Album Review: The Provincial Archive – Maybe We Could Be Holy

“We hope for a warmer November
But we’re changing with the air
It’ll be colder soon
And we’ll be in the darkness through the daytime
Waiting for phone-calls from your shaking voices”

Such a sad autumn, young as it is. I can’t and won’t explain the sadness.

There are many things that have helped to keep me intact and moving during that time – some of them monumental, irresistible, immovable, inviolable. And some of them, without meaning offence to the creators, relatively trivial.  One of those things has been this 2010 album.

In August we took a listen to their most recent recording, “Common Cards”; that song took me to this work.  And I am thankful for that.

It would come as no surprise to anyone who knows the defining sounds of my record collection to hear this music: there’s a palpable air of melancholy throughout. There’s a particularly human kind of decay and slow death in the fading-out lives of the protagonists. There’s a sense of dislocation from the promise of lives gone – sometimes even that more brutal act: the betrayal, nay selling-out of youthful ardour and potential. But the rancour is all directed at the current version of the people inhabiting these songs – their younger selves are the victims, remembered fondly and, despite the realism that has been found, without cynicism or disdain.

The playing is tight, the sound perfectly constructed without feeling over-polished. There are inflections of banjo and accordion, occasional forays into keyboards and programming, but none of it overburdening the exquisite sounds wrought from drums, guitar, bass. Every hit of every snare, every cymbal, has the power it ought to have – no place occupied is wasted. Each picked string, strummed chord adds to the slowly-building air of broken hearts and suffering dreams.

Nevertheless, I keep coming back to this record. There’s something in the harmonies. Sometimes there’s an additional chime in the guitar. A playful keyboard line emerging in the background. A quicker rhythm in the picking. The fact is that “Weight and Sea” is hands down one of the most gorgeous songs that I have heard in ages with the kind of chorus that makes you wish with unknown strength to be a teenager on the cusp of falling into poetic love for the first time.

By all means go to bandcamp and stream away to your heart’s content, and exquisite pain, but for god’s sake buy this gem. What a beautiful record.

“All the landscapes you adore look like home”

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