The Lawlessness of the Ruling Class
Beginning somewhat blandly with a five-minute track of ascending/descending analog synth notes/keys on “Four Majors,” Andreas Mattsson paints himself into a very Stereolab-esque electro corner. He quickly wrests his sound free with a 180 on the second track, “Down on the Corner,” by doing analog synth one older and opting for piano. Slowly building up a head of steam by adding subtle layers of instrumentation, Mattsson gives the track the right amount of heft for the inner turmoil in the lyrics. He builds on this theme for the rest of the album; the sublime “It’s Easier to Handle All Your Friends Than to Keep Just One Love Alive” swells incrementally in intensity as Mattsson recounts the open wound of a past romance. By keeping the instrumentation under control, focus isn’t shifted away from his songwriting. The same can be said of “Where the Wave Breaks,” a piano ballad with an impeccable vocal melody that deserves the recent accolades wasted on James Blunt.
It’s tempting to call Lawlessness an orchestral pop album because from track to track Mattsson uses all manner of instruments (strings, vibraphone, glockenspiel, piano, guitar, drums, etc.) but he always retains an air of simplicity. The only true chaos in his songs come from the insecurity and defeated thoughts of his songs’ protagonists. While always ornate, the music is sophisticated and reverent enough to create even more sympathy for the down-and-outs than aggressive pity-mongering does in most harder-edged music genres. It would be more accurate to call Andreas Mattsson a ’70s Elton John for the 21st Century. It’s about time we had one of those.