[21 April 2014]
Recently, Ottawa artist Kathleen Edwards announced that she may be (or may not be, as news reports may show) retiring from music. If that story is indeed true, that begs the question – which Ottawa artist may fill the void left by her absence? Well, Kalle Mattson makes a pretty good case for it on his third and latest LP, Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold. It’s a bit ironic, in any event, that Mattson’s latest disc actually immediately precedes my copy of Edwards’ Voyageur album in my iTunes folder. Inspired by the death of his mother, and written in his old hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Mattson brings forth a vision of both hope and despair on his latest full-length. Coming across as both a Canadian version of Bruce Springsteen, with the added touch of horns a la a Broken Social Scene, Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold is a staggering and emotional listen. Filling Edwards’ shoes is a big task for someone so young – Mattson is 23 years old – but he does so quite admirably on his latest record. It’s hard not to be something of a cheerleader, considering that I, too, am from the place that Mattson calls home, but, thankfully, the goods on Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold are such that it’s easy to consider that this artist is someone who is easily a person to keep tabs on and watch with careful scrutiny. Indeed, I recently passed by an Ottawa record store – Compact Music on upper Bank Street here – and Mattson’s record was prominently displayed in the store’s window. People believe in Mattson’s vision, it seems.
The whole thing opens up with the very BSS-sounding “An American Dream”, not to be confused with a certain Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, if only it were imagined by a certain Boss. The track highlights all that is well with Mattson, adding a touch of horns that give it a certain gravitas. Follow-up track “Darkness” is much more acoustically rendered, bringing a feeling of bleakness to the song. “The Living and the Dead”, meanwhile, is another acoustic track with haunting keyboards giving a feeling of starkness to the piece. “Sound and Fury (A Dream Within a Dream)”, again, brings to mind the best works of Springsteen. However, it’s “Hurt People Hurt People” that provides the album’s most rockist moment, with keyboards that are squiggly and recall The Cars. It’s clearly the highlight amongst an album of highlights. This is followed by “Eyes Speak”, which would neatly follow on anything on Bob Mould’s Workbook album. It’s a dreamy track, pulsated with a kick drum that beats like a heartbeat.
This is all followed by what would be considered the title track of sorts, “The Moon Is Gold”. With a searing guitar line that is remotely fuzzy, the song will easily get toes a tapping, even if it references the Fourth of July, which seems remotely un-Canadian. “God’s Only Son”, meanwhile, recalls the fellow Canadian Eamon McGrath. “A Love Song to the City” is a lilting ballad of the highest order, which appears to be an ode to Ottawa – “We’ve got bus lines to nowhere / Bridges to somewhere / But no one can find it”. “Pick Me Up”, on the other hand, is another acoustically strummed piece of folk-rock, but is much more optimistic than what preceded it. And the rest of the album more or less follows from there, with plucked ballads that emote a fragile beauty that underscores the fragililty of the record as a whole.
On the whole of it, Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold is a beautiful statement that makes Mattson such an up and coming talent. While his singing comes across as something that sounds akin to Kermit the Frog meets Jens Lekman, making this album something of a weak link, the prettiness of much of the record’s surroundings gives up a lot of what might seem like a weakness and turns it into something that is affecting and great. And, hey, you can say that his voice is certainly distinctive. There’s a certain beauty to be found on this record, and it brings forth a great feeling of hope. If anything, Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold is the start of an artist who is at the cusp of obtaining a great deal of maturity in his songwriting. That Mattson is able to recall the best bits of fellow Canadian artists such as Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and Eamon McGrath, while sounding wholly original, is just a testament to the greatness of this album as a whole. In the end, Mattson is able to convince that, should Edwards be as frank and determined to not make another album on her own ever again, he’s certainly ready to take up the plank and deliver something consistent and engaging. Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold is an emotional and yet not draining artistic statement, and well worth hearing.