souls/ All I did was touch you underneath your blouse." Elsewhere, we find a power-pop ode to Bryk's childhood geek icon, the computer programmer Mark Turmell; a sweetly ominous meditation on child molestation ("He did enough to tell me not to tell"); a rock ode to zaftig women ("I need a chunky girl/ The kind who's just my size"); and a variety of songs that revel in unfettered romantic bitterness. Bryk-- overweight, jaded, banal, spiteful, and maudlin-- somehow manages to turn these liabilities into a sparkling pop palimpsest.
--Brian Howe - Brian Howe, Pitchforkmedia.com

"Jim De Rogatis' 10 Best Bands of SXSW 2002 [Chicago Sun-Times]"

A Randy Newman for Generation Y, performing sad songs of lost love at the Donut Hut, and mining his heartbreak with the wryest of smiles. - Jim De Rogatis, Chicago Sun-Times

"Voice Preview, Maxwell's and Knitting Factory, 2001"

This songman from Toronto is some kind of genius--not the unerring kind, more the coruscating kind. Whether he can take it from the studio to the stage like he did from the bedroom to the studio is something he and his cast of obscure-to-moderately-famous helpmates can't wait to find out, show off, or both. - Robert Christgau, Village Voice

"CMJ Reviews for Lovers Leap [Trade/Consumer]"

<b>CMJ New Music Monthly October 2000</b>

"Dan Bryk is a sumo champion of nerd pop, that strain of smartly-composed, hook-laden, lyrically self-lacerating melodies whose singers make up in aching romanticism and craftsmanship what they lack in social grace or good looks. It's a genre that, if it had any self-esteem, could proudly trace its lineage back through Aimee Mann and Pavement, Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw, all the way back to Brian Wilson, who turned sulking in his room into such a sublime musical experience he spend half his life there.

On Lovers Leap, pianist/singer bryk blurts out his charmingly geeky preoccupations (fat girls, old computer games, fellow Canadian mope Leonard Cohen) while musically evoking the likes of Wilson, Randy Newman, Ben Folds, and, um, the Clash--catch the "London Calling" cop in the intro to "BBW (Chunky Girl)."

Where Bryk shines is his combination of polished musicality--rich with candied moments of sha-la-la transcendence--and raw lyrical bitterness, whether at the childhood pal who molested him (in "Fingers") or at a not-quite-ex-girlfriend (and by extension, himself and his current girl) in "She Doesn't Mean a Thing To me Tonight". The universality of Bryk's glorious awkwardness is proof that no one ever really makes it out of high school"
-Gary Susma

<b>CMJ Trade Weekly</b>

A promising artist whose debut album, Lover's Leap, is truly exceptional. Bryk rocks out pretty hard for a piano player but you can tell that beneath his bombast is a Burt Bacharach/Randy Newman fanatic. His songwriting is of a caliber to support such a comparison, and his ballads in particular are stunning enough to make conversation stop. - CMJ

"Lovers Leap [Magnet, Westword, NY Daily News reviews]"

<B>New York Daily News</B>, Feb 11 2001
Life Stinks, Then You Sing About It
Dorky Dan Bryk's hard-luck licks



Pop has among its ranks a great sorority of lonely, funny women. Singer-songwriters like Jill Sobule, Amy Rigby and Syd Straw often write from a place of romantic disappointment, fired by a special hopelessness men rarely acknowledge or know.

It's not that men — particularly male pop writers — don't hurt or mope. Far from it. It's just that they're more likely to blame their disappointment on a specific love gone wrong rather than on themselves. While rejected women commonly take apart their own lives, men often see themselves simply as victims of bad circumstance.

All of which makes writers like Dan Bryk that much more valuable and rare. He writes from the kind of wretched but funny point of view normally associated with frustrated female songwriters. Unless, of course, it comes from artists who are beyond gender, like Morrissey — who's also beyond help.

Bryk, from Toronto, is, to be blunt, an overweight, self-described geek who has decided to take revenge on the world through well-crafted witty pop songs. A noble tradition! Bitter and proud, Bryk takes no prisoners in his songs, using his anger to write ruthless portraits of often broken people.

Musically, he recalls nerd-pop fetishists like Ben Folds Five, Fountains of Wayne, or They Might Be Giants. He's a fool for melody, though he often performs in the solitary style of a singer-songwriter, creating striking pop-for-one. His voice, a shaky instrument, has an alienated quality, making it the right mouthpiece for socially unsure characters.

