Though Canada is a lovely place, the urge to go there doesn’t usually come up in song. Yet there it is in Nadia Reid’s “Oh Canada,” where she professes her desire to visit as part of a meditation on wanderlust. The track comes from Reid’s third LP, Out of My Province, a subtle collection of plushly orchestrated indie-pop songs. She has said this is a traveling album, which makes sense: She’s a New Zealander who came to Spacebomb Studios in Virginia to record a song about going to Canada.
Much of what’s happening on these 10 songs seems to involve a search for self. Reid’s protagonists are often trying to figure themselves out and make sense of the ways in which reality so often differs from our hopes and expectations. There are moments in these songs of deep longing and vast loneliness, but Reid doesn’t come off as wallowing. She’s an observer, calmly evoking scenes from the past and contrasting them with the present: once we were together doing this particular thing—driving home on “All of My Love,” or going nowhere at all on “Best Thing”—and now I’m here, and you’re there, and there’s an unbridgeable distance between us. Sometimes that distance is physical—“I am lonely for you in Norway / I am lonely for you in Spain,” she sings on “Oh Canada,” where low horns frame overdriven guitar licks over a swiftly flowing beat—and sometimes it’s emotional or even philosophical. On “Other Side of the Wheel,” Reid thinks back on someone she knew and their divergent paths, and wonders about the gulf that has come to divide them, singing in a low voice surrounded by drifting keyboards and little pulses of guitar that come and go throughout the song.
String and horn arrangements with a vintage feel have become something of a Spacebomb Records trademark, and that holds true on Out of My Province. A low blur of brass swells up behind boxy electric guitar and Fender Rhodes electric piano on “High & Lonely,” then recurs later in the song at a higher register. Sweet, aching strings wash over the gaunt finger-picked electric guitar on heart-stopping album closer “Get the Devil Out,” leaving Reid’s voice as the central focus as her narrator makes peace with the past on her way to deciding that she’s just fine as she is.
The orchestrations enhance Reid’s songs, adding richness and depth without impinging on the rare balance her songs display between cerebral and instinctual. After all, what else is wanderlust but an impulse toward itinerant movement while your mind tries to figure out where you belong? It’s not clear on Out of My Province what conclusions Reid reached, if any, but maybe this is one of those times when the journey is the most important part. It’s certainly resulted in a rewarding album, one that ought to serve as a breakthrough for an artist on her way up.