Watch the Sky
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Mon January 21, 2008, 12:30 PM CST
Over the years, Patty Larkin has become known as a "musicianís musician," which essentially is a nice way of saying that although she writes literate lyrics and complex arrangements, only other artists truly have the patience to decipher the subtleties of her work. Superficially speaking, her eleventh endeavor Watch the Sky isnít all that different from its predecessors. Throughout the set, Larkin continues her experimental ways, choosing to emphasize textures as much, if not more, than melodies. Yet, thereís something that is inherently different about the way in which Watch the Sky comes together, and while Larkin continues to challenge herself and her listeners, the album ultimately sounds far less calculated than many of her recent forays.
Surprisingly, Larkin achieved this feat not by seeking greater input to her creative process, but rather by secluding herself away from the outside world and controlling every aspect of the project. Thereís no question that, given her approach, Watch the Sky easily could have become so insular and cerebral that it was turned into an impenetrable fortress of an endeavor. To her credit, Larkin cleared her mind and allowed her songs to evolve organically, and by capturing them as quickly as they were written, she kept them fresh and alive. In a sense, the looped rhythms and intricate textures that she concocted became an aural mandala of sorts, which in turn allowed her to focus fully and completely on her work.
While listening to Watch the Sky, lyrical fragments gradually emerge from deep within Larkinís arrangements, and these form an impressionistic portrait of the albumís overriding themes. Working in nearly complete solitude, Larkin unlocked her heart and found within it a personal meditation upon love and spirituality. There are references to a higher power as well as to relationships that have come and gone, and the music, which sometimes is turbulent and sometimes is resolutely calm, supports her words by carrying them in the slipstream of her subconscious outpouring. The skittering beats of Phone Message are washed away by the gentle, tidal beauty of Cover Me, and the spooky, somnambulant neo-soul of Walking in My Sleep ó which essentially sounds as if T Bone Burnett had collaborated with Amy Winehouse ó fades into the hushed, death-stalked prayer of All Souls Day.
When everything is said and done, Larkin still hasnít made an album that will come anywhere close to gaining mainstream acceptance. Watch the Sky is too shadowy and strange, and its currents shift without warning from gospel to blues and from eastern modalities to quiet, folk-oriented ruminations. Those who are familiar with Larkinís canon will recognize these juxtapositions as familiar patterns for her to have followed, but this time, she at least found a way of making them flow unhindered from her soul. Ĺ
Watch the Sky is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box