‘Winter Wheat’ is the baby of John K. Samson from long-running Canadian indie-rockers The Weakerthans. It’s a thoughtful collection of songs that are coming to terms with the impact of modern life in all its forms and serves as a laid back slice of Americana-tinged indie introspection.
Opening track, ‘Select All Delete’, sets a deeply atmospheric tone for the record with a very spacious sound that ambles along like a stroll in spring time. The first line of “That hashtag wants me dead, but I don’t mind” is immediately engaging and is a fair indication of the wry humour to the observational lyrical content.
The album is a pretty slow moving affair, with songs like the wistfully downbeat Americana of ‘Winter Wheat’, the meandering acoustic melody of the lullaby smooth ‘Capital’ and the bleak tale of recovery that is ’17th Street Treatment Centre’. It is, however, punctuated by more upbeat moments like the jaunty ‘VPW 13 Blues’, the groovy tambourine shakes of ‘Fellow Traveler’ and ‘Postdoc Blues’; the story of a disillusioned academic, just one of the many ordinary people lurking between the lines.
The stand out moments come on the more electric tracks like the richly textured ‘Alpha Adept’ and the Neil Young-esque ‘Vampire Alberta Blues’, with its flourishes of rich guitar licks that build to a bittersweet climax on an electrifying solo – killer track. The desolate spoken word ramblings of ‘Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s’ is also fairly intriguing, although its appeal is probably more limited.
The album ambles to a melancholy close with the demise of Samson’s old feline friend on ‘Virtute at Rest. It’s a fitting end to this comforting, yet downbeat, reflection on modern life.
‘Winter Wheat’ by John K. Samson is released on October 21st on ANTI- Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)