John K. Samson
Provincial


4.5
superb

Review

by Adrian Hertzberg CONTRIBUTOR (31 Reviews)
January 31st, 2012 | 30 replies | 1,665 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: So Canadian it hurts, eh?

There’s something magical about the ability of music to transport you to a completely different place in an instant. Sometimes, we obsess over an album, song, or artist so extensively that years down the road when we hear it again, we can’t help but experience vivid flashbacks of where we were or what our lives were all about when we first fell in love with it. John K. Samson’s newest solo album Provincial accomplishes this effect in a different way. I’m from Canada, and as of this writing I am in the middle of a year-long stint of backpacking across Africa, and I’ve been away from home for nearly five months. I know that when I listen to the album years from now, I will be instantly taken back to walking along the beaches of Cape Town, as it is the only thing I have listened to (or felt like listening to) for the past week. However, what Provincial is currently doing for me is reminding me of home.

You see, Provincial is so Canadian it hurts, and I mean this in the best possible way. Most of you will know John K. Samson as the frontman of Canadian indie-rock giants The Weakerthans, or possibly as a former member of Winnipeg-based punk group Propagandhi. Both these groups have a tendency to address Canadian issues with their lyrics, or else make jokes that only someone from Canada could truly understand. Provincial carries on this lyrical trend and, as ever, it works incredibly well. The first and second to last tracks on the album are named after a Canadian highway, and there is a song in which Samson suggests a certain Manitoba born hockey player as a member of the hockey hall-of-fame, and the title is the actual URL to a petition that aims to make it so, something that only a Canadian would ever seriously consider putting on an album. Furthermore, perhaps appealing more specifically to people from Manitoba, there is a song about the longitudinal centre of the nation, which is in Manitoba, called, what else, ‘Longitudinal Centre.’

But of course, alluding to my home country is not enough to make it a ‘good’ album. All of this name-dropping is all well and good, but without great music, song-writing, and lyricism, none of it matters. Luckily for us, his listeners, John K. Samson displays the same tight compositional ability that has gained him fans with his various musical endeavours in the past. Musically, the album is a more or less straight-forward indie/folk affair in the same vain as most of The Weakerthans’ material. What makes this album shine, as with most of Samson’s body of work, is the brilliantly simple lyricism. Some lyricists are highly renowned because of their deep metaphorical passages or incredible insight, and while Samson definitely displays such insight at times, what stands out about his lyrics is that he has a knack for describing mundane, every day events in a catchy and somehow meaningful way. The best example of this on Provincial is probably on standout track ‘When I Write My Master’s Thesis’ which begins: “Oh the streets of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas fill with smoke, my doorbell rings. I put my controller down then pick it up, shoot some things .” To those that haven’t heard the song yet, this may look like a ridiculous lyric, and it kind of is. But Samson’s genius lies in the way that he is able to make this lyric work, like those are the only words that could ever go with the music it’s set in front of. Moments like this are sprinkled everywhere throughout the brisk 37-minute runtime of the album, and they’ll make you grin every time.

Provincial is a simple album. The music is simple, the song-writing is simple, and the lyrics focus on simple, everyday things. But while this would generally be seen as a negative for most albums, John Samson specializes in making the simple seem extraordinary. His music is best enjoyed when close attention is paid to his lyrics, as they are almost always exceptionally witty or else relatable in some odd way. Some of the charm of Provincial definitely lies in its distinct Canadian-ness. That is not to say that only Canadians will enjoy it, but it certainly helps in relating to some of the lyrical content. Still, this album is classic Samson, and anyone with an ear for folky indie-rock or clever lyricism will find something to enjoy.

So grab a poutine, turn on the hockey game, and throw on Provincial. If you don’t enjoy what you hear, I’ll have to politely suggest that you’re oot of your mind, eh?



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user ratings (65)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Evan Wachowski (4.5)
I’m not sure that after listening to this album you’ll know exactly what it’s like to live in ...

Adam Knott EMERITUS (4)
Weakerthans frontman reconstructs his own world a little more sparsely....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 31st 2012



23652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

this already has 2 more than adequate reviews and I honestly think this one is pretty shit, but I wanted to write something for it. yeah.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

taylormemer
January 31st 2012



4887 Comments


Aha. I know what's fucking up the page. Hopefully my theory is correct.

taylormemer
January 31st 2012



4887 Comments


Look at that pro editing right there.

ConsiderPhlebas
January 31st 2012



6157 Comments


Interesting review, man. Album is sweet.

AllGabrielsAreGlass
January 31st 2012



431 Comments


Great review. I keep seeing this guy's name crop up now and again, and even though I have had little exposure to folk music I think I'll check it out.

But just a quick question, how are you getting online in africa? I mean, of course you can take a laptop and everything, but doesnt that shit need recharging? (Im crap with technology) And isnt there little to no electricity over there?

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 31st 2012



23652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

first of all, I'm in Cape Town right now, which is barely Africa at all. Where I am right now has reliable power everywhere and internet cafes all over the place.

but even when I was in more "run down" places like Kenya or Uganda, there are still usually internet places in major cities. for power, this thing is a beast and has like 6-hour battery life so that isn't really an issue, I just charged it when I could. but not everywhere in Africa is blacked-out haha, they do have electricity here, it's just not in every house. but every hostel has power, even if it cuts out twice a day.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 31st 2012



23652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

taylor - I didn't edit anything. what was your theory though?

AllGabrielsAreGlass
January 31st 2012



431 Comments


@Aids, Well I have to admit you got me there, I think the trouble is when people mention Africa, I almost invariaby start thinking of the north instead of the southern areas.

Anyways, good luck on the rest of your trip over there man, even though we've never met let me say I still hope your having the time of your life down there. (As Stalkerish as that may sound...)

Eclecticist
January 31st 2012



3863 Comments


ugh this album is so boring yet it is spreading like aids

Eclecticist
January 31st 2012



3863 Comments


lol Canada is neutral, what are you talking about?

wabbit
January 31st 2012



6745 Comments


all the reviews for this are the exact same.

Eclecticist
January 31st 2012



3863 Comments


Really? So they are all written by Aids?

Jash
January 31st 2012



4243 Comments


Great review man, pos



























Now come home!!!

robin
Emeritus
January 31st 2012



4221 Comments


most used genre tag ever: "canada"

awesome awesome review.

Satellite
January 31st 2012



19883 Comments


poutine looks pretty disgusting but thanks for hockey

Digging: The Menzingers - Rented World

wabbit
January 31st 2012



6745 Comments


poutine is actually the best food ever

johnnyblaze
January 31st 2012



2572 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cool, I gotta check this out.

Poutine is actually really good btw... especially in Quebec.

Digging: The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams

SowingSeason
Emeritus
January 31st 2012



14512 Comments


nice review

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 2nd 2012



23652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

haha pretty good (albeit short) thread. thanks guys.

and poutine is amazing.

"all the reviews for this are the exact same."

yeah this is actually the least necessary review in the history of sputnik but I wanted to write
something.

"lol Canada is neutral, what are you talking about?"

ur smrt

"ugh this album is so boring yet it is spreading like aids"

not that popular really, and the only people on board so far from what I can tell are people that
already like The Weakerthans, and that much was pretty predictable. anyway, thanks all.

taylormemer
February 2nd 2012



4887 Comments


Sorry, forgot to reply. A couple of albums (including this one) in the db had their reviews displaced halfway down the page. I figured out why and I was correct. Lengthy, unspaced song titles are the culprit.



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