Kalle Mattson - A Love Song To The City | Track Review | By Volume

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Kalle Mattson

A Love Song To The City

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Author: on March 6, 2014

I like the trumpet at the end of this song. That’s a worn trope, both for a folk rock song and a folk rock review, but it’s what makes Kalle Mattson’s “A Love Song to the City” bleed out its landscape. It’s a subtle flourish that makes for a physical uprising. Mattson’s music is full of orchestral tricks that feel like a literal hug or slap to the face, or make you feel the way it feels when an institution strips you of your super cool ID badge that means you used to work for them but now you’re nothing. You can take this song’s light brushes of percussion, shaken slightly, as another one of his tricks. It sounds like he’s being passed around his city, his guitar picking good enough for this and that coffee shop and little else. “A Love Song” is what its title says it is, but it’s also a true underdog story, written with a nice, subtle climax, one worthy of Mattson’s belief that he’s writing a “screenplay”. And yet it ends, kinda counter-intuitively, in bed. “A Love Song” goes through the motions of how it feels to be dissatisfied with the city you live in – to find it too big, and too small – but concludes on the cosy thought that it’s us against the world. By the way, I’ve been listening to this song between episodes of The Wire. Try it.

Mattson brings John K. Samson to mind, both in ease of song-writing and lightness of voice. His singing sets your eyes on a city skyline, and his modestly profound lyrics wrap a thick grey fog around it. Like Samson, he’s a pastoral folk singer for an industrial shit-town, carrying an excess of prettiness with him because the place he’s from can’t afford it, doesn’t deserve it anyway, and would never give it back. Smoothly and inevitably he sings lines like “It’s a love song to the city that takes the piss consistently / and you heard it on the ten o’clock news”, devastated by an ecosystem he’s supremely used to. It’s one of those songs about having love/hate relationships with adopted homes, but Mattson takes it further, actually explaining how love and hate work: people fill in the landscape, then leave it as dark and crowded and endless as a wasteland. It takes after The Dismemberment Plan’s “The City” or The Weakerthans’ “One Great City”, but it also has a folk writer’s minimalist sorrow, as if Mattson’s been trained up to write a new version of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”. It doesn’t matter which city his song’s set in, just who lives in it.


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