This week’s Song of the Week is “Avalanche” by Kalle Mattson.
About the Kalle Mattson:
Kalle Mattson has been a viral internet sensation for years due to his creative music videos but that shouldn’t downplay the creative force driving his music. Starting with his music video for “Thick As Thieves”, which, full disclosure, is easily one of my favorite music videos of all time, Kalle has had a career so far which has seen him nominated for some of Canada’s top music awards, while winning several others. Kalle Matson mentioned in an interview with Chart Attack how some artists cannot seem to break out of Canada:
“There’s a lot of examples of bands or artists that are only big in Canada and the second they go anywhere else they can’t play to anyone and I hope I don’t have that.”
If Kalle’s music tells us one thing, it’s this: If he has “the Canadian problem,” he shouldn’t.
Kalle himself wrote a bit about this song and EP (from which it is the title track) over on KillBeat Music. In the piece, he states that while his last record, “Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold,” was about overcoming the passing of his mother, the Avalanche EP stands as a testament, a mini-record, as Kalle puts it, to the time and stories afterward.
The first line on Avalanche is – I was born an orphan in the morning dew. That felt like a definitive way to start a new chapter after [Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold].
The symbolism of the first line, and let’s be honest, the entire song, is filled with vague references to the past and the things we’ve put behind us. The music video itself stands as a testament of fondness in the rearview, as a cascade of famous album art is recreated before our eyes, and with it, the memories of listening to those records growing up. But lyrically speaking, fondness doesn’t seem to be the overriding emotion. While the choral melody accented by piano is upbeat and hopeful, the lyrics, in my estimation, tell another tale.
What is great about deep and symbolic lyricism is the vastness of interpretation that can be derived from a single song. While to the songwriter, this track may be about victory and overcoming a dark time, I seem to find hints of reliability from the perspective of venturing out into a world much larger than ourselves.
I was just a stranger, so much more than I’ve seen,
When I left home at the age of eighteen.
What was the same will always try & pretend,
But the past is just a story & we’ll never know the end.
I know for my part, there’s something to be said about “faking ’til you make it.” There’s also apparently a body of work on the subject, as illustrated by social psychologist Amy Cuddy in her now-famous TED Talk. But “faking it” in the context of the songwriter seems to be of the healthy variety. To be what you want to be, whether it’s a rock star or simply just confident, even though you’re the same as you were on the inside, projects onto the world your strengths and not your faults – and to those who wish to challenge the new paragon of you, what is there to define your correctness? The past is just a story, after all.
There seems to be a part, too, of acknowledgement and acquiescence of the permanent effect the past can have on a person:
I’ve seen the seasons that are spent & gone,
Dark light water into a twilight dawn.
I’ve seen the reasons life & love are short,
But forgetting the feelings is the hardest part.
Small aside on this: I remember in college I was bitterly made to read a short story about a hermit crab. I can’t recall the name of the or produce any reference to it, but the basic principle of the story was that the narrator found a hermit crab while he was at the ocean. He watched it for a while as it strode out into the tide repeatedly digging itself into the sand. For whatever reason, and this part I don’t recall, he scooped it up and brought it home with him. As he observed it in the days and weeks ahead he discovered that while the crab was in a house, in a glass box lined with sand, he found the crab about its same routine as before when he found him on the beach. “The crab had left the ocean, but the ocean never left the crab.”
It took me a long time to get the gist of what that story was about, but now that I do, I can definitively claim, for one, that I completely understand how that is a metaphor for how our experience shapes our day to day lives, and also that it’s apparent, whether he read it or not, that the songwriter is familiar with that concept as well. Here in the bridge of the song, he briefly summarizes how the march of time haplessly drags us along, and while he understands and has come to terms with why, he also affirms that a part of that past stays with us as we move along through our own stories.
In closing, what’s left to say? I love this song, and I love the video for it. While Kalle is known for his deeply personal music, he manages to obscure it in such a creative way which not only challenges the listener to discover the meaning behind his words, but also to interpret them from the blanket of personal experience we all wrap ourselves in. Not to mention, Kalle has a way of harkening us all back to a day of heartfelt poetic lyricism that I personally find hard to come by these days. With that, I’ll leave you with the closing to Avalanche, and allow you, my reader, to make heads or tails of it in the comments: “I saw the sign & we’re all left behind.”