Soft Province – Soft Province (Three Ring Records)

Side projects are typically a chance to either take on a musical persona you can’t do with you main band, or to let musicians who normally aren’t singers/songwriters get songs off their chest. Soft Province, featuring Jace Lasek and Michael Gardiner, bucks those stereotypes by sounding almost exactly like Lasek’s main act, The Besnard Lakes. As with the Besnard Lakes, Lasek seems to be the main creative force here, providing the same soaring vocals, hazy guitar-playing, opaque lyrics and soft harmonies that have helped his band make a name for themselves over the past few years. In fact, you could probably pass Soft Province’s debut off as a new Besnard Lakes album and most people wouldn’t bat an eye. OK, so it varies from Lasek’s other work in the same way as Robert Pollard’s different projects vary from each other (which is to say, minimally), but that’s OK by me because he’s a strong musical force and he holds nothing back here. I don’t care what band he does it with – if he’s going putting out high caliber stuff like “Thin Ocean” (which gets as much mileage as possible out of a ten-word lyric), “The Broadway Coastline”, and “One Was A Lie” (nice MBV-esque tremolo on this one), I’ll be there to listen to it every single time, and you should too.