I remember quite clearly the first time I listened to Patrick Watson. The album was Wooden Arms and I had headphones on at work. "Strange," was my first reaction as I started writing. The music washed over me, and, seemingly, moments later, the album ended. Almost without thinking I started it over from the beginning. Four listens later, I was in love. His smooth yet piercing voice, his instrumental prowess, the audacity of his song writing and the multitude of layered sounds -- it was unlike anything I'd heard lately, and the emotional impact was undeniable.
Even now, knowing what to expect, I find myself having a similar experience listening to his new release, Adventures In Your Own Backyard, out May 1. From the album's opening trill of piano keys, leading into the first track, "Lighthouse," the sound is immediately, undeniably recognizable. From the delicate opening the song explodes into grandeur, with layer upon layer of trumpets and percussion melding with the original haunting melody.
This song is a good indicator of the pace of the album, and of what I have come to expect from Patrick Watson generally. His is a sound that comes over you in waves -- it fully encompasses the listener as it ebbs and flows between soft and loud, tragedy and joy. His orchestration feels daring (his use of creaking doors on the album's title track evokes the bicycle bells and chains of "Beijing"), but makes perfect sense in the larger context of his albums. From the ebullience of the album's first single, "Into Giants" to the deceptively threadbare closer, "Swimming Pools," no musical decision feels arbitrary.
What so impresses me about Patrick Watson is that his sound is so distinct, so immediately recognizable, and feels consistent across his albums -- thematically and tonally. And yet, he avoids being redundant. Each song is such a seamless part of the full album, yet stands alone as a stunning creation. Each album sounds familiar, yet entirely new.
And just like with his previous efforts, I find myself hitting repeat, again and again.