Bryk establishes his dork credentials by fashioning the album's first song, "Mark Turmell," as an ode to a pioneer of Apple computers. Apparently, Bryk had few friends growing up but held an intellectual crush on "the best programmer in the whole world." Yeesh!

In "Spadina Expressway," Bryk identifies with an abandoned highway project. "They built around you like you weren't even there," he sings. "I guess they ran out of street/But couldn't run you out of town."

In "Big Things Like This," Bryk is petty enough to bitch about a guy who bullied him as a child, a guy he knows full well has probably amounted to nothing.

Bryk's characters often perpetuate the cruelty inflicted on them. The guy in "Memo to Myself" tells a woman "you probably think we touched souls/All I did was touch you underneath your blouse." The two characters in "The Letter Home" become roommates just so they can share being "boring and bored."

Bryk is far more generous in "Fingers," the tale of a piano teacher and childhood idol who sexually abused him. The man changed Bryk's life by introducing him to Randy Newman records and letting him stay up late, if only to undo his belt. Bryk not only recalls his terror and disillusionment but also the admiration he still holds for the man, and he even expresses an unsettling whimsy for the whole experience.

Apparently, Randy Newman records did make an impression on this guy.

Bryk finds his most sympathetic side in "BBW," an ode to "chunky girls." "When I'm ashamed of my weight/Flirting with pity and self-hate/She plants a kiss upon my lips/And slips her hands across my hips."

Such relief goes a long way toward humanizing an album that verges on the searing. Combined with the harder observations in the other songs, it proves, at last, that men have as much capacity as women for tearing themselves apart.

<b>Denver Westword Dec 28/2000</b>
Dan Bryk -- Lovers Leap

Bryk understands the pop verities (inescapable melodies, bouncy chord patterns), but he also knows that lyrics attuned to today, not yesterday, are what can make his hooks stick.

Hence he introduces Lovers Leap with "Mark Turmell V2.0," in which he recounts how, as a teenager, he idolized a computer geek who was "the coolest programmer in the entire fucking world," and follows it with a dozen other singular oddities that go from funny to sad to weird at warp speed.

Take a Leap; you won't regret it.

<b>Magnet: Lovers Leap</B> [review]
Billy Manes

Dan Bryk has a lot on his mind. Whereas most singer-songwriters are increasingly writing down to some template of universal melodic sympathy, Bryk more precisely dictates one man's often-humorous, always-cutting bouts with individual life experiences. Sounding like some marriage of the Smoking Popes' inspired mopery and They Might Be Giants' overexposed humility--as read by either Joe Jackson or Ben Folds Five, depending on your mood--Bryk's songs are bits of shimmering head magic intended for the hyper-aware set.

There's the Apple II ode "Mark Turmell" ("the coolest programmer in the entire fucking world") that pits the singer against his own teenage idealism in the new age of silicon escapism. "I could modem the other geeks", "Bryk howls, "and they could modem me back!" "BBW" sings the praises of the chunky girl in a way Sir Mix-A-Lot may never have thought to: "And when I'm ashamed of my weightm filling with pity and self-hate", Bryk croons, "she plants a kiss upon my lips and runs her hands along my hips."

It's not all tongues and cheeks, though. On "Forgiven", Bryk even pours into a sweet falsetto for a heartbreaking solo piano love song, offering, "there's nothing you can say and nothing I can mean." Geek Love, Indeed.

--Billy Manes
- Westword, Magnet, NY Daily News

"Christgau Consumer Guide"

Village Voice Jan 17 2001

Lovers Leap (Scratchie)

Four of the first five tracks on this fat Canadian's Fountains of Wayne-scouted, Smashing Pumpkins-financed U.S. debut are the gemlike acts of idiosyncratic genius pop nerds are forever discerning on the recordings of other pop nerds. After that, there's a Marcia Brady look-alike with Nicaraguan needlepoint on her bed, another girl whose breasts he felt once, and a bunch of the kind of craftsmanship nerds swear by and normal people forget before the next one's over. But the legendary computer programmer, the predatory piano player, the ex who doesn't mean a thing to him tonight, and all the chunky girls who slide their reassuring hands along his ample hips are four more proofs of just how exaggerated reports of song's demise remain. A MINUS - Village Voice

"Bryk By Bryk: The Glono Interview [gloriousnoise.com]"

By Kristy Eldredge
March 15, 2007

What would you do if your singer/songwriter career had taken off nicely, including an offer from notable indie label Scratchie Records and a tour of Japan with as an opening act for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, but fate and American immigration policies intervened to sideline you for a full four years? If you're Dan Bryk, you hunker down and do what your visa will allow you to do—Canadians get very restrictive visas permitting employment in one area only—which was graphic design, while keeping a low profile as a musician in Raleigh, NC. Bryk's enthusiastic press was silenced from his absence from the touring circuit, and his audience inevitably subsided during his enforced hiatus.

