Rich Mattson and the Northstars | Aeroplane Mode

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Aeroplane Mode

by Rich Mattson and the Northstars

Third album from Northern Minnesota rock and roll folkers features jangly guitar and vocal harmony of the cosmos.
Genre: Rock: Folk Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Castles
2:47 $0.99
2. Disappointed
3:11 $0.99
3. Walk Among You
4:05 $0.99
4. Looking for a Sign
3:19 $0.99
5. The Source
3:10 $0.99
6. Dull Blades
3:01 $0.99
7. Wave Sound
3:40 $0.99
8. Runner
3:25 $0.99
9. Old Boy
3:16 $0.99
10. Post Truth World
2:36 $0.99
11. Time to Let This Go
2:58 $0.99
12. End of the Night
3:01 $0.99
13. 101
2:57 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Rich Mattson - Vocals and guitars, production
Germaine Gemberling - Vocals, acoustic guitar
Kyle Westrick - Bass, vocals
Ryan Young - Violin
Curtis Mattson - Drums

This new collection of songs from Rich Mattson and the Northstars was recorded at Rich’s Sparta Sound studio located in northern Minnesota. If you’ve not heard of Rich Mattson, you’ve certainly heard some of the artists he has worked with; Trampled By Turtles, Charlie Parr, Alan Sparhawk (Low), Scarlett Rivera (Bob Dylan) to name just a few.. You also may have heard some of his or Germaine’s bands over the past 30 years; Ol’ Yeller, the Tisdales, the Glenrustles, SMUT, etc..

“Aeroplane Mode” is Mattson’s 30th(!) album. Let’s break that down:
Rich Mattson and the Northstars (4), Ol’ Yeller (7), the Tisdales (3), the Glenrustles (5), the Bitter Spills (4), Germaine Gemberling (2), Junkboat (1), and solo (4). With the exception of the Northstars and bandmate Germaine Gemberling, these are his former bands, who may or may not reconvene and revisit the old songs from time to time.. For the most part Rich is happiest when moving forward and creating. The aforementioned figure does not include the hundreds upon hundreds of bands and performing artists who have passed through his Sparta Sound (2005-present) and Flowerpot (1991-2005) studios over the years, nor does it include his collaborative work with Dave Rave, (the Shakers, Teenage Head) bootleg covers compilations or the two rough album-length demos of his high school band from the 80’s. For the record, Rich Mattson is only 50 years old.

Aside from putting out a quality album (or two) every year and playing with the Northstars, Rich Mattson can be found performing in strange corner bars, playing covers from “Cruel To Be Kind” to “Luckenbach Texas” all alone, with a conga player, or with the his songwriting and life partner, Germaine. He also leads a Neil Young tribute band with Alan Sparhawk (Low) and brother Glen Mattson (drummer of the Glenrustles). Last summer his high school band played a 50th birthday party where they did 55 songs in 4 hours without taking a break. “New wave” songs. If that’s not enough, there’s an annual Johnny Cash Tribute (at the Cabooze) where he’s stolen the show for 20 years running. The man is a human jukebox.

Regardless, with all this happening, Mattson makes no secret of his passion for the Northstars. “This is the band that is creating, recording, rehearsing, and doing the big shows. This is the band that’s moving forward.” He says. And with the solid rhythm section of Kyle Westrick and brand new addition of drummer Keely Lane (Ol’ Yeller) to the mix, they are ready for anything.. The past 3 years kept the band performing in their beloved Minnesota, but as for what’s to come, Rich Mattson and the Northstars are about to take flight. Aeroplane Mode.



to write a review

Tony Bennett

Latest from Rich Mattson is another winner
At this point, a clutch of Rich Mattson projects have been considered by yours truly for this column, all of them varying degrees of good. Truly, it seems like the guy is just a songwriting and recording machine, and he's reliable as the seasons. People such as Neil Young and Robert Pollard are cut from similar cloth. Their batting averages are also remarkably high, and rather than their careers being defined by a couple key records, they are consistent across their entire discographies.

Mattson's new one with the band he leads is another winner, and that's clear after only a few tracks have gone by. It seems this time around, Mattson is playing stuff that's maybe a bit more uptempo, and he's experimenting slightly with some interesting tones and arrangements that feel fresh without feeling shoehorn-y. Bottom line: if you've ever found yourself saying "I should get me another Rich Mattson record, but I don't know which one to check out," well, give this one a shot.

Opener "Castles" starts the proceedings off on a great note, with its simple yet effective ascending chord progression. That, coupled with some shooting-star violin by Trampled by Turtles' Ryan Young, sets a tone that is slightly psychedelic, but solidly pop-rock. It's that Tom Petty vein that Mattson is mining, where three chords are made much more with some thoughtful overdubs and lyrics that sing well.

"These castles that you built," Mattson sings in harmony with his partner in life and music, Germaine Gemberling, "are sure to wash away." It's a little bit of a nod to Jimi Hendrix' "Castles Made of Sand," perhaps, but more in the sentiment than in the sonics. As the song unfurls, a simple, nice synth line emerges, and Mattson experiments with some distorted vocals. But it all still manages to sound suitably like folk-rock music, even when the synth gets a solo break later on. The tune ends before it's even outstayed its welcome, a trick that not a whole lot of composers seem to get.

"Disappointed" is a jangle-popper that wouldn't sound weird on an R.E.M album, especially when the chorus goes double-time. "Walk Among You" is a speak-sung stomper that seemingly examines the way people avoid each other (and touches on the Standing Rock protests of last year) with a country flair and some surprising bursts of layered harmony vocals that come blasting in here and there. Again, Young adds some violin to the mix that almost acts like a wailing guitar usually would. It's a way of tweaking things just slightly, and it works well.

"Looking for a Sign" is led by Gemberling, though she's singing harmony with Mattson for much of it. As on the previous Mattson/Northstars album, she's given the spotlight here and there. It's a little odd, given that it's Mattson's name on the album spine, but it's also indicative of Mattson's disinterest in keeping the attention completely on him at all times, which is a good impulse to have.

Each song on "Aeroplane Mode" fits the record, even though it has a lot of moods on it. On one hand, there's the punkish, as-close-to-angry-as-Mattson-gets "Post-Truth World," which is full of spit and vinegar; on the other, there's the waltzy, acoustic "101," which is sung by a centenarian Mattson playfully embodies. "There's always been killing, death and diseases / for reasons we'll never be told / but it all comes around / first it's up, then it's down," Mattson sings, before taking a Johnny Cash-like spoken word rest moment to say "trust me, I know."

This is good songwriting, meat-and-potatoes stuff but with enough exotic flavor to keep it from seeming generic or uninspired. To the contrary: at age 50, it seems Rich Mattson is in his prime as a musician. One of the best local albums of the year.