Published May 11, 2015Patrick Watson has created a vast sonic panorama on Love Songs For Robots, the fifth studio album released by the band that shares its founder's namesake. And while the Montreal-based frontman's skills are more than prominent throughout the LP — the dramatic, borderline thespian annunciation of his lyrics; the sustained high notes; the often opaque lyricism — this is by no means a solo affair. Percussionist Robbie Kuster in particular gives one show-stealing turn after another throughout these ten tracks, as he guides the band into numerous mid-song about faces in tone and tempo.
Second track "Good Morning Mr. Wolf," for instance, finds Kuster pounding out bombastic drum rolls during a chorus that all but pulverises the preceding gentle guitar work by Joe Grass. "Bollywood," meanwhile, defies its name, ignoring the Indian musicals referenced in its title and instead sounding like smooth lounge music in its opening moments, with a throbbing synth line and piano notes that clink like a tipped glass of scotch on the rocks. Watson's voice sounds sultry and debonair throughout the opening moments, until another avalanche of Kuster percussion forces the frontman's delivery into a desperate yelp. These rapid shifts and experimental flourishes can make for a jarring listen, but they also keep Love Songs For Robots unpredictable and exciting.
And yet, the LP's best moment of all occurs on its most straightforward, plot twist-free tune. "Grace," the album's centrepiece, finds Watson slyly singing some of his most simple, effective lyrics, while Grass reaches deep into his frets to dig up a fuzzy old Beatles style riff, before the band breaks into a chorus of "ba ba ba's" toward the song's end. It's a jaunty, irresistible tune that will leave you humming its chorus after the first listen, proving that Patrick Watson (the man and the band) are adept at simple sweetness, harrowing complexity and all points in between. (Secret City)