By Nick Laugher, Staff Contributor
With a jagged, lonely uncertainty stepping through the luscious, organic timbre comes the airy and infinitely wise voice of John K. Samson, the darling singer/songwriter of The Weakerthans. Samson’s latest vessel for his emotionally grounding, heartbreaking convictions and conflicted attitudes about a certain prairie province is Provincial Road 222 and is the second in a series of seven inch records inspired by the winding highways and lonely roads of Manitoba.
A shuffling, hesitant spill of drums timidly crawl into your head as a sombre Samson crafts a smouldering urgency and unnerving sadness with the opening track “The Last And.” With poignancy, Samson’s sharply painted hypothetical portrait of unrequited love within elementary school faculty tugs at us with an achingly sad, crippling nostalgia. Backed by the orchestration of the Correct Line Ensemble, a group which Samson’s wife has a prominent role in, the track builds into a grandiose, fervent outpouring of memory, collapsing in a splintered cascade of instruments left dripping with an ampersand and an ellipsis, refusing any resolution.
“We the undersigned put forth his name” comes the cavalcade of voices from Samson’s second track “Petition,” a pseudo-eulogy for Manitoba hockey player Reggie “The Rifle” Leach. Richly laden with harmonies and a cyclical jangle of guitars and ukeleles, the infectious circular drone of the song burrows deep into your heart, inspiring a strange, gnawing sympathy and an unexplainable drive to get this spurned soul into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Closing the record is a haunting sea of spectral voices lamenting long days of technological isolation. Entitled “Stop Error” and brimming with computer puns and music by J.S. Bach, the humorous track hides a secret venom, providing an interesting contrast to the sparse, solemn arrangements of the previous songs.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Samson has once again delivered a surprisingly diverse package of insightful – if not immutable – honesty and we’ve signed for it, slowly solidifying him a position as Canada’s indie-rock poet laureate.