Kalle Mattson is not shy about his ambition. After 2013’s stellar Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold, he could have rested on his laurels, so to speak, and continue on with his tried-and-true folk sound. But just as an avalanche can surprise even the most confident mountaineer, so too will his embrace of keyboards and bigger production surprise listeners.
Most importantly, Mattson’s embrace of a more “pop” sound doesn’t mean we’ve forever lost what distinguishes his music. As he explained to us recently, this follow-up to the extremely personal Someday isn’t devoid of meaning—he recognizes his personal life was an avalanche on its own. This EP is about rebirth, doubt and longing.
Mattson makes his new direction quite apparent with the title track. There’s an immediate hit of loud keyboard and drums and background “ohs” before Mattson comes in to start the song with “I was born an orphan in the morning dew.” As he goes through the song, despite the sunniness the arrangement radiates, it’s clear not all is well, particularly the line “I live my life with a confident doubt.”
His pop side is even more overt on “Lost Love,” which could easily find legs on a radio station with the slick guitar and keyboards. But he truly bridges the gap between his “old” sound and new with “Left Behind,” It’s a quiet song at first, with just Mattson strumming an acoustic guitar and singing about growing older and losing one’s way. As he goes on, a keyboard layer makes its way in before the arrangement swells at the three-and-a-half-minute mark, led by a harmonica solo.
“A Long Time Ago” features perhaps Mattson’s most vulnerable vocal performance at first, before big, reverbed drums come in and change the song’s feel entirely. “New Romantics” is easily the brightest of all six songs with its poppy opening keyboards and groovy bass. And finally, “Baby Blue” is the soft, folky closer that reminds everyone that Mattson hasn’t forgotten his roots.
There’s a reason Mattson calls this a “mini-record” as opposed to an EP—the themes and arrangements make this recording a cohesive statement both aesthetically and lyrically.
Avalanche will be available August 21.
Top Track: “Left Behind”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)