Friday, March 23, 2007

Reviews:: Patrick Watson Close to Paradise

Normally when I hear the term, “juno-nominated” I assume someone is going to force Nickleback, Celine, or the sexed up bird Nelly into my grill. That’s part of the reason I dismissed Patrick Watson. All I knew about him was he was getting some radio love and he's from Montreal.

After digesting the record – Close to Paradise – all I can say is that it is about time the Canadian music committee (whatever it is called) finally recognizing the talent our indie scene is putting out. Patrick’s music however, is difficult to describe. If I was a better writer, I’d have some amazing analogy to how his songs mix structure and classical elements with freedom and recklessness. It’s like he’s in an 80’s comedy and meeting his girlfriend’s parents at a dinner party. He’s wearing a suit and tie, but constantly playing with the tie knot, trying to get comfortable. The apparent polish adds a nice finish, but the rugged, honest roots are far from hidden.

Watson effortlessly adds orchestral sounds to his music (like the slow bowed strings on Giver or the malloted cymbals on Slip Into You) that contrast his soaring folk vocals and multi-layered texture filled tracks. The album opener – Close to Paradise – is a slow burning arrangement that shows Patrick experimenting liberally with piano, guitars and an M Ward/Devendra voice. Instead of using just a folk riff, Watson uses a complex combination of sounds that mesh well with his off kilter vocals. The record flows nicely into the electro back beat of Daydreamer where Watson uses only simple piano and the occasional guitar noodle to set the mood for his vocals.

Giver is a simple but stunning track. An up tempo guitar picked riff and the marching drums push the song along, and for the first time on the record, Watson really showcases his vocal range. Making the obligatory Buckley/Drake comparisons, he gracefully takes center stage and shows he can be a dominating front man. The same can be said about the piano heavy Luscious Life and the dreamy soundscape of Drifters.

As the record grows, you really unearth many hidden treasures – like the stellar Great Escape. Watson shows he can create a simple melody with just his voice and a piano and engage even the most skeptical listener. It’s a perfect example of how taking the over production (and overall douchebaggery of Chris Martin) of a simple piano ballad can be so refreshing.

One thing I really love is how he resists the urge to fashion a record of radio friendly numbers. He follows Giver with an accordion Pirate sea shanty (Weight of the World) that strangely works. The same can be said about the dramatic instrumental Mr. Tom. He escapes the plague of most folk artists by changing time signatures and constantly reinventing the melody. On The Storm, Watson shares the vocals with a beautiful female voice and adds a revved up electric guitar and low banjo sound before throwing in a hand clapped breakdown, all within three minutes.

This record is worthy of all the praise it is receiving.

Patrick Watson (and talented band) is playing at UBC tonight – should be a great show.
MP3:: Luscious Life
MP3:: Daydreamer
Video:: Drifters

Website :: myspace

Posted at 12:46 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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