In 2007, Montreal’s Patrick Watson (QRO interview) came out of seemingly nowhere to win Canada’s prestigious (and lucrative – C$20,000…) 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). And then… he kind of disappeared, at least to Americans. While the French-Canadian singer/songwriter had always been more known north of the border and in Europe, the Polaris award & the excellent Close To Paradise seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce himself to the States. Instead, it’s taken two years and a new record for him to come back. And while Wooden Arms can’t match the perfection of Paradise, more Watson is definitely welcome.
Comparing Arms to Paradise is a bit unfair, but is going to happen. Unfortunately, that might be the record’s worst light, as fans of the earlier album can’t help but miss some of the instrumentation & vocals on the far more stripped down Arms. Watson’s orchestral beauty is most definitely still there, but he plays it much smaller, with a grand echo instead of grand orchestration. He also relies more on what sounds like ‘found objects percussion’ – drumming on random, non-musical objects. Meanwhile, the stripping down has taken Watson’s hints of alt-country and turned them into hints of alt-folk, but he’s still far more towards the highbrow, classical side of things.
Patrick Watson has a presence and charm that can’t be denied, and it very much still comes through on Wooden Arms. The record was nominated for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, but didn’t win (instead, losing out to wild-punk Fucked Up – QRO photos – ‘cause those two acts have so much in common…), and Arms is kind of like that: well worthy of a nomination, well worthy of any artist, but not quite Close To Paradise – but what is?…
MP3 Stream: "Big Bird In a Small Cage"