Editors’ Notes Since the release of 2015’s Love Songs for Robots, Montreal art-rock savant Patrick Watson has endured all manner of hardships—the death of his mother, the end of a long-term relationship, the departure of drummer Robbie Kuster, and the loss of a friend to suicide. They’re the sort of life-altering events that can’t help but filter down into an artist’s work. But while the title of his eponymous band’s sixth album, Wave, references the emotional tsunami he was forced to navigate, Watson refused to let grief be his guiding principle. “I just wanted to make a really simple and beautiful record—a little bit like Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden,” Watson tells Apple Music. That focus yields some of the most elegant, lyrically direct songwriting of Watson’s career, as he deftly threads Lennon-esque melodies and lean acoustic/piano arrangements with orchestration. But Wave’s spare canvas also leaves Watson with enough space to indulge his love of off-kilter experimentation—as he explains, making a low-volume record is not necessarily the same thing as making a low-key one. “Often people describe what we do as melancholic, because it’s quiet,” he says. “But I have a different sense of quiet—when things are quiet, you start noticing all the details and you hear more. I don’t think it should be taken as something calm—it’s just a different state of mind.” Watson takes us on a song-by-song tour of that mind.
Dream for Dreaming “This song is not meant to be sad in any way. I was looking to lyricists like Frank Ocean, who have a really direct way of writing lyrics. And then I went backwards to people I just loved who were like that. John Lennon is very direct and not so poetic—he just says things as they are. So I was definitely inspired by the kind of direction—it’s a real me-to-you conversation.”
The Wave “It’s about how, when you get stuck in a really bad wave and you know that you're in trouble, if you try to swim, you just get into more trouble. You just have to relax your body and not fight it. And when it washes you out, then you swim. I think this whole album takes place in that moment, where you just have to let go inside that wave and let it do what it does and not panic about it.”
Strange Rain “This is one of my favorites on the record. I woke up one night and everything felt okay again, I don't know why. It had been a long time since I had felt that good—I don't know what I dreamed or what the hell happened. I went right to the piano and started writing this tune. It was this really beautiful, calm moment. I was inspired by this Ethiopian pianist, Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou—she’s like half classical, half kinda jazz but not really. She’s my favorite pianist in the world.”
Melody Noir “I got to work with Leonard Cohen’s son Adam [on the posthumous album Thanks for the Dance], and I got this track which had Leonard’s vocal separate from the music. In his interviews, Leonard talks a lot about why some of his arrangements are the way they are, because it left so much room for the words. Music can totally drown things so quickly. And it gave me a lot of perspective, because when I listened to his voice alone, I was pretty darn happy—his delivery was so strong and all the words hit so strong. This song was also inspired by a singer called Simón Díaz, who had a song called ‘Tonada de Luna Llena’—I literally listened to that song over a thousand times for eight months straight. I get really obsessive about things I love.”
Broken “I was at a Radiohead concert the night before I wrote that, and Thom Yorke is like a very melancholic singer, as we know—he can do that in a way that not many people do. I kind of felt like that gave me the license to be just like, ‘You know, I’m going to let myself write like that.’ There’s that moment [in a relationship] where you realize, ‘This is not going to work, no matter what we do,’ and it’s not the best moment…but it’s not the worst moment, either. It’s way better to be in that moment than when you’re fighting it. You just kind of get this peace.”
Turn Out the Lights “That synth sound was [bassist] Mishka [Stein]’s invention—we were at the cottage to write new music, and in the morning he was just looping that and it sounded amazing. Lyrically, I had met a new partner, and we had this thing where we were like, ‘Hey, these are all the ways I can be awful, and these are all the ways I can be great.’ I feel like when you meet someone when you’re older, you’re just like: ‘I’m going to give you the disclaimer right away—I’m going to tell you everything, and this is the way it is.’ But the intimacy that comes from that is so incredible. There’s also some darker things that snuck into this song—I had a friend who took her life in this period, and I just felt like companionship was a great way to let out the pressure points of those moments. And the end is also for my mom—I had written the lyric ‘Carry each other in the arms of a gentle breeze’ for her funeral. The song is both a celebration and a goodbye.”
Wild Flower “Me and [guitarist] Joe [Grass] got all these modular synths, and I was like, ‘Let’s get crazy!’ It’s probably the only song on the record that was instrumental before lyrics. It’s more a celebration of sound. Lyrically, it's just a very simple idea of a voice in your head that is taking you somewhere and you have no idea where it is—and it's not necessarily the healthiest voice! The singer is [Sea Oleena vocalist] Charlotte Loseth—she was serving us coffee, and I always knew she was a musician, but then I heard her sing and I was like, ‘Oh my god, you’re totally incredible!’”
Look at You “It’s probably the only love song I’ve written—though it’s more about the disbelief that could possibly happen. At a certain point, you get older and you’ve been through different chapters, so you think, ‘Okay, I’ll probably meet someone I like, we’ll hang out and have a good time’—but the idea of falling in love is totally ridiculous. And then you meet this person and you realize, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to fall in love—this is totally impossible,’ in a funny way. The melody is from Mishka—he’s from Ukraine and grew up watching cartoons, and all the Russian composers for cartoons are these geniuses with insane melodies.”
Drive “It’s about this person who said ‘Come for a ride with me’ while we were touring in the Deep South. We went out for four hours in the middle of the night and drove through all these crazy little towns and roads, and I just remember it being such a fantastic experience that I had to document it somewhere, because it had marked me so much. Obviously, it’s also super inspired by David Lynch—we were watching the new season of Twin Peaks at the time.”
Here Comes the River “The thing about when you have big changes is that where you end up is not necessarily that bad. You’re fighting so hard that I think that's what causes more grief than anything else. In all our lives, there’s loads of grief—so I just kind of pictured the whole city flooding from that, but in a nice way of just, like, letting it go. It was one of those tracks that just wrote itself.”
Dream for Dreaming
Turn out the Lights
Look at You
Here Comes the River
10 Songs, 37 Minutes
October 18, 2019
℗ 2019 Secret City Records Inc. under exclusive license to Domino Recording Co. Ltd.
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