Published Oct 16, 2019Stop me if you've heard this one before: a singer-songwriter struggles with personal loss and trauma, and then composes an emotionally cathartic record in response. From Plastic Ono Band to For Emma, Forever Ago to Carrie & Lowell, you could spend an afternoon listing records that fit this description. Wave is Patrick Watson's entry into this canon, and here he has created a collection of moments of catharsis that add up to a rich, emotionally fulfilling experience.
During the record's creation, Watson had to face losing his mother, separating from his partner and the departure of his long-time drummer. Faced with these personal losses, Watson "brought a notebook underneath the waves and composed tunes about melancholy while listening to the lonely hymns of mermaids," or so the press release goes.
Despite that, nothing about this record shouts loneliness or isolation. If anything, songs like "The Wave" or "Broken" convey a more contemplative tone, one where Watson is trying to make sense of what's around him. "Do you feel a little broken?" he repeats on "Broken" over a sparse piano line, as though he hopes the answer will come to him by the time the song is finished.
Closer "Here Comes the River" is probably the record's best encapsulation of Wave's themes, specifically the notion of trying to keep one's head above the water. "Sometimes you've got to burn to keep the storm away," Watson sings with strings swelling around him. For Watson, this doesn't sound like a record about loss, but instead he's concerned about the steps he needs to take to move on. He's as strong a songwriter as always, but it feels like there's a deeper sense of purpose this time around, and it makes for a beautifully gratifying experience. (Secret City)