An album review of Wooden Arms by Patrick Watson
Wooden Arms is the fourth Album from Patrick Watson and the third album with his band. Which is, Patrick Watson - lead vocals, Simon Angell, Robbie Kuster and Mishka Stien. This is a band that has played with the likes of James Brown, The Dears, Philip Glass and The Stills.
The Stills were nominated for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize, a kinda Canadian Mercury prize, which Patrick Watson has been listed as a finalist for, beating the likes of Arcade Fire and Fiest.
Wooden Arms has a variety of musical similarities and influences, and comparisons which all show the true eclectic nature of this group. The title track Wooden Arms has a faint sound of a Nina Simone singing 'Nes Quitte Pas'. Perhaps it's the heartfelt vocal delivery to a slow French gypsy jazz style shuffle. It also manages to have a dramatic quality reminiscent to the sound track of a Tim Burton film, but a Hungarian equivalent.
Throughout the album, the eastern European influences of instruments, and melodies and general 'um pom pom' rhythms make obvious comparisons to Beirut, A Hawk and Hacksaw, and Arcade Fire. 'Traveling Sales Man' in particular. Yet 'Down at the Beach' sounds very similar to an Amon Tobin track called 'Here Comes the Moon Man'. It has the same eerie presence, sound gaps etc.
My favourite track on the album is a wonderfully quirky and amusing ditty called 'Bird In A Small Cage'. Something about Watson's voice and lyric combo reminds me a great deal of Sufjan Stevens or Leonard Cohen and they don't disappoint with their song progression, breakdowns or instrumentals. The music carries you along with them, and I couldn't help but sway a little, and instantly feel a little bit more at peace with the world. How nice! The track also has a lovely Banjo on it the kind that makes you wish you could see them play it live because the intricate picking adds to the movement musically.
'Man Like You' is a more Rufus Wainwright style of story telling, and vocally hits the same haunting highs. Percussively, 'Where The Wild Things Are' is exceptional. The runs on the xylophone, the chimes, the wooden blocks, the gentle drumming, the claps, the triangle or some other gently tinny ting, with swooping sways and wind swept instrumentals from a string section, finished off brilliantly with a staccato piano part is just wonderfully orchestral and not in an over produced stale way.
They even have a Ryan Adams style track with the 'carry you away' chuck chuck guitar, rolling drums and percussive shuffles, broken down with falsetto ah ah ahs.
I would say that Wooden Arms, doesn't strike you the first listen, not even the second, but if you allow yourself to listen to it a few times, it grows on you. It's not like you will hate it the first time you hear it, you just won't have seen yet just how eclectic and well executed each track really is. Sometimes, being able to see comparisons is the final nail in the coffin for me when it comes to if an album is a success or a failure. A too obvious comparison, and the 'who they sound like does it better' statement, is always a problem. Yet, for Patrick Watson, its just not! They simply have similarities to their music, but they execute them just as well as their associated artists. Their comparisons may be artists who you still prefer, but there is nothing wrong with the taste of variety. This album grows and grows on you, so there is nothing to say that in time, you could feel the same way about it.