After a decade spent tending to his half of U.K. indie pop duo Slow Club and as of 2017, playing guitar with garage combo the Surfing Magazines, Charles Watson steps out on his own with Now That I'm a River, his thoughtfully written and sonically enchanting solo debut. Recorded in Sheffield with a curated team of collaborators that includes Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield and Hot Club de Paris' Paul Rafferty, the album takes lyrical inspiration partly from themes and language within J.G. Ballard's science fiction novel Hello America. As far as creative sparks go, it's an unusual departure point, but the resulting set is a downright mesmerizing collection full of lush, textural guitar rock and stimulating imagery. The overall tone is established right away with the spectral opener, "Voices Carry Through the Mist," followed by the meditative space pop of the dreamy title cut as Watson eerily intones, "now that I'm a river, I'm nearly completely free." As the landscape stretches on, the tempos rarely spike, leaving a consistent pulse threading throughout the ten shapely tracks which dip in and out of different slow grooves and echoing canyons of sound. Rich harmonies and lightly psychedelic flourishes weave through expansive soft rock ballads like the appealingly lonesome "You've Got Your Way of Leaving" and "Tapestry." Rich and soothing, it's a focused and warmly crafted debut that sounds unlike anything else in Watson's previous recordings.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger