Tag Archives: bon iver

Album Review: The Great Unseen by Kate + Max

8 Oct

Image courtesy of Sophie Richards Photography

The story goes like this: a hillbilly met a puppeteer. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was Kate and which was Max.

I’m not sure what happened after, but the result of that meeting has sprung some sweet and charming melodies I can’t help swaying to. This folk-pop album doesn’t pack much punch, but I get the feeling that that wasn’t what Kate & Max were going for anyway.

The Great Unseen is the Brisbane duo’s debut E.P., six tracks of an easygoing adventure that reminds me of warm summer days and flyaway hair. That is to say, not everything in the album is a trip down happy lane. Max’s dulcet tones lend a heavier anchor to tracks like Lost Sea and Closed Eyes, purring “I’ve got closed eyes, so blind to what you want” to match Kate’s soulful and mature voice.

There’s an elegance in their songs that transcends the lyrics and simplicity reverbs in the whole record; down to the inquisitive guitar plucking and lyrics beautifully sang. The pair strikes a comfortable balance with their clear vocals and bright and expectant melodies.

Kate & Max remind me of a mellowed-out Florence Walsh (of Florence + The Machine) with a heavy dose of Bon Iver, sans their respective dramatic flair, replacing it with a bright-eyed and fresh new pair of eyes set on experiencing the world.

The title track of the E.P is youthful and spry, fusing well with its promise to escape into the great unseen. The lyrics aren’t much to write home about but I’ve found yourself murmuring “I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know nothing” without meaning to and damn if it isn’t catchy.

The clear winner and takeaway of the record, however, is To Anyone Else. It punches a dolorous and melancholy chord, with Kate’s saccharine voice taking a back seat for a deeper and stronger cadence that brings out the emotion of the song. Laced with both an acoustic and electric guitar, this track doesn’t exactly make me want to hum along to it but it did leave me grasping at straws to find out what the heck made me so emo (for a lack of a better word) all of a sudden.

An array of local Brisbane musicians assisted the duo in the production of their E.P, citing friends from Millions and Moonfleet for background guitar and keyboard, with mastering done by Nick Peterson (Bon Iver).

The songs are distinctive in their own right but flow well throughout the album, which is no mean feat for a debut E.P. and for a band that’s been together for less than a year. The tracks don’t appear disjointed and jarring, and they give a pleasant and sweet trippy feeling, as if I’m lightheaded from too much helium and frankly, I can’t be happier with it.


The Tallest Man on Earth- The Wild Hunt

22 Aug


The best album I’ve heard since Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. There you go, that’s my personal opinion.

The Wild Hunt is a personal, raw and emotional folk album made up of not much more than an acoustic guitar and the voice of a short-statured, Swedish singer-songwriter by the name of Kristian Matsson. A follow up to his debut album Shallow Grave, Kristian has exceeded his exceptional songwriting abilities to produce an amazingly consistent, catchy and beautiful 10 songs in The Wild Hunt. Pesky comparisons to Bob Dylan can be brushed aside, this is an artist fully aware of his influences and exceeding them. The Wild Hunt, the second Tallest Man on Earth album and first for Dead Oceans, makes a few specific nods to Dylan at his most earnest and bare– including a reference to “boots of Spanish leather” on King of Spain. Ultimately, though, Matsson interprets Dylan, just as Dylan himself interpreted Guthrie. More to the point, Matsson translates him into the Scandinavian countryside, where he sings about changing seasons and quiet, lonely places far from cities. His lyrics both raw and emotive leave enough space for you to make your own interpretation of their meaning, giving one the sense that he himself cannot put his feelings into words. The lo-fi production of the album does nothing but improve the personal quality of the album. The feeling that The Tallest Man on Earth is sitting there playing the songs just for you is almost uncanny. This is not to say that this album can’t be listened to in large groups. Songs like The Burden of Tomorrow or King of Spain are anthems in their own respect.

On the limited palette of guitar and voice, Matsson is able to coax a huge range of diverse colours, making the brief appearances of banjo and piano seem like an over-indulgence. The final song Kids on the Run is a Bruce Springsteen-esque teen anthem where Matsson sits his guitar down to take a seat behind piano in an epic conclusion. The piano reverberates uneasily but still keeps the momentum of his heraldic guitar-playing that generates a certain major-key hopefullness that softly shades the songs. It’s an unexpected moment that colors everything that came before it and paints Matsson as a distinctive and singular artist. His playing is sophisticated but never showy, alternating between spry picking and forceful strumming. Whether due to his tunings or his crisp production, there’s something bright and expectant about his songs.

As a singer, he has become much more confident and capable, using that wily, deceptively limited croak with greater nuance and subtlety. The hiccup hook on Love Is All sounds like a joyful noise despite the song’s tentative tone, and the rawness of his vocals lends gravity to the accusations of You’re Going Back. On the other hand, Matsson sounds warmly generous on Troubles Will Be Gone when he sings, “The day is never done, still there’s a light on where you sleep, so I hope someday your troubles will be gone.” Matsson is both a romantic and a realist, and on The Wild Hunt, he uses the barest of pop-folk settings to give mundane moments– another break-up, another tour, another change of season, another Dylan comparison– a grandeur so disproportional that it’s difficult not to identify and sympathize with him.


Stand-out songs:

Love is All

The Wild Hunt

You’re Going Back