But Bryk didn’t seem to be worrying about it one Saturday night in February, playing Googie’s Lounge at New York’s Living Room bar. After chatting with the small but devoted crowd, he casually sat down at a white grand piano and sang “Feelings”—a gutsy move—with such wholehearted musicality and lack of winking that he actually redeemed the song. He went on to perform a string of engaging originals whose subjects range from a major-geek fantasy about computer programmer Mark Turmell to the ambivalence of relationships. “She Doesn’t Mean a Thing to Me Tonight” is his best-known song, from 2000’s Lovers Leap—an irresistibly catchy ode to loving the one you’re with. Bryk’s honest, funny lyrics flirt with self-deprecatory gloom and loneliness as well. “If misery loves company, where the hell did everybody go?” one song begins. His voice is warm and confident, with occasional indie rock casualness towards intonation. His piano playing is idiosyncratic and follows his moods, so it’s good he accompanies himself. He started laughing, for instance, during his song about Mark Turmell, at the lines “so you could modem me and I could modem you back.”

As noted, green card problems have prevented Bryk, a transplanted Torontonian, from touring for four years, which is only part of his bad luck. His album Lovers Leap was slated to be released by Scratchie Records (partnered with Mercury) in 1997, but the deal fell apart when a corporate merger forced restructuring. The record was eventually released by Scratchie without major label support and met with critical acclaim but weak sales. Once a regular face on the indie scene, Bryk now finds himself having to rebuild what he lost during his period of enforced anonymity. (And all for being a Canadian! Well, some, anyway.) Dan is currently working on a new album entitled Pop Psychology. He spoke to Glorious Noise via email from Raleigh where he lives with his girlfriend.

GLONO: One thing I'm curious about is, what is your job right now? I think you said you'd only recently gotten your green card.

DB: I work as a graphic designer for a printer in Raleigh. I've had a temporary visa to do graphic design the past three years, but it's a temporary visa you have to renew every year. It's a remarkably simple and efficient system if you meet the criteria, but there are issues. For example, my girlfriend and I couldn't go home for Christmas last December while I was waiting for a renewal. We had a big family Christmas planned and the approval came in two months late. That's not the end of the world, but you try telling your parents at the last minute you can't be home for the holidays. Another issue is that overnight I could only work as a graphic designer, not as a musician or performer or barista or gardener. I couldn’t simultaneously have a visa to work a day job and have the visa I’d need to be a performer.

GLONO: Has it been awful not being able to tour for two years? Or was it a nice break in some ways?

DB: It's been four years! I've played a handful of local gigs when people have asked me, but always totally under the radar, no press or actual touring. More than anything I've felt like my life was on hold, or that I was being lazy compared to when I was back in Canada. I'm fortunate in that I love designing, and I'm good enough at it that I'm not resenting going to a day job every day or making minimum wage.

I kind of wish I had a day job more involved in music, but then again the jobs I've considered in the music business all seemed to be at the expense of the artists. I used to be the art director for MMSdirect [a cd manufacturer in Toronto], designing record sleeves all day, and I loved that job even though it didn't pay all that well and I was forced to quit when Lovers Leap came out. The owner said, “I don’t want an art director who has his mind on his music career as well.” But some of my friends who went into the music biz proper have become corrosively cynical. My friends say I whine about the music business enough as it is.

The Living Room show you attended was my first NYC show in years, and it was amazing that a bunch of people who are fans of Lovers Leap for years were actually excited that they finally got to see me play. It feels like I'm coming out of some weird retirement.

GLONO: Have you been recording in the meantime?

DB: Yeah, that's really all I've been able to do. I've been building up my home studio ("Flabby Road") one piece of gear at a time to the point where I can make some decent records here. I home-recorded a "singles club" single that came out on Pop Up Records (Biirdie, En Masse) and I've had some other songs come out on compilations. I have a new record called Pop Psychology that I've been working on—well, on and off—for the last three years. It's kind of a concept album, or at the very least it has a persistent theme. I'm hoping to finish that up in the next month and get it out by the summer. It's sort of half-recorded in Toronto with many of the same players from Lovers Leap, and half-recorded in Brooklyn and Raleigh with my American posse, so it's kind of a transitional record, a lot more textured and overdubbed versus the off-the-cuff feel of Lovers Leap (which actually began as a CBC radio session).

