Of his new project, Kalle Mattson says, “‘Youth.’ is a coming of age album. It’s about when your dreams becomes your regrets, when your friends become strangers, & when your first love becomes your first loss.” As I’ve been listening to it these past several days, I’ve been reminded that – at least in my experience – life is not a linear progression but rather a cyclical one, and the themes of which Kalle sings – loss, regret, leaving friends behind as one advances through various stages of life – will recur for him, and for all of us, over and over.
In the opening track, “Once,” Kalle sings, “… what was lost, just can’t be found.” This (along with many other lines throughout the album) takes familiar religious language and reworks it into a tapestry not of belonging, but of division. I’m reminded starkly of Pink Floyd’s song “High Hopes” (from the 1994 album “Division Bell”), which also paints the picture of how we separate from the friends and notions of childhood as we inexorably grow away from them.
If you come to this album expecting folk music, you may well be surprised. For this project, Kalle Mattson has paired his wistful, penetrating lyrics with shimmering synths and sounds that are more pop than folk – highly appropriate given his theme of a 90s child growing fully into adulthood. Indeed, “Kids on the Run” – which is one of the singles released to date – documents this “generation of 90s kids” with very 90s sounds – partly dance, partly alternative, wholly broken. (Lest you think all is dark, however, take a look at the video for the song, which any lover of memes will appreciate.)
“Fades Away” documents the (usually) inevitable endings to relationships between the “younger me” and “younger you,” spotlighting one that ends slowly and painfully. The especially affecting “Strangers” acutely depicts the juxtaposition many of us experience when we reflect on the people who were once so important to us: “Where in the world are you now? Nothing stays the same but people never change…”
I’ve seldom heard the painful transition out of young adulthood so transparently and eloquently articulated. All of us experience it at some point (and, as noted above, will experience similar transitions as we age); Kalle Mattson has provided us with a road map of sorts, a travel diary of what to expect. We would be well advised to listen. This is a superb album and I look forward to hearing how he translates the next stages of his life into song.