Musical mastermind Patrick Watson—a recipient of Canada’s Polaris Prize in 2007—has returned in 2009 to offer up Wooden Arms. A dreamy collection of lush and inspired arrangements, Wooden Arms recalls Andrew Bird’s warm, delicate vocal range and intricate instrumentation. The title track’s haunting waltz opens up from a nostalgic piano into the ominous droning of pitched percussion, reminiscent of Tom Waits’s “Clap Hands”—all rimmed with melancholic plucked strings.
Close to Paradise, the 2007 album from the Canadian band named after their lead singer, saw off Arcade Fire and Feist to take the Polaris Music prize - Canada's equivalent of the Mercury. Their long-awaited follow-up covers similar terrain - pitching Watson's floating, almost moaning vocal against a quietly clattering backdrop of pianos, percussion and found sounds, including a bicycle being beaten. At times, it could be a long-lost Radiohead experimental project, or Antony Hegarty singing while doing the pots and pans.
Back in 2007, the easy literary comparison for me to make with Patrick Watson's out-of-nowhere Polaris-pinching Close to Paradise was Peter Pan. Like the ship in a jar that decorates the album cover, Paradise was a fantastical world in miniature, intricately detailed and designed to evoke imaginative flights of fancy. It was also too ethereal: all flying and no destination.