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cd reviews

Bizarro Good

Watson’s still weird and wonderful

by Chris Morin

Patrick Watson
Adventures In Your Own Backyard
EMI

Despite the clunky title, Adventures In Your Own Backyard is a typical example of Patrick Watson's glib, bizarro pop songwriting. This is a good thing.

The Montreal-based musician's fourth album opens with "Lighthouse", which begins with lush piano, then cleverly swirls into mariachi-style horn arrangements. The rest of the album follows suit with orchestral qualities reminiscent of Beck's Sea Change. But instead of crooning forlornly about mangled car-wrecks of relationships, Watson is jubilant and woozy, singing lyrics that slyly tug at the complexities of romance rather than (like Beck) celebrating its demise.

Later, on the ninth track "Strange Cooked Road", Watson weaves an intricate story about a woman with a baseball bat, a CB radio and (I think) a boy with missing limbs. Weird. Fey, intricate instrumentation - many of the songs feature strings, flutes and whimsical acoustic plucking - and Watson's bold falsetto accents the album's oft-unsettling dreamlike quality.

While his music is always best enjoyed somewhere quiet where its subtleties can be soaked up, Adventures In Your Own Backyard has plenty of subdued, sit-quietly-and-listen moments that - depending on your mood - could quickly grow tiresome. But given the right circumstances and frame of mind, Watson's latest is an engaging listen from a compelling storyteller.


Andy Shauf
Sam Jones Feeds His Demons
Self-Released

Andy Shauf didn't seem too confident about Sam Jones Feeds His Demons. I spoke to him while he was on the road touring, and he explained how he'd planned this EP, consisting of four linked songs about the titular character, to be a stop-gap release until his new album is ready to come out. And he sounded hard on himself. But really, Sam Jones is a fine release, with the precise instrumentation and warm feel that his impressive home recordings always net him. It may feel a bit like the narrative experiment that it is, but it doesn't suffer too much for it. Shauf is playing the Exchange April 19 (read my interview with him on Dog Blog that day). Also on the bill are his tour-mate Jordan Klassen (playing songs from his own recently released EP Kindness), local boy Nick Faye and Red Hot Riot funny man Jayden Pfeifer. /James Brotheridge


Loudon Wainwright III
Older Than My Old Man Now
2nd Story Sound

I honestly believed Loudon was Canadian because I've seen him so often in my travels across Canada. LW3 is a man who LOVES life and this is very evident in his new album. His reverence for his father is front and center. But his respect for his own career is obvious, as it should be. Four of his children (Rufus, Martha, Lucy and Lexie) make guest appearances on the album, plus many highly respected musicians. The overall theme of the album is death and decline, but the songs are funny, upbeat and inventive. For instance LW3 and Dame Edna sing a hilarious duet on "I Remember Sex". He's not as old as all that. His singing is crisp, clear and powerful (not like when Dylan turned 65). This album is less about death and more about acknowledging a great family dynasty that started with his old man. Will this win him another deserved Grammy? It certainly should because it's one of his best albums to date. /Charles Atlas Sheppard


Ceremony
Zoo
Matador

Comparing Ceremony to Fucked Up is almost unavoidable at this point. Not just because they share a similar hardcore sound, either, but because both have signed to Matador Records recently, and both seem out of place there. But unlike their new bunkmates, whose epics have become even more ambitious on Matador, Ceremony have retreated into more traditional territory with Zoo. They've been turning down their gain knobs since 2010's Rohnert Park (on which they sang, appropriately, of being "sick of Black Flag"). But it hasn't felt out-of-character until now. It's not all bad, what with gripping post-punk tracks like "Quarantine" and "Hotel", and it's nice that their weird streak hasn't vanished entirely. But too much of the album feels silly - opener "Hysteria" just seems like a Sex Pistols parody. Zoo has its moments, but in any event, Ceremony doesn't need to be Wire. To thine own self be true, and all that. /Mason Pitzel