He’s been around for nigh on 20 years, and his latest release is the sixth album of his career. Yet it’s more than likely that most people recognise Patrick Watson (or at least his voice) from the Cinematic Orchestra classic (and staple for TV producers when they want to soundtrack a particularly emotional scene) song To Build A Home.
Which is a shame because, as undoubtably moving as To Build A Home is, Watson’s solo career has scaled many similar creative peaks. Wave is his most personal record yet, coming as it does after a period of often traumatic change in his life: the death of his mother, the end of a relationship and the departure of the drummer in his band. Not since Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie & Lowell has an album managed to capture that sense of loss so succintly.
There are also moments on Wave that recall that other great exploration of grief, Hospice by The Antlers – especially Look At You, which specialises in that sort of luxurious sound you’re happy to just lose yourself in. The title track also has that same sort of gentle swell which, appropriately enough, ebbs and flows, while opening track Dream For Dreaming begins with a slight nod to Radiohead‘s Creep, before piano and subtle strings wind their way around the song. It’s a song with a palpable heartache which continues throughout the album: “This life we’re living, doesn’t really feel like mine”.
That yearning for escape and desire to make sense of unfamiliar feelings is a theme that’s beautifully explored through the album. The stripped down, late night jazz of Strange Rain sees Watson just walking through the city, feeling refreshed by the rain pouring down on him (“it washed the wrong from my soul” as he puts it), and the gorgeous centrepiece of Broken has Watson tackling the breakdown of his relationship and slowly coming to terms with it – “sometimes you wanna go back…but it don’t work like that”.
Not all of Wave is downbeat melancholy though. Turn Out The Lights has a squelchy groove which Watson uses to celebrate his new love, while Wild Flower experiments with electronica sounds and a female vocalist. Finally, like the rainbow appearing at the end of a storm, closing track Here Comes The River reminds us that there’s always hope: “Sometimes you got to burn to keep the storm away”.
Of course, there may be people out there who have had more than enough of sad men singing sad songs about being sad. Yet when they’re as beautifully realised as Wave, it’s hard not to succumb. While this album may not have the depth and gravitas as, say, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds‘ Ghosteen, it serves the same purpose: a record to cling onto in the darkest of times, until the inevitable light starts to breach through again. Those TV montage soundtrackers may well have just found a new source of music.