Inspiring hysteria in the rapt masses when shambling around onstage with his acoustic guitar and barking like buggery into the microphone, the live show is like a force of nature. Incessant drizzle, perhaps. Or annoyingly heavy mist. It should be warming and comforting, just like how you remember, but it soon grows tiresome and you long for a bit of sunshine. Or just variety of any kind. All of which suggests that there has been some sort of error in the placing of this album at number 28 on my end of year list. But no, the record is a beautiful, textured thing. The point where a ragged artist gets his house in order and the alchemy of music is proffered for the listening masses.
Rather moderately proportioned Swede, Kristian Matsson, arrived at album number three having slowly built a following from Bon Iver support slots and the aforementioned seemingly spellbinding afternoon sets at the nation’s bijou festivals. And my, how he’s grown. Operating in a similarly sparse Sixties bubble to Pete Molinari, Matsson offers up his most melodic release to date, with playful acoustic guitar aplenty, but more intricate arrangements filling out the spaces behind. The song ‘1904’ bounces along like an excitable puppy and is one of the catchiest three minutes of 2012. The Dylan and Guthrie influences are not difficult to spot, but it doesn’t render this a simple exercise in fanboy nostalgia. You can even forgive the fact that he seems to have borrowed a microphone from The Strokes. Very lo-fi.
And so, despite my misgivings when catching him live – I genuinely felt alone in my utter ambivalence that night – this record continues to charm me. With a voice that creaks like well-loved furniture and lyrics telling tales of the lives and losses of others, this album represents a career highpoint.