In "When I Write My Master's Thesis," John K. Samson juggles a lively mind and a directionless heart.
In "When I Write My Master's Thesis," John K. Samson juggles a lively mind and a directionless heart. Jason Halstead
Song: "When I Write My Master's Thesis"
Artist: John K. Samson
John K. Samson has lived several lives as a musician: He played on a pair of paint-stripping leftist punk records as a member of Propagandhi in the '90s before exploring his sweeter side with The Weakerthans. Now that he's putting out a solo record — Provincial, out Jan. 24 — he's refining the latter sound while starting over, at least for the moment, under his own name. Provincial continues to mine Samson's observations of life as an open-hearted Canadian book-reader type, while couching his reference-rich storytelling in sweet, guitar-powered pop hooks.
Judged by its title alone, "When I Write My Master's Thesis" threatens to cross over into self-parody: Samson knows his way around postgraduate woes, and they're not top-of-mind concerns for most listeners. But this is a sneakily powerful song, as Samson examines the way a lively mind can function at cross purposes with a directionless heart. The misbegotten, couch-bound academic at the song's core ought to sound familiar to anyone who's stuck around a college town, but Samson does more than just draw a vivid character sketch in "When I Write My Master's Thesis." He also captures the maddening way that humanity's biggest thoughts can get bottled up in disorganized and unambitious brains — and, by extension, unsatisfying lives.