Ottawa may lie in the (likely frozen) backwaters of more vibrant and visible music scenes in Montreal and Toronto, but every so often Ottawa alt-rock bands are able to capture the attention of listeners outside the amalgamated city limits. Live 88.5s Big Money Shot has been partly responsible for this; armed with the Weezer-recalling “Juliette,” a certain band called Hollerado dominated the radio for years after winning the contest when I was in middle school.
More recently, Sault Ste. Marie import Kalle Mattson gained some measure of prominence after competing in 2012, but that thankfully is not the last we’ve heard from the rocker. Between 2014 and 2015, Mattson released both a promising album Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold, and the trimmed-down Avalanche EP. The latter release follows Mattson as he switches gears and turns toward the centre, developing his pop sensibilities while retaining an innate knack for crafting down-to-earth, Horseshoe Tavern-friendly chants. “New Romantics” dips into well-trodden ‘80s influences, but Mattson’s voice offers a compelling, high-register earnestness that lends a sense of completion to the anthem. That track immediately leads into “Baby Blue,” a gorgeous, introspective candidate for the encore of his set that shows Mattson is as if not more comfortable on acoustic guitar as electric.
A couple months back, Mattson posted a cautiously optimistic update on the progress of his next album, joking that he has “no clue” whether it’s any good but admitting it may be “really exciting,” but this belies the confidence present in The Avalanche EP. Kingston folks can catch Mattson’s solo opening set for Jason Collett this Wednesday (May 11th) at the Grad Club. Jason Collett’s work is, of course, part of the endlessly enjoyable canon of Broken Social Scene-affiliated projects and his latest release, Song and Dance Man, was well-received. With Collett hailing from the nucleus of the Canadian music community, it’s only fitting that Mattson can represent a voice closer to its fringes.