Quebec’s Patrick Watson (QRO interview) has a knack for disappearing and reappearing. He was a vocalist for instrumental outfits like Cinematic Orchestra on their Ma Fleur (QRO review). He stunned the indie-world in 2007 when he won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize with Close To Paradise (QRO review), beating out the (much) bigger-name likes of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible (QRO review) & Feist’s The Reminder (QRO review). Yet 2009 follow-up Wooden Arms (QRO review) saw the musician strip down from the orchestral beauty of Paradise. And now, three years after that, and a half-decade after winning the Polaris, comes Adventures In Your Own Backyard, where Watson gets even quieter and more intimate.
Going quiet is a double-edged sword, as it allows for individual notes and sounds to shine, but it also forces the listener to strain his ear to hear. Adventures is not a record to listen to on the subway or other less-than-still environments. Watson can more than do the beauty of the quiet, like in the natural wander into light of "Blackwind". He also can do the small-into-big, something that happens repeatedly on this album, such as the intimate piano into tragic operatic opener "Lighthouse" or nightly sly into bigger "Morning Sheets".
However, all the quiet can be difficult at times (and not just during rush hour). Repeatedly one thinks a song, or even the album, has ended, only for a few notes to come twinkling back. It also limits what Watson can do – the fewer instruments, the fewer sounds, the fewer options, and Watson proved he could do more with more on Paradise. There’s a reason that the most accessible and enjoyable songs on Adventures are the ones that aren’t quiet or quiet-loud-quiet, but simply great – the country-classical "Into Giants" and enchanting & engrossing title track.
After the success of Paradise, Watson surprised by returning to his more reduced sounds – and disappointed, if only because it was a step away from excellence into mere greatness. And Adventures In Your Own Backyard is a slightly more trying album, if still a sweet one, from an artist who you know can do amazing.
MP3 Stream: "Into Giants"