When it became apparent that I was, in fact, going to get my green card, I quietly put out an earnest/ironic holiday-themed release (Dan Bryk Christmas Record) last November that ended up getting a four-star review on Pitchfork and a bunch of other cool places. It kind of brought me to the attention of some other bloggers, and kind of reminded fans of Lovers Leap that I still existed. I also finally got my first big article in the local paper from Christmas Record (iTunes), although of course I couldn't play a show to capitalize on it! It felt good to test the waters and get a lot of enthusiasm back, considering I hadn't put out an album in five years. Hopefully those people will also like Pop Psychology.

GLONO: You said Raleigh has an active music scene and you're in several other bands.

DB: I joined another band called Down By Avalon. We've played a handful of local gigs over the last two years but mostly we get together to play and go for sushi afterwards and talk about our girlfriends or wives. It’s as much a men’s therapy group as a rock band. It's very poppy rock, sort of XTC meets REM meets Moody Blues and a dozen other things, but the sound overall is a bit heavier than my solo stuff. We're also finishing up making a record. I de facto produced it and did a lot of the arranging at Flabby Road, but I'm not the main songwriter. The singer, Alan Martin, writes most of the songs with Dempsey Elks, the bass player.

GLONO: Many of your songs deal wittily and poignantly with frustration – with love, one's self, relationships. Now that you are happily in a relationship and settled in Raleigh do you see any change in your subject matter?

DB: I honestly don't know. I think that Pop Psychology is a very melancholy record, even though parts of it sound sunny, lyrically it's pretty bleak. In a way I was glad to resurface with Christmas Record, because there are some actual joyous moments amongst the suicide ballads and the tragicomic roadkill story. I think that might pose a better picture of me as a sane person rather than some big fucked up bundle of neurosis. But that's the flip side of making your art "confessional"—it's ultimately up to the listener to determine whether or not your life is actually of any aesthetic interest to them.

As for worrying that domestic bliss will silence my muse... Erin and I are both fairly driven people, and like in any partnership we have our fair share of ups and downs, more than enough for a dozen songs per annum. At least I won't be writing as many whiny "Why don't I have a girlfriend?"-type songs. One big difference with Christmas Record is that Erin was a participant, she sang on it and helped me finish a couple of the songs I was struggling with. She definitely has a more romantic, lighter touch when it comes to narrative. Fortunately for me, she's an excellent bullshit detector and she's way more book literate than I am, although she's a ruthless editor... if I asked her opinion all the time I'd never finish any songs.

I have a few dozen songs written that I'm in the process of recording for yet another album, and hopefully there's an acceptable balance of the wry and the wrist-slashing.

GLONO: You toured Japan with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. How did that happen and what was it like? Was it like the Replacements opening for Tom Petty? (They hated it apparently.)

DB: No, Malkmus was great, and I watched the Jicks every night from the side of the stage like a lovestruck fanboy. I don't really think the Jicks were as into my stuff as much as the promoter was, but they suffered me gladly and let me sing "Fantasies" with them the last night of the tour and invited us along for Teppanyaki. Considering how hard Slanted & Enchanted bitch-slapped me as an undergrad, it really was like a dream come true. The whole experience was incredible.

To make a long story short, Akiko Ohno, an Avex A&R person picked up Lovers Leap as a US import in Tower Records Shibuya. She'd never heard of me, but she said she just liked the cover (a detail of a Joe Fleming painting). She bought it, fell in love with it and a month or two later I was on the same label as Britney Spears and Duran Duran. They offered me the promotional tour with Malkmus, and it was a lot of work—five hours of interviews a day, and through a translator which is a very peculiar experience. (It was something like Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.) But I really was treated like a pop star for a week. Akiko shepherded us around from city to city, translated our requests for bizarre Japanese junk foods, and took us to Sanrio (Hello Kitty mecca) in Shibuya.

GLONO: I know how much you admire and support many Canadian musicians who are unknown here in the States. Do you feel any conflict over your move to the U.S.? Do you miss Toronto?

DB: God, I miss Toronto, but kind of like an old girlfriend who never really treated me that well. I know in my heart I still love her but I've come to realize her heart really wasn't in it where I was concerned. It was really good to move on, for both of us.

