John Samson album Provincial

John Samson is arguably the best lyricist currently working in music.  He possesses a unique talent of turning even the mundane and melancholic minutiae of modern life into beautiful universal narratives.  Over his past three albums, as the front man for the Canadian group The Weakerthans, he has proven he is a poetic lyrical genius and on Provincial (amazon) (itunes), his first proper solo album, he continues to impress.  Although the music loses some of the raucousness his bandmates bring to his music it is still evident that he is the driving force behind the lyrics.

mp3 : John Samson – Heart of the Continent
mp3 : John Samson – Grace General

Provincial opens with a dirge of sorts; a rather abstract tribute to Highway 1 East where he talks about getting lost while following another car.  The GPS fails him and he pines for the car in front to wait for him.  And all of this explanation feels dull and rather boring, but John Samson creates a scene that is worth listening to over and over again.

Oh, wait for me, I fell behind
three signs for services ago

Some sarcastic satellite says I’m not anywhere
Spent every cent of your good will
On fossil fuels and magazines
So let this field of flax foreclose on everything I owe
And scratch Saskatchewan away
Make Manitoba paper dolls
Lift up a line from Highway One to tie Ontario
Oh, wait for me

From that short interlude (the opening track is just under 90 seconds) the album opens up with Heart of the Continent which sees John focus on Winnipeg.  When working with The Weakerthans he recorded the song One Great City where the chorus repeats “I hate Winnipeg.”  On Heart of the Continent both the melody, the instrumentation, and the lyrics serve as a sister song to the original much in the same way two previous songs about Virtute the cat opened and closed a story spread across multiple albums.

The remainder of this debut full length is filled with sparse songs about great Canadian hockey players (a sister song to Elegy for Gump Worsley which appeared on the last Weakerthans album), video games, the crossroads through Canada and other various subject matter that would all seem hollow and bored without the poetry of John Samson to serve as our lens.  For instance on When I Write My Masters Thesis he starts with a short tribute to Grand Theft Auto which segues into a tribute to loneliness.  I challenge you to find another song writer who can combine such disparate subject matter into a single track.

I could probably write a single post about each track on this album but I won’t drag you farther (or is it further) into my lyrically obsessive rabbit hole.  Plan on getting this album, opening your browser to, and enjoying the imagery woven through each song.  And for those who choose not to purchase albums you can stream it here.

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The Long Winters track The Commander Thinks Aloud

A few days ago I wrote a post about a track called Boeing 737 by The Low Anthem.  In the lyrics of that song The Low Anthem intertwines the tragedy of the World Trade Center terrorist attack with hanging out in a bar with Philippe Petit (the man who strung a high wire between the twin towers).  In that track there is a certain beauty found in what is ultimately a melancholy and utterly tragic experience.  It takes a unique talent to capture the bittersweet emotions of certain events and forge from that fire something beautiful and worthy.

The Low Anthem succeeded with their song Boeing 737.  Sufjan Stevens somehow paralleled his own short comings with those of John Wayne Gacy, Jr., in a heartbreaking song.  The Weakerthans have a brilliant song called Night Windows which details the loss of a friend to the war in Afghanistan.  And although this list could probably continue, I am often reminded of the following track by The Long Winters.

mp3 : The Long Winters – The Commander Thinks Aloud (Live in the WOXY Lounge)

In The Commander Thinks Aloud, John Roderick, lead singer of The Long Winters, tells the story of astronauts on their way home from a mission.  He details their euphoria, the return of gravity as they descend, and the amazing and breathtaking view they are afforded from their seats.  And yet, just as they begin to descend, as he sings the line “Can you feel it we’re almost home? / Yay! Yay!” it all starts to fall apart.  The song ends as the space shuttle Columbia begins to disintegrate and fall apart.  Yet from this great tragedy; not only for the astronauts we lost (and their loved ones), but for the entire space program as well, The Long Winters have found a beautiful way to tell their story and commemorate this event.

It’s tracks like this that keep me blogging.  Originally recorded for their 2005 EP Ulitmatum (amazon) (itunes), the original version of this song is filled with guitar distortion and feeback.  The version I have posted today was recorded live in the WOXY Lounge (which no longer exists as both WOXY and their website went out of business and were closed permanently in 2010) and I believe it is the definitive version of the song.  I am fortunate enough to have snagged this version a long time ago and I wanted to make sure it was passed around the internet a few more times.  Enjoy the music, no matter how tragic it can be.

