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Review: Patrick Watson, 'Love Songs For Robots'

Love Songs For Robots
Courtesy of the artist
Love Songs For Robots

For all their intricacy and precision, Patrick Watson's shimmery ballads never lack emotion or intimacy: The Montreal singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and prolific film-score composer puts every tiny sound in its right place, but his perfectionism is deployed for the sake of grace that feels almost otherworldly.

Which, in turn, makes the title of the Polaris Prize winner's new album, Love Songs For Robots, feel strangely ironic. To be sure, Watson is obsessed with machines and the way they interact; he made a bicycle's inner workings an essential component of 2009's "Beijing," for example, while Love Songs For Robots opens with a song containing a line about how "your nuts and bolts are all over the ground." Yet few singers qualify as less robotic than Watson, whose dreamy falsetto is all airy, swoony sweetness — akin to a cross between Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.

For Watson, an interest in mechanical function extends to curiosity about emotional wiring; about how our feelings are fueled by science as much as something more unknowable. Love Songs For Robots' themes are a natural extension of that fascination, and of a singer-songwriter whose brain seems to overflow with wise and exacting ways to reflect on the way hearts work.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)