I mean, there was such an explosion of amazing musical talent in Toronto between 1995 and 2000, and so little of it reached the hearts and minds of people outside the immediate music scene, and so very few artists still have sustaining careers where they can make a living doing their thing.. I know it's probably not that much different from New York or LA, but it just got me incredibly jaded that it was so HARD for anyone I liked to get traction. Look how long it took for an artist the calibre of Ron Sexsmith to get on the radio in Canada. When Whereabouts came out, there was this hand-wringing article in the Toronto Star: "Why hasn't Ron Sexsmith MADE IT??? WHAT is he DOING WRONG??" Maybe he wasn't playing up his natural cuteness? Pretty faces always go to the front of the media queue in Toronto, you know.

I know I was really fortunate in that when Scratchie and Mercury signed me, Toronto people all of a sudden were paying attention. Then when Scratchie's major label distro fizzled out and Lovers Leap ended up coming out as an indie record, all of a sudden I was this sort of music business failure. It was very disconcerting.

Also it didn't help that the distributor (Song Corp.) sort of imploded right when my record came out. I miraculously ended up with the cover of [Toronto weekly] NOW and there were ZERO CDs in stores across Canada that week. Mark from Teenage USA had to BEG to HAND-DELIVER a case of CDs to Sam's Yonge Street that day. Textbook music biz fuck-ups right out of Spinal Tap.

I'm pretty into DIY now. I've started a co-operative label of singer-songwriters called the Urban Myth Recording Collective with a couple of friends like Chris Warren (Toronto), Lee Feldman (Brooklyn) and Corey Landis (L.A.). We all think we're at the top of our game creatively, and the intention is to band together to share resources and advertising and hopefully become sort of a reliable "brand", sort of like Warner Bros. or Asylum in the 70's. We haven't exactly had a "hit" yet, but both Chris and Corey have new records ready this spring.

GLONO: What do you think is the hardest obstacle for singer-songwriters trying to make it these days?

DB: The cost of living! I think if your music is good, there are so many avenues for people to find it today. Just the internet alone... it's a much slower process than having a big label throw you against the wall, but I think that music fans are seeing through the treat-of-the-week, big marketing spend mentality and when they find something they love it means more to them. Just keeping your head above water financially, having enough time left to make music... that's the challenge, for me at least.

I also haven't really broken into licensing my music for TV and films yet ("She Doesn't Mean A Thing To Me Tonight" was in a straight-to-DVD feature film) but now that I have lots of new music to get out there that will hopefully change this year. While we're not so much into songs in commercials, Urban Myth as a label is working hard at getting our stuff into the hands of music supervisors. Also, there's a notable Hollywood-friendly director developing a script based around the songs from Lee Feldman's I've Forgotten Everything album (á la Aimee Mann and Paul Anderson's Magnolia...) but I'm not allowed to say more than that!

Exclusive MP3: Dan Bryk - "The Next Best Thing" from the upcoming Pop Psychology. - Glorious Noise

"The Bryk House: Feature Interview [Independent Weekly]"

<b>The Bryk House</b>
Canadian expatriates Dan Bryk and Erin McGinn talk Christmas past
By Grayson Currin

<i>Listen to Dan Bryk's "Love Me for Christmas" and "Great Adventure" from his new album Christmas Record. If you cannot see the music player below, click here to download the free Flash Player.</i>

Dan Bryk just released Christmas Record. It's his first Christmas album. He insists it will be his last.

On the back cover, Bryk is dressed up as Santa Claus, his hyperbolic white beard falling all the way to the armrests of an oversized wooden chair. Bryk had his picture taken tonight, too: First, in front of a large, metal Christmas tree, smiling wide-eyed, like a kid whose holiday wait has finally ended. He had the same expression posing in front of a pink plastic pig that wore a red Santa hat. Christmas is this guy's thing, right?

Not exactly. It's perfectly believable when, not 15 minutes later, Bryk glances down at the sidewalk, shrugs and dismisses the whole thing: "I don't know about Christmas, really. I guess it's just not my season."

Bryk isn't kidding. The 30-something songwriter, known for his piano playing and keen observational wit, doesn't hate Christmas, but he certainly doesn't like it, either. Perhaps the front cover of Christmas Record tells the story of his antipathy best: A bright, red ornament is shattered across an otherwise pristine white floor. The shards are too big for the ornament to have been thrown. It looks like it was hanging high with seasonal spirit. Then it came crashing down. The hook that held it to the branch is still there. Maybe someone bumped into it? Maybe someone shook the tree? Or maybe it just got tired of trying.

