I Found A Reason
(Melted Recordz)
Add date: 4.23.2024
Release date: 4.19.2024

The soaring opening track on “I Found A Reason”, the debut album from Alma Jette, is an instrumental overture: We’re sitting in the audience, eyes on the velvet curtain as it unfurls to reveal our set, which turns out to be the unmistakable expanse of Texas under the dome of a clear, star-pocked sky. From there, we wind our way through scenes familiar to Mary Bryce, the artist behind Alma Jette—from the decaying 1930s bungalow in Austin, Texas where the album’s songs were written in 2020 to Bryce’s Los Angeles home that was eviscerated by a fire years later. Where do we wind up at the end of our journey? Safely back in Bryce’s theater, though altogether cleansed in a way that only devastating fires and heartbreaks can do. 

But we’ll get there. Alma Jette began in that old Austin bungalow amid the space and stillness of the pandemic, which granted Bryce the time to capture a sweeping solo debut. A lifelong musician who has long collaborated on projects around Austin where she grew up, Bryce created Alma Jette out of equal inspiration from the spacious pop of Cate Le Bon, the sparse sculptures of Constantin Brâncusi and the vast expanse of her home state. I Found A Reason was also born out of a creative and romantic relationship between Bryce and the album’s co-writer, guitarist and producer, Jake Miles, who shared the Austin bungalow where I Found A Reason’s ten tracks were written and recorded entirely to tape. 

The magic of performance hinges on suspension of belief. On I Found A Reason, that suspension falls on us as listeners as well as on Bryce, whose life transformed in the years between the album’s recording and release. I Found A Reason was recorded during Bryce’s relationship with Miles, and one interpretation of the album is as an ode to that relationship. Tracks like “Demons,” where Bryce paints the romantic picture of “dancing in the kitchen while Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby” plays,” and “Do You Remember,” a piano-laced ballad that sees Bryce reminiscing on the relationship’s early days, are easily classifiable as love songs. 

But when the relationship that sits at the center of I Found A Reason ended in 2023, just months after Bryce and Miles’ shared Los Angeles home burned in a fire, Bryce was forced to reconsider the tracks they’d recorded together. Now, Bryce says that I Found A Reason sounds eerily like a breakup album—a future that couldn’t have been predicted, a devastation as erratic as fire. It’s impossible for us to resist the symbolism: Fire, while eviscerating, is cleansing. Growth emerges in its wake. For Bryce, that growth came with the decision to release I Found A Reason on her own label, Melted Recordz. 

So let’s suspend our belief that I Found A Reason is populated with love songs. There is rich longing in each of the ten tracks, and we can hear it each time Bryce’s voice bends and reaches, always landing on a note that feels impossible. On “Bambi,” a standout single that takes us deeper into the album, we hear Bryce wish for more—“I used to be so lonely / Now it’s not so bad / I wish you were the only memories I had.” And on “Apples,” a track recorded in a single take that draws inspiration from Joni Mitchell, a songwriter who specialized in heartache, we hear Bryce lament the inevitability of death, which marks the departure from a lover—“I hope you know that I will die someday / I’ll die / And when I do, I hope that it’s for you.”

No track on the album more painfully captures the double-edged sword of loving someone than “Icarus,” a sweeping ode not to a relationship, but to the possibilities it holds—“When you talk about love / When you talk about us / When you talk about kids / When you talk about trust / And years go on, and the days are gone / And the heart still longs for a world beyond.” We know what happened with Icarus, of course—waxen wings that flew too close to the sun. The track’s bridge alludes those doomed wings, and brings us to an outro that is pleading in its poetic repetition—“Love is the balm / Love is the wound / The sharpest knife / The silver spoon.” 

“Icarus” leads us to the second of the album’s two instrumental tracks, a reprise titled “The Knife, The Spoon,” or that awful pairing we now associate with love. On the other side of that reprise, the curtain is closed, and standing before it is Bryce, spotlit, vulnerable and changed. The album closes with its title track, a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found A Reason,” which, in its spaciousness, is made distinctly Texan by Bryce. 

We know “I Found A Reason” as a love song, but in its purest sense, it is a song about fulfillment. The “you” in the lyrics is transmutable. “You” could be a partner, yes, or “you” could be the music or the self. If we are taught anything by the journey through Alma Jette’s debut, it’s that life is never static. We are moving, and through I Found A Reason, we are moved. The album ends on a triumph—“Come, come, come to me,” Bryce sings, and of course, we will. 

-Hannah Smothers