Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patrick Watson: Wooden Arms

I first came across Patrick Watson in 2007 when his 2006 release, Close to Paradise, defeated Arcade Fire's Neon Bible for the Polaris Prize (the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize, which is the British version of the Grammys--if the Grammys had credibility and actually honored the albums that deserved to be awarded). At the time I scoffed and pretty much ignored Mr. Watson.

Well, last month I had some remaining downloads over at eMusic and I decided I'd use them on Paradise and finally see what all the fuss was about (two years late, I know!). Wow. Wow. I now understand--completely--why Paradise defeated the glow of Arcade Fire's Good Book (I'm not saying I agree, I'm simply saying I "get it"). A couple of weeks after picking up Paradise, I got my hands on Mr. Watson's latest (2009) release, Wooden Arms.

Since I acquired both albums within such a short time of each other, it was impossible not to compare them at every turn. At first, I was disappointed with Arms and I wanted to return to Paradise, but I kept listening and eventually Mr. Watson's Arms grew on me (although not in an I'm-a-four-armed-freak kind of way).

Arms doesn't have as many hits has Paradise has ("Close to Paradise," "Giver," "Luscious Life," "Drifters," and "Great Escape"), but it does boast a stable of strong tracks and it displays Watson's growth as he ventures further into sonic exploration (tracks like "Tracy's Waters," "Beijing," and "Fireweed" feature a bevy of rich, layered, and unique sounds). There is also the beautiful simplicity in "Man Like You," the simple and haunting nature of the title track and "Traveling Salesman," and the Americana (Canadicana?) that the song "Big Bird in a Small Cage" exhibits. Additionally, "Where the Wild Things Are" will likely be one of my top five songs from 2009 (sadly, no video exists ... yet).

Blurb: Perhaps Arms isn't the album that Paradise is, but it's still a fine album with a pair of the best songs of the year--"Wild Things" and "Tracy's Waters"--and it's probably going to be my pick for this year's Polaris Prize.
Grade: B+