That's the sentiment of a Dan Bryk Christmas, detailed in what has to be one of the most self-effacing Christmas albums ever. It's predicated neither on seasonal and spiritual joy nor money-making maneuvers. It's just an honest (if exaggerated) appraisal of the holiday's inspired difficulties—infinite loneliness, bad luck, bankrupting ambitions and overactive materialism. You know, the kind of stuff that people call "cheer."

In Bryk's world of seasonal busts, even the birds sing sad songs. They sound like Christmas carols. They're one of the central images in his gorgeous "Winter Sad." "Love Me for Christmas" portrays a man who just wants to be loved by a particular woman, a woman that's ostensibly rebounding from an unfulfilling past. She, of course, wants nothing to do with him. But his desire is intense. Bryk hints that he's close to the stalker-versus-admirer line. These holidays, they do crazy things to sane people.

"Do I really want to hear Delilah play Michael Bolton's version of 'Silver Bells' again? No. But that's a taste thing. That's aesthetic," says Bryk, sitting in a Raleigh coffee shop that's (surprisingly) not playing carols. He's counting off the ways his Christmas spirits keep getting spoiled. "But when I see a house with 500,000 watts of bulbs and stuff, all I can think of is that we had to have used up some finite resources for that thing."

Bryk's Christmas quandaries have been especially apparent in the past five years. He moved from Mississauga, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto) to Chapel Hill five years ago, and his experiences with Christmas in America haven't heightened his yuletide enthusiasm. He calls himself a "recovering Catholic," a disenchanted product of Canada's religous-based public schools. America's alternating religion-and-consumerism models of Christmas don't work for him. He's tired of hearing Celine Dion's "Blue Christmas," too, but she's Canadian. He takes the gaffe on that one.

But the stateside custom of building up to Dec. 25 for months and being done with it the next day irks Bryk. Back home, Canada's substantial Ukrainian population celebrates Christmas 13 days later, and Boxing Day on Dec. 26 is a sort of miniature Christmas. If people try to work, cops actually send them home. As a matter of fact, it's a day for family. Bryk thinks that's the proper focus of a holiday. He's found everything but that here.

Oh, Christmas.

Cuddling makes Christmas more tolerable: Dan Bryk and Erin McGinn in front of the Nofo pig in Raleigh
Photo by Derek Anderson
But what is Boxing Day, anyway? Bryk knows: "Oh, it's for the boxing up of the presents."

"No, I know."

"Oh, you know?" Bryk laughs, looking to his right and smiling at Erin McGinn, his girlfriend of six years. "That was an educated guess."

"It might have different meanings, for sure, but it has to do with the preparing of small gifts for the trades people, like your milkman," says McGinn cutting in, laughing at Bryk. He stops, looks at her and just smiles. "It was something that..."

She stumbles on a word. He takes her pause for a chance to jump back into it: "Oh, I think you're freestyling now."

"No, no. It's the time to box up little things for those trades people that would come to your door after Christmas," she concludes, waving him away, laughing the whole time.

He agrees, concedes and apologizes with his customary self-effacement: "Erin's a history major."

McGinn is the loophole in Bryk's time-crafted shtick of long-standing self-deprecation. It's hard to believe that a guy this in love and this giddy to be that way writes songs about such down-on-their-luck characters. But it's also not hard to believe things weren't always this good.

Bryk and McGinn met in college. She finished when she was supposed to, but he took his time, starting when George Bush was the American president and ending when his son had taken over the Oval Office. He quit school and started work as a graphic designer. But, to get an American work visa, he says he had to finish. Effectively, Bryk managed to stretch his one remaining class over a "semester" of about eight years. Neither his nor McGinn's parents think this is funny. But he and McGinn can't decide what's funnier: The length of his college career or that he chose a sociology course just so that she could help with his homework?

Though school took some time for Bryk, he does finish his albums. McGinn says that's one thing she likes most about Christmas Record: After months of hearing overdubs being recorded in their Raleigh house, the album is done and out. Bryk has a backlog of albums that are written, recorded and ready for release. He's telling a story about making one when McGinn grimaces, but just slightly. When Bryk finishes his story, he smiles and says: "When she makes that face, that probably means that last bit was off the record." In 90 minutes, McGinn makes that face once more. Mostly, she laughs large every time one ribs the other, which must be once every 43 seconds.

