Fans of The Weakerthans have had to endure something of a lean spell, the Winnipeg band’s last record coming out way back in 2007. Lead John K. Samson did put out an excellent solo record, Provincal, back in 2012, and (excitingly) has announced he is about to follow it up with a new semi-solo effort, Winter Wheat.
We say ‘semi-solo’ because, while it’s being released under Samson’s name, the album involves The Weakerthans members Jason Tait and Greg Smith, as well as Samson’s partner and collaborator Christine Fellows, and was recorded by The Weakerthans sound tech Cam Loeppky. Either way, the record looks to explore Samson’s favourite themes of contemporary loneliness and isolation in his uniquely warm manner, his characters not ready to give up hope that connection (that is, real human connection) is still possible in our digital world.
For now, we have the first single, ‘Postdoc Blues’ as a taster. In many ways, the track is a spiritual sequel to Provincal‘s ‘When I Write My Master’s Thesis’, the protagonist no longer neck deep in study, dreaming of the Glorious Change that the completion of a degree always seems to offer, but instead floating in thin post-degree air, struggling through the mind-numbing, monstrously pathetic and utterly normal world of Powerpoint presentations and publishable research (“Saw your presentation went terrible / all wrong dongles, sweat stains and stares”).
The narrator acts as a kind of cheerleader, dragging the other through what David Foster Wallace called “the day-to-day trenches of adult existence”, before offering something different in the closing third, switching attention to wider societal and ecological issues, hoping that working toward a morally important higher calling might transcend the banalities of much of TV and the internet. You can stream the song now (via A.V. Club):
“So that that laminate
out of your wallet
and read it,
and recommit yourself
to the healing of the world
and to the welfare of
all creatures upon it.
Pursue a practise that
will strengthen your heart”
Winter Wheat is set for release on the 21st October via Anti- Records and you can pre-order it from the John K. Samson website right now.
Photo by Cory Penner