Weakerthans front man John K. Samson hasn't stagnated since the Winnipeg band's most recent album, 2007's Reunion Tour. But the characters on his first solo LP, Provincial, seem stuck - or at least, Samson's lyrics vividly freeze their moments of anticipation, longing and rejection.
A grad student plays videogames and dreams of academic triumph on the comical "When I Write My Master's Thesis." Someone confronts "crumpled dark" and "an unresponsive automatic door" on "Heart of the Continent." Sure, "Cruise Night" feels a little bland, and Provincial overall doesn't have the gentle punchiness of the Weakerthans' best moments. Its slower, more acoustically inclined songs take some patience.
That said, even the sad, frustrated souls on "Taps Reversed" and "Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San" make their case with oddly touching turns of phrase.