Bryk and McGinn are candid in a way that's indicative of two people who are deeply in love. They've talked about all of the "bigger" issues, and they play off one another's insecurities with pleasure, aplomb and certainty. In conversation, it's apparent that both know practically everything about the other. Bryk, for instance, is a bigger guy, and he's rarely short on jokes about his rotund frame. One of his trademark tunes is called "Chunky Girl [BBW]," a piano popper about his love for women that aren't exactly petite. See Bryk live, and you'll probably see McGinn, ostensibly his model of perfection, blushing and smiling somewhere in the wings.

Bryk may consider himself a recovering Catholic, but McGinn calls herself a practicing Catholic, though she admits that most people wouldn't accept that answer.

"Yeah, we're living in sin," Bryk smiles, referencing their long-standing living arrangement, the sort of thing that—in their new Southern clime—is drawled "shackin' up." The rules that frown upon two people living together are the same that have harangued Bryk and McGinn's sense of Christmas, especially in the South. Bryk notes that it's been interesting "to live in a quasi-theocracy for a while," and McGinn regrets that religion is used so often to inform rational decisions.

"What I find is particularly disappointing is that I don't see any reflection of my faith in the modern Christianity that's being espoused here, especially in the South," she says. "The fact that there is a fight about whether or not someone says Merry Christmas in a store seems like a minute detail compared to the revolutionary message of Christ and the miracle of what they brought. Whether you believe he's the son of God or not, it doesn't matter."

This isn't Bryk's area of expertise, but he agrees. It's clear that they've talked about this. After all, each knows the other entirely, and Bryk seems giddy about that. Especially for a guy who writes Christmas songs about loneliness.

Then again, his "Winter Sad" seems more of an artistic drawing board than a lifetime doldrum. After all, Bryk wasn't faking the smiles in his photos. He was happy standing there, making it clear that his holidays will be happy, even if they're not so for the customary reasons. And, in at least one of those tree-side takes, he was actually laughing. Pointing above their heads, McGinn noticed the metal star at the top of the tree, looked up at Bryk and grinned: "Oh, I do hope the top of the tree makes the picture. Then at least there will be one star in it."

Everyone lost it. Everyone was happy. Yes, this is Christmas. - Grayson Currin, The Independent

"We Don't Care: Track Review [pitchforkmedia.com]"

A Side: We Don't Care [4 stars]
B Side: BecaRebecca [3 1/2 stars]

Dan Bryk's hyper-specific songs are as funny as they are poignant, approaching romantic strife with sarcasm and apathy.

On the sparkling settling-for-less anthem "We Don't Care", Bryk can't even get worked up enough about his cheating lover to deploy his secret-weapon falsetto. He gets cleverly bilious with jabs like "you can trust me as far as I can thrust in you," but the titular refrain reminds us that it's not a big deal-- he's just saying.

The careering garage-pop of "BecaRebecca" has an equally skewed relationship to the typical love song: A woman Bryk becomes infatuated with on an airplane is "rubenesque" and "statuesque" with "blue eyes framed by cat's eye glasses." But she also has "the faintest trace of a pencil thin mustache," a knock-off Gucci purse, and people call her "Chewbecca", although Bryk "would never do that."

It's funny that singers who cynically exploit idealized notions of plastic beauty and weighty fate scan as earnest and sensitive, while cynical Bryk's representations of the actual world, where physically flawed, terminally bored people half-heartedly find and lose each other all the time, contain so much more truth and empathy. - Pitchforkmedia.com


Pop Psychology CD 2009 (Urban Myth)
Discount Store CD EP 2007 (Urban Myth/Firefly Music US)
Christmas Record CD 2006 (Urban Myth US)
We Don't Care [e-single] 2006 (Pop Up Records US)
Lovers Leap CD 2000 (Scratchie US, teenage USA Canada, Avex Japan)
Dan Bryk Rocks Nobody 7" 1998 (Eutectic Canada)
Dan Bryk, Asshole CD 1996 (No! Discs Canada)
Dan Bryk, Now EP 1995 (No! Discs Canada)



"Dan Bryk is no ordinary singer-songwriter... Don’t be surprised if Pop Psychology earns the local secret with the often mispronounced name (brick, not brike) a profile more commensurate with his talent." -Brian Howe, The Independent Weekly

Ex-American Flag (Toronto) and Down By Avalon (Chapel Hill) member Dan Bryk sure knows how to write a mean (and occasionally mean) pop song. Now he lives in NYC.