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Wedding Music vol 06 : Reception

With this installment of my reception background music we shall begin moving farther into the territory of “You really played that at your wedding?”  Granted, some of these songs aren’t typical wedding fodder, but they are all amazing songs.  They also all fit the mood of singer songwriter music that is both interesting and captivating while also being of a similar aural aesthetic.

Enjoy the music.  I know I did.  One of the greatest comments I received throughout my wedding and reception was a frequently repeated phrase, “This music is really good.”  It gave an already amazing day an even more special shine.

mp3 : Josh Ritter – The Temptation of Adam
mp3 : Simon and Garfunkel – Bleeker Street
mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Chicago (Acoustic, Live at KCRW)
mp3 : The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving

If you’d like to see all of the music from our wedding follow this link.

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The Weakerthans track Night Windows

I have found myself to be a bit on the obsessive side over the past month of my life.  I was again moved back to part time at work (which really means part time pay, which is just over sustainable) and alongside that came extra hours, even days, of leisure free time.  Now you might think that I would use this time to do what I love.  That I would use it to peruse music blogs, stream tracks from myspace to, attend shows, and download bootlegs.  But for some reason I haven’t done any of those things (although I did score some rare tickets to see Sufjan in Bloomington in a few weeks).

I guess I shouldn’t really say “some reason” like it’s this ambiguous metaphysical reason that’s leaning upon the edge of my subconscious.  I realized today exactly what the situation is.  When I have too much free time, without structure, without a framework that keeps me busy and organized I drift into a mode that is somewhat lazy, partially obsessive, and mostly bent on finding a path of least resistance.  And so I’ve been doing what every quarter aged person with too much time on their hands does in the United States (or really the entire world).  And that has been nothing.  Nothing at all.

Oh sure I’ve listened to music, I’ve played video games, and I’ve complained to my friends about my lack of adventure (and perversely my lack of will to seek said adventure), but mostly I’ve done nothing with my time.  Nothing at all (well nothing at all that I could show you and say “look what I have done.”)

And so that brings me to this post about The Weakerthans track entitled Night Windows.  I love this band, I love this track, and I love the album it hails from (Reunion Tour (amazon) (itunes).  In fact I love the album so much it has been the only album I’ve listened to in my car over the past three weeks.  I finally took it out after I realized just how obsessed I’ve become with the album; how stuck I’ve become in this routine of listening to one thing over and over again (I mean c’mon, I actually have memorized, word for word, 9 of the 11 tracks on the album).

mp3 : The Weakerthans – Night Windows

And all this rambling brings me to this track.  This track written about losing someone.  This track which I believe is the perfect commentary on the war the USA is currently fighting (in two countries no less).  This song is quietly desperate and melancholic.  It’s filled with honest emotions and genuine heartache.  And I know every word as if I wrote it myself.

It’s been said that John Samson (lead singer of The Weakerthans) wrote this song for a friend of his whom died in the war in Afghanistan.  It’s also known that the title is lifted from a painting by the artist Edward Hopper.  It’s a beautiful song and I feel that if I don’t share it with everyone it will be stuck in my head for ages and I won’t ever listen to another album.

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The Weakerthans

A couple of days  ago I mentioned my penchant for liking songs about cats.  I probably should’ve been more specific.  I should have mentioned I particularly like songs from the point of view of a cat.  Namely a certain Canadian cat who goes by the delightful moniker Virtute.  As far as my research team {er, me} is concerned Virtute first made her debut on the music scene with a song on The Weakerthans’ 2003 album Reconstruction Site (amazon) (itunes).  It was on this track where she {I assume she’s a she due to Virtute not generally being associate with male cats} lamented the depression of her owner.  She encouraged her owner to live life again.  To invite people and friends over and to forget the past and all those awkward emotions associated with it.  Her best line, “we’ll pass around the easy lie / of absolutely no regrets / and later maybe you could try / to let your losses dangle off / the sharp edge of a century / we’ll talk about the weather or / how the weather used to be.”

