After discovering most of the other acts in town this week have been featured in the Times Review before, I took a gamble on the solo artist booked for a Monday night show at the Last Drop. It sure paid off.
23-year-old folk-rock artist Kalle Mattson has just released Someday, and is backing it with a tour. Mattson and his five-piece are authentic and convincing, but most of all, the Sault Ste. Marie native writes and sings about heavy stuff in a real way.
Someday explores the sudden passing of Kalle’s mother – a tragic, formative event from his teenage years that he came to deal with during the creation of the album.
In a telephone interview, Mattson explained he left Ottawa behind and was back at his childhood home, working a crappy data entry job while saving to pay for studio time.
While there, his grandmother passed away. The second family loss brought dormant issues to the fore.
“It’s technically my third full-length record, but in a lot of ways it feels like a debut,” he said. “To me, there’s a logical evolution between the records. I make this joke a lot now, but if I was a rapper, my other albums would be mix tapes, and this one would be the major label debut – except not on a major label. Essentially, it feels different from all the others, for the positive.”
The diverse songs span folk, rock and indie, unified by Mattson’s clear but diverse lyrical treatments. A Gypsy trumpet pastiche floats over military snares; mournful lyrics prod and evoke; referential songs get straight folk-rock treatment.
I researched Mattson on a Wednesday, one week after Someday was released. When I caught up with him on Thursday, the album’s prospects had changed dramatically. The hugely-influential Chicago-based Internet media outfit Pitchfork Media issued a review that day, giving the album a 7.6 out of ten.
“That’s like a ten!” Mattson told me. The indie-music focussed website reviewed new albums by well-known acts like Morrissey, Guided by Voices and Band of Horses in the past week or so; Mattson’s Someday bested them all. (The indie aficionados have been taste-makers for over a decade, and are notoriously tough. In a spoof, satire outlet The Onion once had Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber review ‘music’ in general, giving it a 6.8 out of 10.)
In the studio, Mattson’s band is tight, complex and talented. What’s most striking, though, is the young man’s ability to strip away artifice in his direct, evocative (and diverse) songwriting and singing. It will be a pleasure to see him perform live.
Kalle Mattson and his five-piece band play the Last Drop on the evening of Monday, March 3.
Music fans, don’t miss this one.