At least in Pennsylvania, where I am, there is almost two feet of snow in the ground, which makes me want to curl up with a good book, a snifter of cognac, and, of course, some solid winter tunes. I’ve been listening to a few bands pretty consistently this holiday season, but one stands out among them as my favorite: The Weakerthans.

The Weakerthans

No wonder he hates Winnipeg so much--too many pine trees

The band, fronted by Winnipeg’s John K. Samson (who left leftist punk band Propagandhi to start a publishing company–which is the best way ever to leave any band), play a highly idiosyncratic and instantly identifiable brand of punk-pop that is both catchy and endearingly intimate. The intimacy in part comes from Samson’s impassioned, earnest vocal delivery and, perhaps even more so, from his excellent lyrics. There are some great writers to be found in contemporary music, but none that I have found so far has yet to touch Samson in terms of clarity of imagery, strength of voice, and overall cohesiveness. It seems imprudent to recommend a band on strength of their lyrics alone, but the genius of the Weakerthans is the union of rough-around-the-edges, folk-tinged punk music and highly literate lyrical insight. Songs like “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” (pronounced “vir-toot”) showcase the mastery of both pop and poetry. The song is written from the perspective of Samson’s cat, and provides a shockingly vivid portrait of disaffection and loneliness. I could rave on and on about Samson’s lyrics, but I’ll spare you and end with this: check this band out, if you haven’t. The Weakerthans are in heavy rotation in my winter playlist, and though they haven’t released an album since 2007’s Reunion Tour, they are a band to watch in the future. Hopefully 2010 yields a new release from them.

Like what you hear? Craving more than these four albums? John Samson released the first in a series of 7″s, entitled City Route 85, on November 3, a song from which can be heard here. Be sure to give this band your attention and keep an ear to the cold, frosted Canadian ground as we move into a new year. Hopefully The Weakerthans will grace us with album #5 by this time next year.

Listen/watch: and

– David