Close To Paradise
Every so often, say once every five years, a hardened, cynic of a music fan stumbles across something that’s come from nowhere (or in this case Canada) that totally floors them.
As any one who’s seen him live will attest Patrick Watson and his eponymous band are the latest curveball. Coming from the bohemian Montreal scene that birthed Arcade Fire, it’s inevitable that current musical trends don’t get a look in. The influences are much more classic and even classical in one case. Across the 13 tracks you’ll find the grimy booze-sodden blues of Tom Waits, the woozy widescreen drama of Portishead, the moody piano-bothering of Debussy and above all Watson’s mercurial vocals, which are evocative of – and this isn’t a comparison to be made lightly – Jeff Buckley.
It starts on a wheezing asthmatic note, blinking into the light with the title track. It sets the tone of the album, being an impressionistic beauty that evokes intimate smoky 4am romances before bursting into a sumptuous widescreen epic.
It’s an album of immense variety: the spooky carnival whirl of ‘Weight Of The World’; ‘Daydreamer’ sounds like the Victorian music boxes that spill out exotic clicking insects before a tender banjo comes in; ‘Mr Tom’ features the piano from the hotel in The Shining, if it had one. The centrepiece, though, is ‘Luscious Life’. In just over three minutes it captures and celebrates the essence of why life is great without being cheesy. Most artists would be happy to have an album comprised of 13 versions of ‘Luscious Life’; most record labels would be even happier. The album avoids that trap though. It’s that rarest of artefacts, at turns beguiling, strange, beautiful and moving – the sort of thing that makes the souls of cynical hacks do cute little cartwheels of joy.