Lonely Mission
Jake Nicoll

Reviewed by Jenina MacGillivray

When he isn’t sitting behind drum kits for half the bands in St. John’s or dragging a suitcase, guitar and microphone he made himself through a foreign airport on his way to sing or record a tune, Jake Nicoll is producing and engineering albums for local bands in his Duckworth Street studio and, surrounded by equipment he has made or brought back to life, he is quietly writing, recording and releasing his own music. Lucky for us.

Nicoll’s twelfth full length LP Lonely Mission could be the soundtrack for a seventies film that hasn’t been made yet. An instant classic in the vein of Nick Drake inspired folk meets Sufjan Stevens, the album also very much has its own aesthetic, full of razor sharp harmonies, evocative phrasing, and playful melodies and arrangements which are unmistakably Nicoll. Just when you think a song has taken you everywhere it possibly can, he hits you with a new instrument or movement or feeling and, as with all good art, it is both surprising and flows perfectly from what came before it.

Jake began recording the album in 2022 during the pandemic, on his family farm in Southern Ontario, and later in St. John’s and Reguengo Pequeno, Portugal. In the time between the old world and a brave new one, Nicoll wonders with characteristic curiosity about what will emerge, while lamenting and asking for forgiveness from the pre-pandemic life and people he had to leave behind in the long dream of isolation.

Jake Nicoll


Lonely Mission feels both cultural and natural at the same time—both freshly hewn and like it has always been here. Much like the mythical Josephine, the unlikely heroine of the title track, the album has a timeless quality. I know people say that a lot about folk albums, but it really does. An ode to humankind with all of our foibles and to the natural world, delivered in a voice so sweet that one suspects Nicoll may just be a forest dwelling creature himself, coming to warn us and comfort us about the perils of consumer culture and the solace of nature and of music. His critical perspective on capitalism, the emptiness it promises, never feels lecturing or bitter, not least because he includes himself in it. These days, we’re all advertisers, trying to make ourselves known, but what is shown? Put wrapping paper on an empty package.

In Lonely Mission, Jake sings for birds, for the cats in the street, for the mountains, for no one (Music for No One) and, as the opening track—and my favourite one—joyously declares, for everyone.

So I’ll pick up my guitar And I’ll sing for everyone And everything that’s hidden living lonely in this fog For some day it will be springtime And we’ll stretch out to the sun On the other side of lonely I can hold you, you can hold me And we’ll sing a song together Just like it once was done.


Jenina MacGillivray is a musician and filmmaker based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, whose songs and stories are deeply located in and on and around the islands of Atlantic Canada. Her newest single, Highway Dreamer, was released May 1st. Watch for her sophomore album, Perseids, in September 2024.