Malin Pettersen | Wildhorse | (Die with Your Boots On)
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Malin Pettersen moves her voice like a needle into patchwork or a lark gently gliding over a lake’s glassy surface. There’s a plush fluidity that’s marked much of her work to-date, even when arrangements run more rustic and dirty. From fronting Lucky Lips through two EPs and three full records, over nearly a decade, the Norwegian storyteller cashes in her creative currency with what will soon be known as her manifesto. Her second solo studio release, Wildhorse, eloquently enraptures the senses, taking the listener’s hand and guiding them through stories she collected from all corners and crevices of America.
“I hear scientists say particles move in the strangest ways,” Pettersen regards over the dreamboat waves of “Particles,” almost ballet-like. She feels her way across such misty soundscapes with reverent ease, a tender give and take that never feels rushed or too languid to serve a purpose. It’s far more than a singular vision; in fact, many such observations comb to the nucleus of human matter (“It’s like time’s not even time moving forward,” she juggles with conviction on “Wildhorse Dream”). Her voice, ripening like a fine Merlot, then imposes a razor sharp presence that’s alluring and unforgiving.
Wildhorse emerges from various road trips woven throughout the California countryside or a window-seat airplane ride to Nashville ─ braiding various threads about journeying, weary existence, and those intimate grace notes that make life so intense and unique and lovely. Such groovy rhythmic splashes as “Let’s Go Out” slide right by without concern, and that’s not saying those moments aren’t equally as marvelous to behold. Pettersen’s eye for cohesion here is exemplary, and even when she’s imagining stories taking place in Arkansas, for example (see: “Arkansas”), you buy into her heady fiction as crystal clear fact.
“I don’t care for breathing much / But I don’t care to die,” she unties on the brutally visceral “I Don’t Care,” a laundry list of things she just doesn’t care to do or fuss over. She allows life’s stresses and worries to soak into her skin like crow’s feet, emblems of survival, endurance, and simply experience. A buffet of players ─ including album co-producers Aaron Goodrich (Colter Wall), Misa Arriaga (Lillie Mae), and Ryan A. Keith (Rayland Baxter) ─ serves the ears delectable arrangements bound with silky ribbons.
In leaning into America’s striking vastness, picking up knick-knacks of hope and sorrow, in equal amounts, Malin Pettersen comes to fully appreciate lives both foreign and familiar. It’s the kind of storytelling that promises a long, healthy career ─ and she’s just getting started.
Photo by Jonathan Vivaas Kise