It’s hard when listening to The Tallest Man on Earth not to be transported back to the acoustic days of songsmiths like Bob Dylan. His lyricism and vocal drone is hard to separate from the man often touted as the greatest lyricist ever.
After his 2010 breakout The Wild Hunt, Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, is set to drop his third long player There’s No Leaving Now, and on it we get given a tasting plate of all the things we loved about his sophomore album. The raw energy of a live performance is captured in this studio album, and it’s most certainly the logical musical progression for Matsson.
Album opener To Just Grow Away sets the mood for the rest of the release: a simple strum and fingerpick amalgamation, backing some powerful lyrics about gradual departure. The title here, in tandem with the name of the album, shows that there has been some kind of struggle in his musicianship. On one hand, the album title implies he doesn’t want to leave the roots that defined him, yet the opener explains that it may be time to depart.
The raw recording of Revelation Blues highlights what was always appreciated about Matsson’s style. The focus is on the guitar and the lyrics, just how he likes it. His poetics are yet to weaken as he sings about his longing to ‘bring something/but sometimes it’s just roses dying too young’. The lyrics may be vague and malleable, but when they are hurled at you with such clarity and self-assurance, it’s hard to argue with him.
A staple of Matsson’s style, the frantic yet intimate picking of Leading Me Now incorporates wonderful melodies, not only in his voice but instrumentally. It is this that manages to set Matsson apart from the large pack of ‘guys with guitars’. The Nick Drake influence is displayed through his ability to play intricate guitar lines whilst singing complex lyrics in a demonstration of musical prowess. It becomes obvious listening to There’s No Leaving Now. It is in these delicate tracks that we’re able to differentiate Matsson and Dylan with ease.
Lead single from the record ‘1904’ is destined to pry Matsson from the arms of his adoring, hipster audience and into the grasp of the mainstream. This pop song is simple in construction and is a track with great appeal, even for a first-time listener. I don’t see him losing his audience any time soon if he continues to put out tracks like this.
Bright Lanterns opens with a distinctly, country-toned electric guitar and a very Dylan-esque vocal line; it’s at this point it becomes hard to prevent myself looking at all the similarities of the two.
Unfortunately, the latter half of the album is less impressive. It all appears to blend into one, albeit very pleasant, sound. There’s no definition in the tracks. The addition of the piano in There’s No Leaving Now makes for a nice change of pace in what could have become a stale album.
It is, however, within the second half of the album that Matsson’s vocals are the strongest. It just feels as though his musicality all combines and meshes into a rug of similarity. Upon reaching the album closer On Every Page, Matsson begins to fall into a rolling, swirling pace of guitars and inspired lyrics. He maintains that he doesn’t “remember where he learned to die” and draws inspiration from little aspects of nature.
It’s easy to criticise for a lack of true variety in Matsson’s brand of music. However, when falling into that trap, it must be remembered that lyrically and in terms of his skill with a guitar, Matsson is nothing short of genius.
Is this record as defining as his previous effort? I’m not sold yet; the live performance will give me my answer.