A national treasure in his Canadian homeland, Patrick Watson (the man and the band of the same name) is mainly notable here for his Close To Paradise album pipping Arcade Fire and Feist to the Polaris Music Prize, Canada’s answer to the Mercury or Choice, in 2007. It’s a pity he’s not better known for his music, however, as his winning sophomore effort is one of the finest of the last decade, while his latest opus, Adventures In Your Own Backyard, sees Watson stretching his creativity across a bigger canvas than heretofore, like introducing widescreen, technicolour and 3D all at once to what was a pretty impressive B&W offering to begin with.
Take opener, ‘Lighthouse’, all tinkering piano and falsetto vocals. Three minutes in, you’re sure you have it pegged as a soul-searching meditation on all things love-related, think James Vincent McMorrow tinkling ivories on a grand piano; then at three minutes and 11 seconds, something extraordinary happens, and what was a spookily ethereal nether-melody mutates in the blink of an LED into a Morricone-style Mariachi monster, with more dramatic flourishes than a daytime soap opera.
The rest of Adventures… is similarly hard to pin down, morphing from introspective balladry to bombast, from pared-back instrumentation to full-on orchestral wig-out with nary a warning. It’s definitely not an easy album to get to grips with, but time spent in its company will be handsomely rewarded, as tracks like the glorious, symphonic ‘Into Giants’, the melancholy ‘Words In The Fire’ and the Beatles-esque ‘Quiet Crowd’ are certain to be amongst the finest you will hear this year and cement Watson’s reputation as one of the most innovative and interesting writers and performers on either side of the Atlantic. As he sings on the latter, “Would you rather be part of the crowd or just a single sound, waiting to be heard?” In answer, Watson definitely ploughs his own furrow: long may he sow such sublime seeds.