Apparently her pleading and good natured ribbing didn’t quite pull through for her lonesome owner.  On last year’s album by The Weakerthans, Reunion Tour (amazon) (itunes), Virtute the Cat again takes the stage and explains why, in the end she chose to leave.  There was a great big world out there and her curiosity simply could not be ignored anymore.  Maybe it was her owner’s depression, maybe he was just getting older, or maybe Virtute and her owner were too similar to share the same space for such a long time.  They both depended too heavily on each other as an emotional crutch and it wasn’t healthy in a long term situation.  In the end she’s ultimately sorry that she left, but she knew she had to go.  If you’re listening to this song the line to wait for is “but I can’t remember the sound that you found for me / I can’t remember the sound.”

mp3 : The Weakerthans – Plea from a Cat Named Virtute
mp3 : The Weakerthans – Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure

I’m a huge fan of The Weakerthans {I chose their latest album as the second best release of 2007} and these two tracks illustrate a great point about the band.  They can take literally any subject matter and make it relevant to everyone.  And even while they’re making a universally understandable song they have a gift for making each thought, each emotion, each song apply in some unique way to each and every one of us that has had the pleasure of hearing their music.  Here’s to hoping that Virtute makes another appearance on their next project.

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The Best Albums of 2007

At long last here are my top ten albums released during the past twelve months. Download all the tracks and play them loud, support the artist by buying their albums, merchandise, or concert tickets, and most of all continue to enjoy great music. This list was ridiculously hard to create due to the amount of talent in the musical realm, but, these are the albums that I was most excited about in 2007. {note : in the list below the artist name links to their website, the album title links to the album on amazon, and the iTunes link will open iTunes to the appropriate information}

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

01 : Cloud CultThe Meaning of 8 (iTunes)

Easily the most cathartic album I’ve ever heard the general storyline of this album chronicles the path frontman Craig Minowa took while coming to terms with the death of his son. Most of the tracks on this album have to do with what little Kaidin’s life would have been like {he would’ve turned eight this year} or how he inspired his father and those he met with the joy of life. It was a very close call between Cloud Cult and The Weakerthans for album of the year, but this band from Minneapolis pulled it out in the end. From beginning to end there is not a single note that I would change about The Meaning of 8.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Take Your Medicine
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Your 8th Birthday
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Purpose

02 : The WeakerthansReunion Tour (iTunes)

Second place, and by a very slim margin, goes to one of my favorite bands of all time, The Weakerthans. Coming a full four years after their previous effort, this studio album had a lot of fans wondering if rust and age would tamper with the signature lyrical and melodic brilliance of The Weakerthans. All fears were laid to rest after one listen, though, with the only complaint being it clocks in under forty minutes. John Samson tells these wonderful vignettes about empty rooms, curling tournaments, and runaway cats that are filled with a sense of forlorn truth. Something in this album rings true on every listen. If you’ve never heard The Weakerthans their newest disc is easily a wonderful starting point.

mp3 : The Weakerthans – Tournament of Hearts
mp3 : The Weakerthans – Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure
mp3 : The Weakerthans – Sun in an Empty Room

03 : RadioheadIn Rainbows

Not much else could be written or said about this album other than what has already been said. Radiohead tops many of the best of lists across various publications and blogs. They released their album completely on their own, with their own website, and charged nothing for the music if that’s what you chose to pay. They bucked convention with this release, just as they’ve continually created new and innovative sounds on each of their albums. This, their seventh studio album and first in four years, is an amazing musical achievement even without the marketing {or lack thereof} hype.

mp3 : Radiohead – Reckoner
mp3 : Radiohead – Videotape

04 : Arcade FireNeon Bible (iTunes)

Although many a rabid fan and critic balked at the slightly new direction Arcade Fire went on their sophomore effort I challenge you to find another band that made this interesting, layered, and talented a second studio album. Moving away from stories involving apocalypse and funerals this album instead finds its voice in a social commentary of sorts {which is perfect when you’re influenced by Bruce Springsteen}. I thought this album was a perfect follow up to Funeral. Yes, it is different, but so are we.

mp3 : Arcade Fire – (Antichrist Television Blues)
mp3 : Arcade Fire – Intervention

05 : Bishop AllenThe Broken String (iTunes)

