Review : The tallest man on earth - There's No Leaving Now
TinymixtapesAt this rate, Kristian Matsson will likely go electric in 2014, turn to country in 2017, discover gospel in 2027, and unplug again sometime in 2039. And if heís really serious about the whole Dylan thing, he will crash his motorcycle in 2015, get a divorce in 2025, convert to Christianity in 2027, and contract a lung fungus in 2042. As a musician, heíll never live up to his inspiration. As a performance artist, though, he might just pull off something truly rich and strange.
Matsson, of course, makes no bones about his Dylan crush, but he stubbornly refuses to follow Dylanís most significant piece of advice. Where Dylan says, ďDonít Look Back,Ē Matsson insists, ďThereís No Leaving Now.Ē His new album falls right into place, somewhere between the earnest fingerpicking folk of Dylanís first three albums and the full-on electric blues blitz of the mid-60s masterpieces. It could easily have been titled Another Side of Kristian Matsson, since thereís not a single move on it that doesnít have its counterpart in Dylanís earlier culture-shaking shift. These songs stretch out easily, if darkly, beyond the tight folk formula, replacing the intensity and commitment of his earlier efforts with moody introspection and weary alienation. Borrowing loosely from country and blues, backed by tentative electric riffs and hooks, and veiled everywhere in cryptic imagery and symbolic non-sense, these songs come across as the first few steps into a new surreal terrain; here, again, we see the folk hero about to turn his back on the folk to explore ó via sound and symbolism ó his own mysterious back pages. As Matsson sings on the final track, a Spanish-tinged ode to Dylan-esque ennui, ďThe tired motion of the rusty bell/ Just humming visitor, I quit, go to Hell/ Iíve been to the tower but now walk alone/ There must be marks on every page/ From the past to these songs.Ē
Itís not a question of whether or not Matsson is any good. His fingerpicking sparkles, his voice is full of charm, and, as a whole, his album will recapture your attention just when you think youíre bored enough to switch to something else. But, at this point, with three albums in and no signs of changing track, you canít help but wonder if this kind of music represents a viable idiom anymore. Can an updated folk formula really make sense of our world today? Does this style provide an effective way of relating to our own cultural moment? Dylanís impact was all in his style. Even in the early years, he was as much aligned with pop icons like Elvis and Brando as with folk singers like Guthrie and Seeger. His songs provided a new repertoire of gestures and moves that came to stand in for a certain attitude, a way of inhabiting the world in a specific moment in time. But except as a form of nostalgia or romantic alienation, those moves just donít work anymore. The second coming of Bob Dylan will not sound like Bob Dylan. For anyone to have the same cultural impact, they would have to be somewhat miraculously situated within the white-hot dynamo of history itself, completely in tune with the cultural moment and yet one weird step ahead....full text
SputnikmusicKristian Mattson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth, as carved a name in the music world for playing a special brand of old-time folk that seems to tap into both Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. However, if one thing is especially notable about his style, it's that he can blend the old with the new, as performed best on 2010's The Wild Hunt. Mattson was able to mix his old-fashioned songcraft with a modern feel and production, and the result was pretty damn staggering to say the least. But now 2012's There's No Leaving Now has arrived, so can he still deliver on this promise.
The answer is easily a resounding YES. The same style is still present, yet much more refined here. You still get the one-man acoustic folk and earthy voice from the last two albums, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on certain aspects this time around.
The first thing you'll notice is the more balanced sound. One criticism many people had regarding the first two albums was the loudness of Mattson's voice in contrast with his guitarwork, but both are mixed very well here. Along with the keyboards that back the whole thing up, everything simply sounds like it's blended together better and the production quality is crystal clear, cleaned up to perfection.
Additionally, Mattson's voice is a bit different this time around. He retains his typically natural voice, but is a bit less raspy on his delivery. The approach is a lot more subtle and focuses more on how Mattson associates with his guitar. This is better in some cases because it brings more charisma and life to some of these tracks, so all in all, having more clarity in the vocal work isn't a problem at all. Then in songs like "1904" (a highlight of the album), he keeps both vocal styles present, and it gives some variety to his music....full text
PitchforkAround the time he put out his sparse and arresting second album, 2010's The Wild Hunt, Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson also released a cover of "Graceland". Matsson's music as the Tallest Man on Earth gives off an uncanny, hard-to-place air, caught between his native surroundings and the American folk he reveres. But to hear him tackle that familiar melody put some of the strange and hard-to-pin-down appeal of his music into focus. Rough, loud, and unabashedly nasal, Matsson's voice sounded like it was stripping off the song's varnish and hewing each line into something jagged enough to impale you in the heart.
The best songs on The Wild Hunt, like the rollicking strum of "King of Spain" and the wistful piano ballad "Kids on the Run", had that same directness of melody and threatened just as many splinters. Like so many folkies before him, Matsson assumed the role of the wandering troubadour ("I live until the call, and I plan to be forgotten when I go," he declared with early-Dylan aplomb on the title track), and his songs, in contrast to folk tradition, didn't so much conjure a distinct sense of time or place as they did a general feeling of restlessness and ever-forward movement. Keeping with the music's sage simplicity, the loneliness of the bare, echoing instrumentation felt decidedly practical: How can you assemble a reliable backing band when you're sleeping under a different tree every night?
It's clear from the title of Matsson's latest, There's No Leaving Now, that things are a little different this time around: He's putting down his roots. Recorded mostly at home over a leisurely five-month stretch, Leaving is more diffuse and relaxed than his earlier albums. It's also his first foray into multi-tracking: He's added woodwinds, drums, and additional fingerpicked guitars to the mix, giving his songs a fuller sound, albeit one that's still characteristically ragged. The intimacy of tracks like "Revelation Blues" and "To Just Grow Away" forgo the urgency of Dylan and Woody Guthrie channeled on The Wild Hunt for a gentle, pastoral domesticity that sounds closer to Arthur Russell in acoustic mode. Though lyrically still driven by Matsson's wandering spirit and kinship with nature, There's No Leaving Now is an adventure close to home, the sound of someone exploring a nature trail in his own backyard.
Still, the most somber and impassioned songs are the ones that stand out. The title track is a wrenching ballad in the vein of "Kids on the Run", while "Bright Lanterns" shakes an angry fist at nature's indifference to even the tallest of men ("Damn, you always treat me like a stranger, mountain"). The simple, affecting "Little Brother" features the album's strongest vocals, and it derives its power from its lyrical clarity ("Why are you drinking again, little brother/ When your rambling's the hardest part of loving you?"), a quality often absent from Matsson's songwriting. His lyrics can feel like a knotty tangle of ambiguous nature imagery and trail wisdom when you take the time to pick them apart. When he sings, "But the lesson is vague and the lightning shows a deer with her mind on the moor/ And now something with the sun is just different since they shook the earth in 1904," he loses the thread, fittingly, somewhere around "The lesson is vague."...full text
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