Monday, April 27, 2009

Reviews:: The Provincial Archive Nameless Places

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With all the lo-fi bands making wavves these days by fusing moments of brilliance with static blasts and clouds of noise, it's remarkably refreshing to stumble on the crisp, clean bedroom folk Craig Schram and his band create. Surging anthems and muddled vocals have taken over the place of straight ahead, well penned verses and the never ending onslaught of bad news, worse decisions and pop stars saying nothing of value or interest makes it easier to care about nothing than holding on tight to a moment in time that we will never get back.

It’s easier to pine for days when the only things that mattered were drinking and hooking up or simply take solace in nihilistic attacks on the pillars of our society than admit your thoughts always circle back to your heart. When push comes to shove, apathy, rage or lust trump pining over a girl that broke your heart, especially since the rise and fall – from critics, not fans - of Ben Gibbard, being a sensitive ultra lyricist trapped in basements and bedrooms with only your thoughts and some recording gear have become a bit passé.

Instead of suffering through lo-rent production, Schram prefers to deliver emotions over crystalline sounds that accent his word instead of masking them. Whether it’s a nice acoustic, mandolin, accordion, xylophone or even simple computer effects, the aptly named, The Provincial Archive, doesn’t want to confuse the issue. They simply want to document moments in time for posterity, and while the ear pleasing melodies grab you, it’s the lyrics that force those thoughts into your brain.

A simple picked banjo opens the record - While I Am Writing Letters... - and even as more sounds are added, you continue to hone in on the original riff and Craig’s voice. In 4-minutes you learn everything you need to know about The Provincial Archive, a feat most bands can’t accomplish with the help of a full record. The song never feels the urge to rush or become something more than it is and Schram’s thoughts follow suit. He’s open, honest and willing to admit he still cares. As he sings of writing letters, it’s quite obvious that 140 characters of typos and symbols isn’t enough for Schram to document and his thoughts, nor is it enough time and effort for what the situation warrants.

The beautiful thing about Nameless Places, is that even with the detail and time TPA put into the end result, the events feel like they’ve happened to you. Whether it's the simple comfort of a road trip looking out at the stars as the odometer turns (Draw An Outline) or just enjoying the crisp air of a winter day (Sound In Winter), or something more tangible like the freedom of lost youth, getting your heart broken, wondering what is going to happen next(with apologies to Ice T), these thoughts seem more real than just obsessing over wanting to get laid. These songs are about the hours in your week that don't fly by under the clouded vision of drinks and strobe lights… you know, the ones that actually matter.

Even though there are better songs on Nameless Places (the catchy strums, hand percussion and xylophone of Sound in Winter are impossible to ignore and I can't help hitting << Like A Cloud Would Float finishes), the one that grabs me the most is On the Literate. Earlier this year I talked about the promiscuous slink of Kundera on the Dance Floor. As bar going patrons hunted in search of lust, passages and authors were floated into conversation to show emotional depth and sophistication. Schram’s character talks of a super intimate one–on-one encounter the irony of "her" memorizing words to sum up how she feels about where they are and who they are, but knowing it will fall short when they grow and she wants to leave.

If nothing else, Nameless Places would be worth a listen simply because it reminds us all that it's ok to care. It's ok to know our heart beats for a reason, often one we can't control. Luckily for the Canadian music scene, The Provincial Archive seems determined to keep a detailed record of the events for our own personal history. Even more fortunate is how they makes these personal thoughts sound great. Every melody floats by nicely, letting you zone in and out and still be rewarded. All in all, I'm not sure what else you could ask for.

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Posted at 7:48 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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