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Photograph Credit: Hamza Abouelouafaa

“Hollywood” is the final cut to be from Alex Nicol’s new EP ‘Been A Long Year Vol.1’, which is out now.


Emerging like the score of a silver screen classic that never was, the Montreal artist’s latest single ensnares with all the potency and poison of its namesake. Casting strings of a knife-edge tension against the unexpected twists that unfold with its dramatic key changes, “Hollywood” finds Nicol play a starring role in a song of downbeat and disturbing Lynchian thrills.


A song about living with the tension of unrealized aspirations while striving for gratitude in the present, “Hollywood” hits home like a bruised lament for what could have been and what may never be.


“I’ll never go to Hollywood, I’ll never be a star” sighs Nicol, seemingly stepping into the well-trodden shoes of an actor down on their luck and feeling the weight of the world. Yet for all the despair that surrounds its lead protagonist, a cathartic chorus adorned with glimmering and atmospheric arrangements finds Nicol offer a silver lining of hope; a contentment to be found in the acceptance of our fates. Mirroring some of the resentments and realisations that have earmarked chapters of his own life story, Alex explains:


“Lyrically, “Hollywood” is a reflective song in which I begrudgingly accept that I have failed to find success yet, with Hollywood symbolizing the fame-in-youth narrative that, because I am no longer young, I will never be able to claim. But if the verses are where I list all the things I will never do, in the choruses I remind myself of all that nourishes me at home, and how far I have come. I have always considered myself a late bloomer, and Hollywood ends optimistically: me and the great blue sky, and all the opportunity that it conveys. Hollywood is a signpost in my path as a musician, marking the end of my youth, in which I was ravaged by self-doubt, and the beginning of my next chapter, in which the sky’s the limit.”


The new single arrives with an evocative official video directed by Alex Seltzer and featuring Alex Nicol. With a distinct indie cinema feel, the visual accompaniment takes the viewer on a psychological journey through the pitfalls of self-doubt and confusion, through to comfort that can come with self-awareness and all of the emotions in-between. Traversing between the beautiful spectacle of Niagara Falls to the cheap thrills of a local amusement arcade, watch out for “cameos” from Jimmy KimmelMatt DamonKaty Perry, and the Obamas too…


Watch “Hollywood”‘s music video 


“Hollywood” was the final song to be written for Alex Nicol’s upcoming EP ‘Been A Long Year Vol.1’ EP, and follows recent singles “Eye For An Eye” and the Angel Deradoorian-featuring “Been A Long Year”. Explaining its place on the new record he adds:


““Hollywood” poured out of me at the end of the writing process for this EP. I thought I was done writing when the song came in a flash – grunge guitar and all. Hollywood captures the mood of the EP – me in a dark, self-critical place – but it brings a dynamic, gnawing, cathartic energy that makes it, for me, the high point of Been A Long Year Vol. 1…”

To the casual observer, the atmospheric sounds that cascade through ‘Been A Long Year Vol. 1’ may not immediately communicate a sense of hardship, but scratch the surface and you will hear a body of work that is the direct byproduct of a journey through personal tragedy to self-acceptance. The years surrounding its creation weren’t particularly kind to anyone, but shortly after completing his 2020 debut long-player ‘All For Nada’, Nicol entered a phase of staggering loss and mourning. Friends died. Family members died. He lost his job. As each new crushing sadness hit, Nicol began realising he’d spent his adult life avoiding difficult emotions like the ones he was being overpowered by. It slowly became clearer that his upbringing had conditioned him to maintain a false but constant state of hyper-stability. A small lifetime’s worth of unacknowledged feelings began coming to the surface and everything in Nicol’s world began to change.


While beautiful and well-thought, Nicol’s music before this often hid behind over-intellectualisation. Devotions were specific and his poetic turns were sincere, but emotional wavelengths were tightly controlled. For the songs that poured out for ‘Been A Long Year Vol. 1’, Nicol let the raw feelings flow. Instead of fine-tuning lyrics or meticulously dissecting every possible way a song could be interpreted, it was more important to set free what was trying to get out. He was uncovering a newfound vulnerability within himself, and this carried over into the music as well. Lyrics about how much hurt he’d been holding onto, how scary the world could be or how overwhelming his recent experiences had been were transmitted without fear or qualification. Nicol relinquished control and simply tried to be honest with himself.


Even though it bloomed out of heavy times, the resultant EP is by no means a gloomy listen. The songs move with warmth and curiosity, Nicol’s haunting voice gliding over understated chamber pop flourishes, elastic bass grooves, and expansive production that spills out like the sun’s rays breaking through the clouds. The EP pulses with a gentle melancholy that recalls the fragile sweetness of Nick Drake or Sea Change-era Beck, and it explores the same arid atmospheres as contemporaries like Andy Shauf or Wand vocalist Cory Hanson’s country-tinged solo albums. More than anything, ‘Been A Long Year Vol. 1’ feels like a protracted sigh of relief. It’s a document of a calloused spirit finally letting go, and the weightlessness Nicol achieves outshines all of the struggles that brought him to this point.


With all songs written and performed by Alex Nicol (vocals, acoustic guitar, mellotron, farfisa), guest musicianship across its five songs was contributed from Simon Trottier (electric guitar, lap steel), Maxime Castellon (bass), and Guillaume Ethier (drums), with a guest vocal on its title-track from Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors / Decisive Pink).


Produced and mixed by Emmanuel Ethier (who also contributed strings and keys) with additional mixing by Mark Lawson, Alex Nicol’s ‘Been A Long Year Vol. 1’ EP is streaming everywhere now.