I remember when Patrick Watson‘s second album, Just Another Ordinary Day, came out in 2003. It was different, unlike anything I had heard. It was part pop and part classical. The music was lush and gorgeous, accentuated by Watson’s unique falsetto. Three years, he would release his breakthrough album, Close to Paradise, an album that was stunning, cinematic, and simply breathtaking. He and his band would go on to rightfully be awarded the Polaris, given to the best Canadian indie album of the year. The album made Watson be recognized as one of not just Canada’s but the world’s architects of atmospheric, indie music that has since been expanded upon by the likes of Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow.
Watson would follow the success of Paradise with a couple of albums. Wooden Arms saw Watson further extend the band’s sound, incorporating orchestral arrangements and classical instruments to create a symphonic sound. Adventures in Your Own Backyard was Watson turning back the clocks, simplifying his sound much like on Ordinary Day. While the two albums were solid, they weren’t Watson’s best, as they lacked the mystical and mythical qualities of the previous albums.
Watson returns with Mishka Stein (bass), Simon Angell (guitar) and Robbie Kuster (drums) for the collective’s fifth full-length, Love Songs for Robots. On the album, Watson adopts some techniques and textures used by other indie bands in order to expand his sound. The result is a wonderful album that soars and flows throughout its nearly 50 minutes, never settling into a single groove. Every song seems like a chameleon, constantly changing in tempo, melody, and rhythm to create a swell of emotions while mixing together a wave of genres from prog to folk to psychedelic to jazz to dream-folk and more. It is Watson at his creative best, where despite the constant evolution of each song the listener remains attentive, awaiting to hear what or where the next note will take her on this sonic, spatial experience.
The title track and “Good Morning Mr. Wolf” fill the ears with a plethora of sounds and feelings. They are stunningly beautiful and captivating. The splendid and entrancing “Bollywood” hums with a deep bass line that perfectly complements Watson’s shimmering voice. The song echoes of the brilliance of Brooklyn’s The Antlers, as Watson meanders the song through a wide range of layers and his voice reaches a crescendo that elevates the song to solar heights.
“Hearts” is the one song on the album that recalls Watson’s past efforts with its rousing chorus and melody. However, there’s still something different about the track. It is less orchestral and pop, leaning more towards indie-folk and dream-folk, a blend of Fleet Foxes, Andrew Bird, and Okkervil River. “Grace” is the most “straightforward” song on the entire album, filtering ’70s psychedelia through Watson’s lush sieve. It is an unexpected but successful turn by the Montreal songwriter.
“Turn Into The Noise” is another surprising track. With touches of the blues, jazz, and electronic, “Noise” is a down-templo almost brooding track. It’s a song that should be played in a small, smokey basement bar in the back streets of New York City. It is meditative in its simplicity yet hypnotic with its dark tone.
The album ends the way it starts – with two spectacular tracks. The seven-minute “Know That You Know” once again echoes of The Antlers. It is a gentle, lush song that never really climaxes, yet Watson’s harmonies together with the melodies make it epic. “Places You Will Go” ends the album on a perfect high. The track is brilliantly cinematic and imaginative, and the music is uplifting and optimistic. It’s a song that you never want to end because it indeed takes you places.
Love Songs for Robots throughout its ten tracks feels like Watson of nearly ten years ago – a man who made music for people to completely lose themselves for just a little awhile. Call it fantasy, call it escapism. Regardless of the word chosen to describe this album, one thing is clear – Watson has returned to the top of his game, creating an album that recaptures the mystical brilliance of one of this generation’s best songwriters.
May 13 – Paris, FR – Café de la Danse – SOLD OUT
May 14 – Luxembourg, LX – Rockhal – TICKETS
May 15 – Berlin, DE – Gruener Salon – TICKETS
May 17 – Brussels, BE – Cirque Royale (w/ Villagers) – TICKETS
May 23 – Toronto, ON – Echo Beach, CBC Music Festival – TICKETS
May 27 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club – TICKETS
May 28 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg – TICKETS
May 30 – Boston, MA – The Sinclair – TICKETS
May 31 – Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre
Jun 2 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel (w/ Villagers) – TICKETS
Jun 4 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Forever (w/ Villagers) – SOLD OUT
Jun 6 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
Jul 5 – Trois-Rivières, QC – Festivoix
Jul 11 – Sherbrooke, QC – Théâtre Granada (Festival Sherblues & Folk)
Jul 17 – Quebec, QC – Plaines d’Abraham (FEQ)
Jul 23 – Calgary, AB – Calgary Folk Fest
Jul 31 – Aug 2 – Montreal, QC – Osheaga
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