PATRICK WATSON – Close To Paradise (Secret City)

In my review of the Besnard Lakes album in a recent column, I mentioned that they were brought to my attention by an NME freebie CD of new Canadian bands, and while The Besnard Lakes blew me away immediately, there was another track that sounded interesting enough for me to investiate further. The song was ‘Drifters’ by Patrick Watson, and although credited to a solo artist it sounded much more of a band effort than I would have expected. Consequently, when his album came out I was already inclined to try it, and it turned out to be well worth the effort. On first hearing I could describe certain tracks as imagining Pink Floyd being fronted by Jeff Buckley, while others had an individuality that make it hard to draw comparisons. The title track opens the album with its ‘Meddle’ era Floydian guitars and Watson’s fragile vocals over a gentle piano backing, and you know you are in for something special. ‘Daydreamer’s eerie Victorian musical box opening and ghostly backing vocals gives it a decidedly spooky feel, quite at odds with the lovely tune which eventually emerges. ‘Slip Into Your Skin’ is another gorgeous song, taken at a snails pace and with minimal backing, but still sounding like it belongs in another era. ‘Giver’ is given a slightly faster pace, and the twists and turns of the melody make it one of the most intriguing songs here. ‘Weight Of The World’ is another song which benefits from an unusual tempo, this time a loping fairground beat teamed up with Parisian accordian make it extremely atmospheric, while the piano of the instrumental ‘Mr. Tom’ sounds almost filmic in its scope. ‘Luscious Life’ is where the Jeff Buckley comparisons are at their most evident, on this jazzy ballad which joyously celebrates life. ‘Drifters’ is next, and sounds just as good as when I first heard it, while the lovely piano ballad ‘The Great Escape’ leads smoothly into the ethereal ‘Sleeping Beauty’, before ‘Bright Shiny Lights’ rounds off the album with a soulful ballad. Patrick Watson might not be a name that you recognise, but hopefully you will soon, as anyone who can make music of this calibre deserves the recognition.