Throughout 2006 Bishop Allen, which is a collaborative effort between Justin Rice, Christian Rudder, and various backing musicians, released twelve EP’s; one for each month. It was with much anticipation, then, that I awaited their first proper studio full length this past July. And Bishop Allen did not disappoint with The Broken String. From start to end the storytelling, the music, the melodies, and the undeniable fun of the album had me playing it for anyone who would listen. Over five months later it still amazes me that this amount of quality music was put on one album.

mp3 : Bishop Allen – The Monitor
mp3 : Bishop Allen – The Chinatown Bus

06 : Foo FigthersEchoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (iTunes)

Foo Fighters released their most mature and grounded album to date while finding a way to showcase Dave Grohl’s massive talent without the use of a sprawling double album. From start to finish this album shows the diversity of the entire Foo Fighter’s cannon while always keeping you on the edge of your seat, anticipating what song is coming next. From a pure rock anthem like Come Alive, to the bombast of The Pretender, down to the the ecstasy found on The Ballad of Beaconsfield Miners, there is no stone left unturned on this, the best rock album of the year.

mp3 : Foo Figthers – The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners
mp3 : Foo Fighters – Come Alive

07 : Sigur RosHvarf/Heim (iTunes)

Sigur Ros is easily my favorite band that I cannot seem to describe to others. Or for that matter get other people to listen to. They’re a band out of the great land of Iceland and lead singer Jonsi sings in one of the most beautiful falsetto voices I’ve ever heard. If the angels from on high sang in Icelandic then this is what the music backing them would sound like. This release was a double album with the disc labelled Hvarf containing studio versions of previously unreleased tracks and the disc called Heim containing acoustic versions of previous favorites.

mp3 : Sigur Ros – Heysatan
mp3 : Sigur Ros – Staralfur

08 : BeirutThe Flying Club Cup (iTunes)

Originally scoring much higher in my list Beirut fell to number eight after repeated listenings. Although this album didn’t have the staying power I thought it would have it still is a solid effort from Zach Condon throughout the mix as he brings his particular ecclectic/gypsy/folk/balkan style of music and makes it a true edition to the great new American Folk wave. There’s something in his music that cannot be found anywhere else. Due most likely to his extensive traveling throughout eastern Europe during his developmental years and the fact that a wrist injury keeps him from playing the guitar properly.

mp3 : Beirut – Guyamas Sonora

09 : Band of HorsesCease to Begin (iTunes)

The critics who hated and/or panned this album when it was released have almost nothing in common with me. I, for one, cannot fathom what they were looking for in the second studio album from Band of Horses. Cease to Begin showcases a sound and style that are uniquely theirs; from the driving guitar rhythms to the unique crooning style of frontman Ben Bridwell. I thought this album was solid from start to finish with the inclusion of a few incredible tracks like Island on the Coast and Is There A Ghost. Band of Horses is one of the best bands in the past couple of years and I’ve been excited about their music since their first release.

mp3 : Band of Horses – Island on the Coast

10 : Sea WolfLeaves in the River (iTunes)

Rounding out the top ten albums of 2007 is this little gem by Sea Wolf. This band is the brainchild of Alex Brown Church, who formerly played with the band Irving, and he incorporates a variety of devices and sounds to tell his stories. Although at times the record can sound like a smooth amalgamation of various sources, in the end it is a blissful thirty five minute mosey through Alex’s life, music, and stories.

mp3 : Sea Wolf – Leaves In The River

Download all the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

And there you have it. In my humble opinion those were the best albums of 2007. Other noteworthy albums that didn’t quite make the top ten include In Our Bedroom After The War by Stars, Wednesdays by Wakey!Wakey!, From Here We Go Sublime by The Field, Sawdust by The Killers, Magic by Bruce Springsteen, B Sides Live by Zach Williams, Graduation by Kanye West, and We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse. As talented and wonderful as this past year has been I’m looking forward to 2008 when there will be new albums by my favorites Sufjan Stevens, Cloud Cult, the Magnetic Fields, the Postal Service, and Weezer.

For those of you who just found my blog take a minute a peruse other posts here at The World Forgot. I hope you enjoyed yourself this year, 2008 is sure to bring something amazing to everyone.

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