Plumbiferous Media

Wooden Arms – Patrick Watson

Apr 30th 2009
Wooden Arms - Patrick WatsonPatrick Watson
Wooden Arms
Score: 91

With his fifth album, the new Wooden Arms, Montreal-based Patrick Watson has created an absolutely unique, wonderfully musical album which displays not only his formidable talent but also an impressive amount of musical innovation.

Watson is an incredibly talented vocalist, as he repeatedly demonstrates throughout Wooden Arms. Throughout the album, his breathy, ethereal voice cultivates the breathtaking atmosphere created by his music. However soft Watson’s voice becomes, it retains a marked level of power and presence which places him far above many singers of the same style. His backup vocalist, present on several tracks, helps to provide a full range of sound which further augments the richness of the vocals, though her vocals are not quite as strong alone. Nevertheless, Watson’s amazing grasp of pitch, skilled blending of vocals and instrumentals, and the exquisitely wistful tone of his voice create an enthralling mixture of sounds.

The lyrics of Wooden Arms are well-composed and possess the same ethereal aesthetic as the vocals, as Watson sings sublime tales taken from the same realm as his vocals. The lyrics contain grippingly yearning tales, including the embrace of the “wooden arms” themselves on the title track. As Wooden Arms progresses, Watson sings of seeing Beijing “through someone else’s life / that I’m not sure belongs to me,” drawing a peculiar picture of majesty on “Beijing,” and sings of the plight of the “Big Bird in a Small Cage,” proclaiming “You put a big bird in a small cage / and he’ll sing you a song,” in that imagery-laden, highly metaphoric track. Among these unearthly stories, Watson has created the true sense of wonder which distinguishes Wooden Arms.

While the vocals maintain an ethereal quality throughout the album, the instrumentals remain absolutely stunning. Every single part is intricate, both harmonically and melodically, the ranges work excellently, and while the instrumentals sometimes overwhelm the particularly quiet vocal part, they are perfectly mixed with respect to each other. In addition, regardless of the set of instruments that Watson uses, be it any combination of percussion, piano, guitar, bells, strings, general synth, or chorus, the instruments blend perfectly together, and create a beautiful sound that not only fits, but also defines the tracks. And Watson does not stop at standard instruments (the surprisingly melodic use of the sound of a bicycle wheel at the end of Beijing is a perfect example).  Parts of the album could be more diverse, but tracks like “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Machinery of the Heavens,” and the percussion solo in “Beijing” give the album an overall sense of diversity.

Besides the occasional issue with lack of volume, or the even less frequent issue of repetition (“Big Bird in a Small Cage”), Wooden Arms does support one major flaw: all the tracks have their dynamic phrases, but the album often feels devoid of emotional tension. It can evoke feelings or images with the colorful choice of instruments, but the music itself often feels too casual with its lack of passion. Luckily, on such an amazingly interesting and detailed album, the need for more emotion can generally be overlooked.

With Wooden Arms, Watson has gloriously swallowed listeners into his “thousand dreams.” Between incredibly varied, well-orchestrated instrumentals, formidable vocal prowess, and exemplary, emotionally-laden lyrics, Wooden Arms is not only the best album Watson has created after a series of excellent albums, but an excellent album in its own right. Wooden Arms is a breathtaking success, and its few flaws fade into insignificance in the face of the album as a whole.

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5 Responses

  1. Paul De Man says:

    Is it possible to have the lyrics of: Big bird in a small cage?

  2. Lyricman says:

    re: Big Bird Lyrics,
    These are, as far as I can tell, what I think the lyrics are:

    There was a house halfway round the world,
    and I was invited in for a small taste of gin.
    There was a hallway thousand birds long,
    but the biggest one of all was in a-
    cage too small.

    I asked the caretaker cause he owes the maker.
    Looked at me and laughed,
    took another sip from his glass and said:
    “Open up your ears and heart.
    “You put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song.”

    That we all love to sing along,
    to the sound of the bird that longs (mourns).

    Well we rolled into town, into sweet New Orleans,
    to the Apple Bell bar; it was a hole in the wall.
    The ceilings weren’t tall, the floors were the ground,
    but the sounds you were making just warm your hearts.

    Well it was quarter to twelve when the boys walked in.
    They put their black suits on and the songs would begin.
    You open up your ears and hearts;
    you put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song.

    That we all love to sing along,
    to the sound of the bird that longs (mourns).

    (To the sound of the bird that longs (mourns).) x3
    (You put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song.) x4

    btw great review.

  3. Hugo says:

    wooden arm lyrics please!!!!!

  4. Eduardo says:

    Un Gran Disco!!!!
    Admiro mucho a Patrick Watson.

  5. Drlion says:

    where can i find the lyrics to Machinery Of The Heavens? i search and search with no results 🙁

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