If you drive northwest on New Hampshire Avenue out of Washington, D.C., you'll pass a few shopping plazas, a freeway or two, a house of worship for nearly every imaginable denomination. Around the point where the suburban sprawl begins to thin out, there's a one-block-long dead-end street on the right called Spotswood Drive. That's where a man named Walter Salb once lived; he was a beloved and respected drummer, and by most accounts a larger-than-life character.
Patrick Watson has a lovely, flexible voice and a gift for wringing evocative sounds out of everything from vintage keyboards to bicycle chains, but his real gift lies in his ability to maximize beauty at all times; to guide every noise in such a way that it coheres into something dramatic and graceful. When the Polaris Prize winner performs, he seems almost hypnotized by the sounds around him, yet every second and every unlikely component seems plotted to maximize its impact.
French singer, multi-instrumentalist and film composer Yann Tiersen isn't massively well-known, but he did craft the score for the beloved 2001 film Amelie, about which virtually everything is held in massively high regard. Since then, Tiersen has built a name for himself as a solo artist who gently stretches the boundaries of pop music.
I discovered Arborea amid a sea of 1,300 songs that I heard in preparation for South by Southwest. The music stood out for its calm beauty, its rough edges, and the duo's ability to speak eloquently of life's precious moments, about the sea, and about wonder.