Over the past several years, Montreal-based indie singer/songwriter Patrick Watson (along with the band that carries his name) has been building a solid grassroots following with Bon Iver-esque falsetto vocals and an experimental indie-pop sound that easily draws comparisons to Rufus Wainwright and Andrew Bird. It’s an adventure that has taken the band all over the world.
But lately, Patrick Watson has been exploring closer to home. Literally. Their new album Adventures In Your Own Backyard (released this week) was recorded in Watson’s own loft, mostly live, with minimal tweaking. According to the Patrick Watson website: “We set up our instruments in my loft and over a year, came in and out, just pressed “record” and hoped for the best.” The whole record carries a toned-down approach compared to their earlier work, but they carry it off well.
The underlying theme behind Adventures In Your Own Backyard is really about paying attention to our surroundings, embracing the everyday moments, and not missing the small pleasures that go on around us while we dream of something “more.” Again, to quote Patrick Watson’s own description: “Sometimes you take for granted all the amazing stories and people you walk by each day and start fantasizing about a faraway place, but you might miss the greatness that’s just right around you.”
Adventures definitely feels like an exercise in discovering the wonder of the mundane. For example, who writes a song about the thoughts going through people’s heads while standing together in an elevator—and more importantly, who can make it sound interesting? Apparently, Patrick Watson can—that’s exactly what he does with “The Quiet Crowd.” “Would you rather be more than the things that you say / Or just be the words that you sing to yourself in your head / When nobody’s around?” Very poetic, very clever.
Years ago, a major news network had a regular feature called “Everyone Has a Story.” The correspondent would pick a small town on a map, pick a random name in the local phone book (yeah, remember those?), call the number, and profile the person/family in a news story. Amazingly, every time, their stories were captivating. This is the kind of vibe I get from Adventures In Your Own Backyard. Patrick Watson reminds us that we don’t always have to travel to the ends of the earth to find inspiration and adventure. It’s a lesson worth learning, and a record worth listening to.