"Highs & Lows" reviewed by Folking.com

Swedish folky Mattias Lies’ album Highs & Lows shines a tintype dark lacquered light to Neil Young’s song ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ with its cinematic words, “Dead man lying/By the side of the road/With the daylight in his eyes”.

Odd: The first three songs float like a really nice and melodically intense soundtrack to Neil’s own film score for After The Goldrush – a movie that never managed to exist.

As my friend, Kilda Defnut, explained, “That’s the way we talked in the 70’s. We (individually) just wrote soundtracks about the lives of people who wrote (collectively)) about something we (also individually) didn’t like very much. There’s probably a very American oxymoron in there someplace, but no matter; then we all, thankfully, just played the collective harmonica (just like Bob Dylan did!) – which is the common denominator of ultimate folky truth”.

I think she may be right, at least about that harmonica.

Ah – those first three songs: Highs & Lows catches that deep (and sort of beautiful) moment of despair. And it’s an acoustic-harmonica voiced prayer that defiantly hopes to find “daylight” in a “dead man’s” very musical “eyes”. The first song, ‘The Deadliest Of Stars’, is a finely guitar picked tune with a wondrous chorus, “I’ve been attracted by the deadliest of stars/Ever since I was a school boy in the yard”. That’s the template lyric for the album. And a slight pedal steel bends in the background while there’s a blink toward the gentle passion of an early Phil Ochs’ song from his In Concert album. The same is melodically true for ‘Maze Of Blues’ (a fav song!) – with more of that “collective harmonica” archetype, while the melody serves as a comfy featherbed GPS through all the “shadows” that “may surround you”. It’s a nice song – with its own “heart of gold”. Then ‘Wildest Dreams’ orbits with really acoustic humanity, dart board specific harmonica, and somehow allows our original Adam (speaking symbolically, of course!), who “used to play rock ‘n’ roll” to plead the fifth about eating that forbidden backbeat fruit thing; and thanks to our muse Eve who “opened up my eyes” with “your warm and tender smile”, they, (perhaps as folk dual)) can “go down the road beyond our wildest dreams”.

But then things change. Mattias Lies leaves west coast America, still with folk purity in hand, and ventures into melodic innocence of, say, the best of all the great songs of Don McLean that lived in the shadow of ‘American Pie’. (That’s a big compliment.) ‘Silver & Gold (Acoustic version)’ just denies in soft prose the futility of “chasing dollars down the rabbit hole”. This is a nice kite in a friendly a breeze of a tune. And there’s yet another blink toward (my beloved) Phil Ochs.

And ‘Strange Life’ is underground wired folk music that warns “tricksters try to rob me of my charity and pride” with “words passing through me like scarecrows in the night”. This gently intense song finds the singer still, thankfully, “open to the moonlight and the sky”. All the lyrics continue to be wonderfully philosophic and symbolic (and also pretty cool!).

‘The Forest’ is a brief (just over a minute) impressionist voice, guitar, and harmonica bit. I don’t know, perhaps, Nick Drake’s ‘Horn’ from Pink Moon comes to mind. It’s an arty interlude.

‘In A World Where I Don’t Belong’ is a gossamer slow-danced admission ticket to the tale of the prodigal son (to get all biblical, again!) returning from those “borderlines” (as seen in ‘Strange Life’) back home–with a second admission: “But when I see your smiling face/I realize that life will change” while “running down a field of passion”. Well, in the end, it’s just a wonderous thing just to say, “I love you so”. The tune blossoms like one of those time lapsed yellow daffodils blooming videos. It’s a lovely unabashed song that manages to not collapse under its own honesty.

And finally, ‘The Dying Maid’ (oddly listed as a Bonus track), is injected with ancient myth, symbolism, urgent tragedy, a spooky vibe—and a melodic piano and shadowy percussion to boot. It, like much of this album, manages to make the old stuff touch the new stuff, and of course, it also makes a new song echo into the air of some ancient dark wooded Swedish forest. And it ends the album suspended in heavy and eerie air.

Highs & Lows is a soundtrack to many lives. It’s a brief album (clocking in just under twenty-four minutes), but it’s also a record that dives deeply into the mysterious and very melodic waters in which folky emotions swim, somehow, in this “strange life” with our “wildest dreams” that, even after all these years, are still “stuck inside of Mobile with those ‘maze of blues’, again”.

Bill Golembeski

Said about "Silver & Gold", "Arvet"(2018) and "Still believe in Lies (2013)

‘Silver & Gold’ is all about the illusive hunt for success and fortune, which is commonly associated with dollar signs and material well-being. ”My great challenge has always been, to live in the present, to enjoy life while I can. Back in the days I was getting burn out every now and then. I constantly gave more than I received, in any kind of situation, and I always ended up feeling empty as a bottle. I come from a hard working bloodline where people identify each other depending on what you do, forgetting about the person behind the badge. The day I realized this my life became easier. If you don’t like what you do for a living then it’s hard to fulfill your true potential. To me it works that way and I guess a lot of people out there will recognize themselves while listening to the song”. This baroque dipped pop goodness, dressed in the charms of folk edges, makes life living, when listening. It’s a charming note to what we humans could be to each other. The good and the bad, can work together with better understanding and patience. Mattias’ work is right on.” - CHF STAFF

Come Here Floyd (Music Blog)

("Arvet") - It’s folk music, rock, a bit of country and a touch of jazz. Mattias Lies has created his very own blend of musical styles with compelling authenticity. The lyrics often describe the struggles of life and, even without the music, they function as pure poetry. In the same way, the music is strong enough to stand on its own. Combined, the two have a powerful and moving effect. Mattias has really done something with his fourth album and what he has done is to give us something that is not merely entertaining. He has also given us something that is deeply thought provoking.” - Lennart Götesson


("Still believe in Lies") - The new album is a dramatic departure from his former albums. The progress concerning the music and the sound is beyond the average even if you do recognize some of the elements. “Still believe in Lies” is dark, thoughtful and sometimes it reveals a passionate transcendental Mattias. It’s an electrified crossover between blues and rock sprinkled with Indie-pop, always with a sound a bit dirtier, rougher than before; a sound which is giving the melodies and the lyrics a legit space. ” - Magnus Sjöberg

GAFFA, 2013

Said about "Mattias Lies"(2006) and "Messages" 2008

("Mattias Lies") -"Mattias' music is living breathing passion, sprinkledwith love and gritty authenticity. He burns for hismusic, glowing like a beacon of folk music for the21st century. A light that allows you to go homemusically and spiritually. Now it is only up to us tofollow him, and his voice, along the way back toourselves. A voice which finds no equal in the Swedishfolk music scene, you will find no better guide thanMattias Lies.” - Ola Karlsson

Nöjesnytt, Växjö 2006

("Messages") - "His voice tears and soothes the soul, and opens up the inner-most feelings of the audience. "In the blue" is in radio play rotation now, and it is most well-deserving of that status. ” - Björn G Stenberg

— Uppsala Nya Tidning, 2008

("Messages") - "Mattias takes the folksy roots of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and plucks out the smooth sounds of West Coast Rock. He does it with style and a fantastic voice that drips with feeling."” - Jessica Dalman

— Dalarnas Tidningar, 2008

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