Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
John K. Samson at Soundscapes in Toronto
Frank YangThough his punk credentials are beyond reproach thans to his tenure in Propagandhi, John K. Samson has always cut a bit of a curious figure in front of The Weakerthans. While his bandmates are more than willing and able to play the part of rockers in turning out muscular guitar riffs and solos, Samson by comparison has always been a bit slight of stature, reedy of voice, sheepish of grin; the thoughtful and verbose folksinger who somehow ended up fronting a rock band. I don’t know if the contrast between he and his mates has especially struck anyone else, but it’s always been one of those things I’ve noticed – particularly live – and been one of the key facets to The Weakerthans’ collective charms.
So the idea of Samson taking a solo sidebar, as he does for the first time on the just-released Provincial, is an interesting one. His songwriting style – photographically-detailed and emotionally evocative vignettes of everyday life in distinctly Canadian settings – is a well-established and well-loved one by this point, but what it would sound like without the extra sonic heft that the rest of The Weakerthans could be counted on to bring to the table? Not too different, as it turns out. Although it still has a lot of range amidst its dozen compositions and “Longitudinal Centre” comes wrapped in some nasty fuzztone, Provincial doesn’t get as punchy as a proper Weakerthans record might. It lays back some and moves at a more casual pace that feels different, but also entirely natural; it might be heretical to say, but Samson solo seems to suit Samson better than Samson as bandleader does. This is in no way a wish for the end of The Weakerthans, but if Samson wants to be himself for a little while longer, it’s alright with me.
It was Samson himself and alone who was marking the release day for Provincial with an acoustic in-store performance at Soundscapes last night, following up a reading from his also just-released Lyrics and Poems: 1997-2012 at Type the night before. It wasn’t a long set, as the clock ticked, but Samson still managed to showcase half his new record and reaffirm himself as a special kind of performer whose show you can go into knowing exactly what you’re going to get, get exactly that, and still somehow find yourself marvelling at how it was still somehow better than you expected. I’d listened to “Heart Of The Continent” and “The Last And” through the album quite a lot in the past month or so, and yet hearing it straight from his mouth still revealed unknown details. The album might be called Provincial but there’s no question that Samson is a national treasure.
There’s features on Samson and Provincial at Uptown, The Winnipeg Free Press, and Spinner while Exclaim and CBC talk to him about his lyrics book. Mechanical Forest Sound is sharing a recording of one of the songs from the in-store. Samson returns with a full band for a show at the Great Hall on March 22.
Ohbijou are helping The Drake Hotel mark its eighth anniversary by playing a special, intimate show at The Underground on February 8 – tickets for the super-intimate show are $20 in advance.
MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
The Elwins will celebrate the February 21 self-release of their debut full-length And We Thank You with a release show on February 24 at The Burroghes Building at Queen and Bathurst (no, not the new CB2 – beside it), with support from The Meligrove Band and The Bicycles. Tickets $8 in advance.
And down the street the same night, Hooded Fang will be at The Great Hall; if you think that’s a bit of an ambitiously-sized room for them to try and fill, note that they’re bringing a lot of friends and only charging $10 in advance.
Treble Charger aren’t the only band from my college years getting back together for Canadian Musicfest; The Inbreds are digging their bass and drums out of the attic for a reunion show at Lee’s Palace on March 24.
Montreal’s Plants & Animals will follow up the February 28 release of The End Of That with an immense Spring tour; the April 21 show at Lee’s Palace will be the end of that. Tickets are $15 in advance and oh, there’s a cover they did of a Wolf Parade tune that’s making the rounds, have a boo.
Clearly, it was all the saxophone on Kaputt that did it; Destroyer is coming back to town for a show at The Opera House on June 23 as part of The Toronto Jazz Festival – tickets are $22.50 in advance.
Exclaim has some details on a show at The Horseshoe on February 4 as part of Junofest 2012. I’m not really sure what it is but it involves people who play in bands like Sloan, Fucked Up and Broken Social Scene doing stuff together. I dunno, read the piece and you tell me.
Kathleen Edwards continues to rack up the press clippings with Voyageur – there’s pieces on her at Paste, aux.tv, The Grid, NPR, eMusic, and The Globe & Mail. With this kind of momentum, her February 11 show at The Phoenix will be sold out right soon.
The Balconies have released a video for the title track of their Kill Count EP, which will get a physical release on February 28.
Video: The Balconies – “Kill Count”
Stream: Islands – “Hallways”
The Boston Globe has a feature piece on The Darcys, whose cover album of Steely Dan’s Aja is, like their self-titled debut, available to download for free from their website – or stream if you don’t want to commit – and to buy on LP. Consequence Of Sound has also premiered an alternate version of “Josie” for your listening pleasure. They’re at The Phoenix on March 1 opening for Bombay Bicycle Club and are also part of Edgefest at Downsview Park on July 12.
Stream: Leonard Cohen / Old Ideas
If you enjoyed last year’s video session collaboration between Southern Souls and Paper Bag Records, you’ll be pleased to know that the recordings have been collected into a compilation entitled Paper Bag Sessions and it’s available to download and keep for free.
And because that’s what the CBC is for, CBC Radio 3 has compiled a list of all the notable Canadian releases due out in the first half of 2012.