Patrick Watson, ‘Adventures in Your Own Backyard’ – Album Review
The fog comes in on little cat feet, and so do these ‘Adventures in Your Own Back Yard,’ a dozen slow, soft tracks that will purr to the patient touch, but disappear when grasped too soon.
The fourth album from Patrick Watson – that is, both the Canadian multi-instrumentalist Patrick Watson and the eponymous band led by him — is a pensive affair, one whose subtleties are revealed through repeated listens, an introvert that must be shared with over time to gain an appreciation of. With the proper ear, this disc becomes the chamber pop equivalent of a warm sweater on a cool night.
Opener ‘Lighthouse’ grows slowly, spare keyboards and strings, before a trumpet adds a splash of color, enlivening a cool composition. ‘Black Wind’ is a riot by comparison, an upbeat song sung to the spectre of death: when Watson says, “Dont try to catch the wind” and then plaintively asks,“Who are we without the ones we love?,” his breathy vocals are echoed by the cry of lap steel. Has there ever been a song of mourning so hopeful?
‘Adventures in Your Own Back Yard’ could not have a better title, as it has the firefly-filled ambience of a warm July evening, its best moments uplifting as a warm breeze, and at its worst slipping the listener into a sticky doze. ’Into Giants’ is as hopeful as a Calvin and Hobbes comic, a guy-and-girl duet with grinning shouts of “Started out as lovers don’t know where it’s gonna end,” full of the rambunctious glee of love freshly found. Those horns from the opener return, lending to the playful song’s teasing a small dose of triumph.
Nostalgia, yearning; transient moments and their afterlife by way of memory; themes familiar though not yet threadbare: Watson is expert at evoking parting’s sweet sorrow, whether that of a conversation, a love, or a life, or perhaps all of these. “On this warm summer night, put your words down in the fire /In the morning it will all be ashes on the ground,” he sings on ‘Words in the Fire.’
None of these tracks have the catchy quality of a single in the way of ‘Beijing’ from 2009′s ‘Wooden Arms,’ whose multi-instrumental cascade of bike wheels and violins can get stuck in the listener’s head. Patrick Watson is seemingly unconcerned with creating anything that might be called pop, though these tracks are also less experimental. These are all quiet, conversational walks through melody awash in remembered feeling, and ‘Adventures’ is the sort of album-as-art that doesn’t so much get stuck in your head, as much as in your heart.