His new album Pop Psychology really wants to be your friend, but knows it's got to shrug its shoulders resignedly and sit at the lunch table with the losers and retards.

Maybe you can act like you're friends when no-one else is paying attention.

Bryk's Y2K album Lovers Leap introduced a songwriter who could walk the tightrope between confession and art that few but Elliott Smith would even attempt. Bryk's relentless pop melodism and funny/dour/romantic lyrics were compared favorably to forebears like Bacharach and David, Randy Newman, and Jonathan Richman, contemporaries Aimee Mann, Ben Folds, and Fountains of Wayne, and more recently, indie phenoms Sufjan Stevens and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst. Critically-acclaimed Lovers Leap landed towards the bottom of several prominent critics' year-end lists, including Robert Christgau who lauded Bryk’s "Gemlike acts of idiosyncratic genius... more proof of just how exaggerated reports of song's demise remain."

In 2001 Bryk travelled to Japan for a triumphant tour opening for freshly solo Pavement frontman Steven Malkmus, and a few months later was toasted by Sound Opinions’ Jim De Rogatis as having given one of the “ten best performances of SXSW 2002.” These career “ups” were immediately followed by a clichéd hiatus of label wrangling and immigration delays that has kept Bryk from releasing another record for five years (although it did at least yield a few bitterly funny new songs that show up on Pop Psychology).

During that “career downtime” Bryk has written and/or recorded several albums' worth of material. But unlike J.D. Salinger, he's not waiting until he dies to release it. He has leaked songs to internet blogs, and various tracks have appeared as e-singles (2006’s We Don’t Care earned 4 stars from Pitchfork), magazine compilation tracks and in soundtracks—and to Bryk's bewilderment, Lovers Leap tracks have appeared in mash-ups with the likes of The Human League and Nirvana.

Bryk’s 2006 website-direct Christmas Album (Urban Myth) garnered a handful of stellar reviews from the web and the press, who couldn’t resist an eight minute-plus ballad about a star-crossed journey from his native Toronto to Raleigh, North Carolina, with perhaps a sly nod to that old Beatle chestnut about John and Yoko.

Those immigration difficulties are hopefully at an end, now that Bryk has received his U.S. residency and can tour and properly release records—the first of which was 2007's Discount Store. The 6-track EP featured the title track (as mixed by Mika/Rufus Wainwright producer and fellow Canadian expat Greg Wells) with four sparkling originals and a cover of the Furniture's "I Miss You"

(Un-)apologetically Canadian, Bryk has nonetheless toured throughout the US solo and within varying bands, and has shared stages with many great alt-rock singer-songwriters including Fountains of Wayne, Ron Sexsmith, Leslie Feist, Teddy Thompson, Lee Feldman, Sarah Slean, Chris Mills, Jason Collett, Django Haskins, Eleni Mandell, Noam Weinstein, Amy Correia, Steve Wynn and Hayden.

Fans of great pop music would do well to keep an eye on Dan Bryk.

Some Very Nice Commendations

“The enigmatic Dan Bryk returns with Discount Store, an EP “preview” of his forthcoming album... pop goodness with a touch of quirk.” -Absolute Power Pop

“Brilliant Pop... you can trust me when I say this stuff is awesome. I only need to hear one jangly strum, or those high-pitched, perfect-pop vocals or his clever lyrics to know I'm hooked.” -Songs:Illinois

"Irresistably catchy... Bryk’s honest, funny lyrics flirt with self-deprecatory gloom and loneliness." -Glorious Noise.com

"Nicely twisted confessional pop... Rufus Wainwright meets Ben Folds, drunk, at a Christmas party" -The Wilmington Star

"The Jimmy Webb of the new millennium" -Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices)

"Songcraft is the game Dan Bryk plays, and he gets a triple-double with about half of the songs he writes." -Grayson Currin, The Independent Weekly

"You know of course that the guy who wrote "...and Now Our Love is Dead" didn't just release a chirpy little Christmas album full of family friendly good cheer. Nor is this a sarcastic stab in the heart of the holiday season that you might expect from a smug indie rocker. Instead this is an entertaining, sensitive yet comedic, singer-singwriter album similar to his 2000 release Lovers Leap, but instead the songs are about Christmas, a tete-a-tete with Jesus Christ, and a long drive across the United States... it will keep you alive with indie rock Ch