Preview: Patrick Watson
BYT at large | Sep 4, 2012 | 12:00PM |

All words: Kerri Pinchuk

Though he was born in California, Canadian singer and pianist Patrick Watson was raised outside Montreal, in Hudson, Quebec, singing in the local church choirs as a boy, studying jazz and classical piano performance, composition, and arrangement, and singing and playing keyboards in the ska band Gangster Politics in high school. Watson left the band after graduating and began to explore other types of music, including electronica and ambient. Patrick Watson will be playing the 930 Club tomorrow, Wednesday, September 5th, and The Bowery Ballroom in NYC this Friday.

The Most Ambivalent Preview of Patrick Watson

Montrealer Patrick Watson and his band descend on the 9:30 Club this Wednesday, returning as headliners after opening for Andrew Bird there in May. The band’s revered by fans for its swooning soundscapes and lauded by critics for its mystifying, experimental style. Your standard YouTube commenter likens the group to Bird, Jeff Buckley, Coldplay (“this guy makes Chris Martin look like a chump”) and Pink Floyd.

But I’ll admit…I’m not yet sold. I need a band with force and energy, preferably with mind-melting guitar solos and/or unnecessarily long, funky jams. Having spent the Labor Day weekend carousing at Phish shows, I’m especially apprehensive about anything delicate, not to mention falsetto. Feeling anxious and confused, I called a friend for guidance. He presented me with the following, a beginner’s guide to Patrick Watson:

PW’s second album Close to Paradise scored a Polaris Prize, one of Canada’s top accolades, in addition to some mainstream exposure (Grey’s Anatomy!). Right off the bat, the spacey layers on the title track could be a dreamy B-side to Dark Side of the Moon. I’m interested.

I replayed “Slip Into Your Skin” three times before I was able to make it through without my eyes closing. I guess that’s cool in the comfort of your own bunk bed/futon/hammock, but it completely legitimizes my concerns about the band’s placidness live. I can definitely appreciate the otherworldly vibe, but take a second to imagine how awkward it’d be to dance to this song.

“Man Under the Sea” is probably my favorite track yet, for its surprising shifts from soft and smoky to (relatively) upbeat with a bit more energy. Parts of the song sound like something you’d hear at a 1950s jazz club; others sound like a circus. The sing-along-worthy, Yellow Submarine-y lyrics are also a nice change.

“The Great Escape” is one of the band’s best-known songs, owing its flawless sound to that piano. I can’t decide if the lyrics are terribly depressing (see video) or wonderfully hopeful, but either way I’m impressed.

The title track of April’s Adventures in Your Own Backyard seems like a perfect example of the band’s orchestral sound. With horns (!) and a radio-worthy melody, the song vacillates between super trippy and catchy enough to get stuck in your head for days.