You suspect former Weakerthan John K. Samson knows this. Winter Wheat, a charming set of autumnal acoustic numbers, is a constant reminder that songwriting from the molecular level—from the inside looking out—can be about much more than trivial matters of the heart while still boasting a sense of universality.

Samson possesses a thoughtful, literary, lyrical wit, but it never feels as if he’s addressing the listener down the barrel of his nose. Even a passing commentary on the aspiring intelligentsia (“Postdoc Blues”) is revealed to be sympathetic tale of professional struggle (“I believe in you, and your Powerpoint,” he sings with almost a childlike sincerity). 

But no matter the depth of his character studies, no matter the intricacy with which he arranges the political (“Capital”) and technological (“Select All Delete”) mise-en-scène, the record’s most compelling moments are still those in which Samson builds from the bottom up, starting at a point of nothing in particular, his writing like a fragrance in the air. “Woke up in a parking lot/air mattress has gone flat/the sun selecting targets for the shadows to attack,” go the opening lines of Winter Wheat’s title track. 

These meditations are set against a gentle bed of acoustic guitar and light percussion, quite unlike the loveable cheese-wire racket of The Weakerthans. But it suits: Samson’s nasal, quietly reflective voice, exposed and unadorned, paints a deeply sympathetic picture of one Winnipegian’s contemplative mid-life, and its supporting cast. The world depicted may be his and his alone, but plenty of it will appear familiar to the rest of us.