Patrick Watson is a Montreal-based singer songwriter with whom I was unfamiliar. But he has received many accolades, including being nominated for the Polaris prize many times (and winning once). It turns out that Bob Boilen also really likes him a lot. And I can see why.
Watson and his band make sounds that are quite unexpected (but are still melodic and pretty). The first song “Adventures In Your Own Backyard” itself is amazing the way it unfolds. The first sounds we hear are the drummer using a violin bow on Boilen’s Emmy statue (which I’m sure Bob was genuinely delighted by). There’s two acoustic guitars and the violinist’s beautiful ooohs. About one minute in, there’s a big drum sound as the drummer starts playing snare and bass. And then the acoustic guitar is is put through some kind of filter to give it a very electric sound. Once you get used to the acoustic guitar sounding electric and the electric guitar sounding acoustic, the violin comes in (sounding like a violin). And then there’s backing vocals oohing until Watson comes back with more vocals, but this time through a microphone that is hugely distorted and mechanical-sounding (he and the violinist shared oohing duties and their voices get processed together). All of this sounds like chaos and yet the melody is catchy and constant (and yes, the song ends with the drummer bowing that Emmy one more time).
Watson explains that for “Words In The Fire” the band was “nine hours north of nowhere” north of Quebec with these kids who invited them to a campfire party. They had nowhere else to be so they went. The kids requested a Bob Marley song, but they didn’t know any. So they wrote this song. For the start, it’s just Watson singing with the acoustic guitar. Midway through the song, the percussionist plays a saw, giving it an eerie quality. Despite the craziness of the first song, this song is delicate and pretty and Watson’s voice is high and sweet as well.
“Into Giants” opens with some lovely guitar intros and lots of harmonies. This song is especially fun to watch because the five of them are all squeezed in behind the desk and seem more crammed than before. Watson even has to move out of the way to let the violinist take her solo. The whole band sings in a big folksy chorus “started as lovers don’t know where it’s gonna end” with appropriately big bass drum sounds. The song seems like it’s going to end with Watson’s oooohing, but with a minute left, the song picks up again, with Watson playing a cool riff on the keyboard. He even gets out that distorted mic again to build the song back up.
I love watching a Tiny Desk by someone I don’t know and immediately falling for a band.
[READ: January 12, 2017] “The Book”
The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue. It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.”
Matar’s story is quite different from the others. He says that his earliest memory of books is being read to, not actually reading. Many of the classics were read to him: One Thousand and One Nights, and the Arabic literary renaissance of the twentieth century. But there were hardly any books for children in the house.
He says that during his life he has had a passionate affair with books in English and Arabic. And he makes this wonderfully succinct comment about youthful reading: some books were “undeserving of my youthful fervor, a few … I encountered at the wrong moment, [but there were] plenty of others that still light up rooms inside me.”
But, for him the book that affected him the most if one that he hasn’t read. He doesn’t even know the title or author. (more…)