The Soft Province
The Soft Province
Release Date: Feb 22, 11
Canadian comedian Harland Williams (Half Baked) was on Adam Carolla’s podcast last week. And in between random bird noises and microbursts of insane, hilarious rants, Williams spoke about the success of his cousin’s band Barenaked Ladies (also of Canadian origin) here in America. He said that a lot of Canadians had mostly disowned the group after their popularity exploded in the US because Canadians tend to perceive making it big in the land of amber waves of grain as “selling out”.
Aside from being fellow Canucks and playing instruments, the band members of The Soft Province, Jace Lasek and Mike Gardiner (co-founders of Besnard Lakes), thankfully share no other similarities with BNL. And by that I mean, Lasek and Gardiner aren’t quirky, middle-aged rockers who sing about buying “not real” fur coats – no disrespect.
However, the release of Soft Province’s rad, self-titled debut album could result in a BNL-like alienation for the group and should have them considering purchasing exile real estate within US borders.
In Soft Province’s bio posted on their label’s website (Three Ring Records), the band is said to be aiming to combine the pop song writing sensibility of Francoise Hardy with the long, repetitive drones made popular by Broadcast. This could have very well been their aim but it is definitely not the result; which is a good thing.
Although SP occasionally reaches the dark psychedelic tone and effectively mimic the drawn out, cyclic riffs of Broadcast, they are too abstract to accurately draw comparisons to the French-pop nature of Hardy. In fact, the number of influences that are heard on this album may be too many to label SP with any one genre or compare to any one artist. Portraying heavy post-rock influences while occasionally jabbing out tastes of psychedelic pop, folk, Americana and ambient sounds, SP makes soundscapes similar to those of Tame Impala and Lotus Plaza but that are more closely related to their rock origins.
The vocals are just as diverse, varying song to song with Justin Vernon-esque falsettos on “I See Two Eyes”, followed by “Lazy Minds Eye” which is filled with Beach Boys-like harmonies and then a flavor all-their-own for the remainder of the album. Lyrics are sparse but they are used convincingly as yet another layer contributing to the wall of melody flowing out in each track.
The array of sounds and versatility of SP is in large part due to the musical prowess of SP’s main source of inspiration, Lasek, but can also be attributed to contributions from Lasek’s wife and Besnard Lakes band mate, Olga Goreas, Max Henry (of Zeroes, Young Galaxy) and Jonathan Cummins.
The album’s only low point, albeit deliberate, is when the same formula heard throughout the album falls short and drags with an overly repetitive, trance-inducing strumming in “The Broadway Coastline”. This same formula, however, makes songs like “For Untold Days” and “Anybody Hiding” great, signature tracks.
All and all, it’s a complete album that is sure to get its rightful recognition. And when it comes, and Canada turns its back, may SP find sanctuary in the red, white and blue’s cozy confines. Where indie bands put their music in commercials and make millions with their fans’ full support. Come Soft Province and you will be welcomed by the warm embrace of Lady Liberty and all of her glorious exploits.