Written By: Lindsey Hecht
Label: Secret City – Rating:
Though the name Patrick Watson might sound like a one-man show, think bigger; more extravagant. This four-man band is comprised of Robbie Kuster on drums, Mishka Stein on bass, Simon Angell on guitar, and frontman Patrick Watson who lends his vocals while also playing piano and harmonium. Experimenting with sounds, Patrick Watson guides the listener through ‘Wooden Arms’ with a sequence of strings, effects, and acoustic landscapes.
Their newest album opens with ‘Fireweed,’ leaving little to no words and letting a string of noise reverberate in my ears. Though the first track depends heavily on sound cascading from speakers, the few words sung are not lost, as they are powerful and with a message. Watson croons, ‘So we dug us a hole / And planted our skin / Like a seed in the ground /To grow again’ and fast as this song ends, I wanted another to begin.
The transition from ‘Fireweed’ to the second song on the album is barely discernible, and I’m once again spinning in a fantasy as I listen to ‘Tracy’s Waters.’ During this song I find myself more focused on the music and less on the words, as they trail behind like a streaming sidekick companion. ‘Beijing’ follows and is by far the most experimental track on the album. I’ve pressed my ear to the speakers countless times, with closed eyes, wondering what objects are being manipulated to make the hullaballoo I’m hearing. Pounding on chests, legs? Drum sticks on glass cups? Bicycle wheels spinning as the track rounds out? Your guess is as good as mine, but it draws me in – and I’m wanting more.
Next up is the title track ‘Wooden Arms,’ which reminds me of the cobblestone streets and boat rides of Italy’s Venice. The rhythm of his voice is especially unique in the way it draws its listeners in, and his ability to capture a French mystique seems only natural as Watson himself composed the entire soundtrack for the French-Canadian film, ‘C’est pas moi, je le jure!’
Though the band emphasizes the word ‘experimentation’ with their inimitable style, their versatility is remarkably evident in “Hommage,’ which accentuates strings and angelic orchestral tunes. This song, specifically, forces me to visualize the closing scene to a grand play in a theatre. Without any lyrics at all, and even as the shortest track on the entire album, this grandiose theatrical moment of suspense buries me in its beauty. As a band, their ability to provoke thought with their echoes and strings is remarkable; the fact that they achieve the same effect with playful, staccato songs such as ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is even more impressive.