“Katlin Mathison is Okay Mann” is how Mathison explains his stage name—a clever play on words that just hints at the soothing tone of his music, a laissez-faire outlook and an affinity for playing with words. And it’s one that suits the troubadour, even if Mathison’s Little Mersey feels less Dazed and Confused and more like what it actually is, a folk crossover that picks up its influences from all the places Mathison has been.
Recorded in Liverpool, where Mathison studied and returned to when making the album, with the help of Norwegian producer Nils Børstrand, Little Mersey brings those unique sounds into harmony with Mathison’s Winnipeg roots—filled with a sense of big landscapes, loneliness and, ultimately, distance.
So it comes as no surprise that while describing the mid-point track “In The End/i,” Mathison mentions a Norwegian phrase that inspired the piano interlude that closes out the song, “Alt i Mellom.” Meaning “everything in between,” the phrase is broken up across the track titles, from opener “Alt” to the final song, “Mellom,” on an album that charts Mathison’s return to Liverpool and the experience of what it’s like to go back to a place you’ve left behind.
“Alt” is a soft open, a reassuring, whistled tune that feels like a welcome change of pace, but is quickly interrupted by the sound of a tape deck change—an audible sign of Mathison’s decision to combine modern recording technology with analog tape methods. It’s a sound that reoccurs throughout the album, signaling a new change of pace—or maybe in Mathison’s case, just another change of place.
“I know that it will kill me/in the end/ It’s always your direction/that I will bend” he sings halfway through on a song about infatuation that feels layered with other meaning. Crossovers between love and travel can be felt throughout the album, as airport comings and goings meld into other endings and beginnings on “When She’s Not Around.”
Capturing what it feels like to leave and return, Mathison’s album lives up to its structure as it navigates its way through those things we gain and lose as we go from place to place—and the far more momentous moments in between.
Top Tracks: “Mountains”; “It Won’t Be Long”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)