Published Nov 20, 2015In a surprising turn, Edmonton's the Provincial Archive are back after the departure of keyboardist Nathan Burge as a grungy power pop trio, with an angsty self-titled EP that's a pretty faithful homage to mid '90s indie rock. Think early Weezer, Ben Folds and a little Inbreds on the harmonies (though vocalist Craig Schram sings more like John K. Samson).
Evolution can go all kinds of ways, but in this case, it feels a little backwards: from the layered synthetic textures of Maybe We Could Be Holy and It's All Shaken Wonder to a more straight-ahead pop/rock sound that's less distinctive sounding yet still melancholic, thoughtfully arranged and super catchy.
The Provincial Archive should be cranked and thrashed around to or driven to, rather than fussed over (and good for them for getting their distortion pedals out). The fact it was recorded live off the floor with Nik Kozub (Shout Out Out Out Out) also makes a statement: This isn't supposed to be delicate.
The songs sound transitional, emotional and anxious, like the band's working through growing pains and Schram's narrators are coming to terms with fucking up. "I gotta bad feeling that all of my friends are leaving," Schram sings on "Bad Connection," while on "It's Easy," which opens with a little alt-piano intro before the fuzzy guitars come in, he sings, "Why is it every time when I talk it sounds like I'm gonna cry?"
The thing about the '90s is that looking back on it, I think we tolerated some pretty half-rate lyrics. These lyrics aren't bad, per se — just reflective of a regressive, angsty, uncertain, confessional state. Relatively mellow "Stay Dumb" lays the whole grey backdrop of the EP bare. (Consonant)