Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson takes the idea of road music literally on Provincial, his solo debut, using four roads in Manitoba as inspiration for an entire album. As Neil Young sang about the Canadian prairie, those winds sure blow lonely out there. And that’s mostly the vibe Samson conjures, though he rocks a bit as well. Check out “When I Write My Master’s Thesis.” These songs are of the brainy grad-student variety (elsewhere he references Icelandic sagas), telling micro-stories, mostly without choruses. Samson’s vocal timbre is slightly pinched, bordering on pip-squeaky. He balances the academic with mundane pop-culture details, with references to video games (set to the melody of a Bach chorale), grammar and computer code. Another tune is based on a web petition for a player’s inclusion in Hockey Hall of Fame — it doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.
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