Like many debut solo albums from musicians in bands, Jared Mattson’s Peanut didn’t originally come from a need to break away. As a composer for the Mattson 2, Jared Mattson was working up a batch of new songs through the winter of 2019-2020, looking ahead to the next album he and brother Jonathan Mattson, the blitzkrieging drummer, would record. As the pandemic hit stateside, Jared holed up in his home studio and kept developing the new music. And during that process it became increasingly clear to them that this wasn’t shaping up to be the next Mattson 2 album. This was a Mattson 1 album.
Jared had been absorbing the guitar work on records by reggae stalwarts Aswad and Burning Spear, and also the Police’s Andy Summer and the ways he gives songs space. And Jared wanted a prominent bass sound, too, where the guitar itself sometimes settles into the passenger seat so that the bass can drive. Lyrically, the album taps into our rattled world, where anxiety, loss, violence, and regret are sometimes pierced by the promise of love. The time spent working on the album was a profoundly introspective time as he reflected on past relationships while living through and writing during the pandemic, he also never lost sight of this truth about himself: Life is great with music.
One of the album’s standout highlights is “Burn Down Babylon,” which is propelled by the bass’s funk-you-say groove. You don’t often encounter many pop songs with so blunt an opening line as, “I got punched in the face last night by a neo-Nazi,”—a true experience that was delivered many years ago in a bar brawl in Carlsbad, California. But to hear the music that goes along with this tale manages a vibe that is less melee and more backyard jubilee.
When “Please Come Here,” with an intro that slinks along like a Cadillac on a Sunday morning drive, kicks in, it’s typical of the album’s melodic pop flourishes, but the twist here is that the vocals are in Japanese (The Mattson 2 have toured Japan 20 times and covered many Japanese pop songs on 2018’s Vaults of Eternity: Japan ). Ween’s “She Wanted to Leave” is the lone cover, but the way Jared reimagines the song makes it fits seamlessly within the album’s sonic template. The song’s inclusion was also a personal way to honor one of Jared’s best friends, who died from cancer two years ago. The two had always bonded over the song and marveled at its inherent beauty. Ultimately, Mattson’s solo debut unfolds like a string of fascinating clouds: These are not songs in a hurry; they shift around as they float by, and, most notably, they carry their unique kind of electric charge.