CD Reviews: Patrick Watson, PS I Love You and more
'Adventures in Your Own Backyard'
Patrick Watson makes orchestral pop music on a grand scale, yet his lush arrangements never feel overwhelming. Like his current tour partner Andrew Bird, Watson has a facile ear for melody, often turning songs on their axis to reveal fresh facets. It's the sort of music that music lovers love to love, and Watson has been duly rewarded with rich praise and a Polaris Prize (a big deal in Canada) - yet he remains a stubbornly little-known name. His third album is a deeply felt document with admirable range. His sweet falsetto links ambitious chamber pieces like opener "Lighthouse," which emerges as a "Magnificent Seven" homage partway through, with the bleary-eyed slow jam "Morning Sheets," which recalls the funky/sad strut of Beck's masterful, brokenhearted "Sea Change."
Following his excellent, electro-pastoral solo debut ("All We Grow"), Wisconsinite S. Carey returns with a four-song EP of circuit-based music that wouldn't sound out of place around a campfire, with the cold stars whirring silently overhead. "Hoyas" marries nocturnal pleasures with an appealing reticence, from the barely heard lyrics of "Two Angles" that brush the listener's ears like pine boughs, to the plaintive vocoder melody of "Marfa," which echoes the angelic Auto-Tuning of S. Carey's Bon Iver bandmate Justin Vernon's voice on "Woods" (from his memorable "Blood Bank" EP).
PS I LOVE YOU
The second full-length from the Ontario-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Paul Saulnier and drummer Benjamin Nelson begins with its title track, a glacially paced instrumental reportedly inspired by Saulnier's musings on mortality. All is not lost, as the album quickly upshifts into the feedback-packed strains of classic rock and power pop at which they truly excel. "Sentimental Dishes" instantly casts the indecipherably yelping Saulnier in the role of unlikely guitar god, a la J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., which is a clear influence here.
'Evans The Death'
EVANS THE DEATH
Somewhere in England, there must be a secret portal. A magic mirror or similar device that allows musicians to directly revisit the late '80s and early '90s and report back. How else to explain Evans The Death, the young U.K. quintet that so expertly reanimates the unkempt romanticism of that previous era's indie legends? I suppose they did it the old-fashioned way, by listening to Pavement and R.E.M. and scribbling copious notes. But the fabulous vocals of Katherine Whitaker, who swoons over the ragged, hook-laden pop played by guitarist Dan Moss and his cohorts, sounds like firsthand reportage; a sound out of time transformed for a new era.