The biographical quality of Norway isn’t a coincidence, either. When writing the album, Garceau was on the wrong end of a breakup, one he gives voice to in his lyrics. Norway was a place to express the pensive mood that lingers from a life fluctuating between melancholy and hope. To this day, the power of The Bright Road’s music lies in its ability to capture an inner dialogue that burdens everyone subject to life’s turmoil.
Like the passing of the seasons, times have changed since 2012. In Norway, the songs are reminiscent of winter -- spacious, distant, hushed -- but the addition of two new members to The Bright Road’s core sees the band expanding its musical horizons. David P. Brisson and Keven Juneau joined The Bright Road a few months after Norway was released, and the band attacked touring and songwriting with a new collaborative focus. After two years of writing songs together and being immersed in Montréal culture, Ocean was born.
Ocean was mixed and engineered by award-winning producer François-Charles Legault, and it was the last album to be recorded at legendary Studio Victor in Montréal. It was mastered by Ryan Morey, who also worked on Arcade Fire’s Funeral. The first single, “We’ll Be Fine,” is a delicate and carefree song in which The Bright Road use music to combat life’s uncertainty.
Building on Norway’s unique musical approach, The Bright Road’s new album is quietly energetic and introspective. On Ocean, Garceau’s hushed vocals are still prominent, and the spacious instrumentation of Norway makes a return, but on opener “Far Away,” his murmurs fall between buoyant guitar hooks that lift the music into a new emotional register, one of liveliness and joy.
It’s not just the band and the music that have changed. Garceau’s life has, too. In a story that spans The Bright Road’s tenure as a band, the same muse who inspired the pensive heartache of Norway is now Garceau’s fiancé.
The evolution of the band can partly be traced to this change in fortune for its chief songwriter. On the surface, it’s the kind of ending found only in fiction, and a story that generates a cautious optimism throughout the album. If Norway was Garceau’s therapy, Ocean shows someone grappling with life from a new perspective, one of personal growth and maturity. The lyrical content of Ocean has more questions than answers, and longing has been replaced with an awareness of how fleeting bliss can be. On “Be There,” Garceau asks, “Will you be there when I come home? Will you be there to stay?”
Ocean derives some of its power from The Bright Road’s connection to the album’s central metaphor. “Having sailed through many obstacles during the creation of this album, the ocean represents the perfect metaphor for the journey we’ve been through,” says Garceau. “The journey is sometimes clear and peaceful, sometimes troubled and powerful. The vibe of the ocean resonates through the sound of the album.”
A symbol that accommodates all walks of life, the ocean is broad enough to welcome multiple stories and interpretations. For the band, it’s important for all listeners to let their own stories guide interpretations of Ocean. Garceau, Brisson, and Juneau call music a “universal language” that communicates and brings people together in ways that words cannot.