New Tallest Man on Earth Album Stands Out

24 Jun

Kristian Matsson is a Swedish singer/songwriter who records and performs as The Tallest Man on Earth. At a very modest 5’ 7”, he’s not — by a long shot. But no matter. His sense of artistry gives him a stature that compares favorably with pretty much any other performer.

Early in his career, Matsson’s raw, real lyrics; sparse acoustic guitar-based compositions; and slightly rough-edged vocals drew comparisons to a young Bob Dylan. (By the way, Dylan is also 5’ 7”. A coincidence? I think not.)

Dark Bird Is Home, Matsson’s fourth full-length album and his first release since 2012’s excellent There’s No Leaving Now, finds The Tallest Man on Earth taking flight in new directions. His melodies not only tug at the heart strings, but also soar and inspire. In this album, Matsson’s ever-present strumming guitar is often layered with keyboards, synthesizer, strings, and woodwinds — mostly played by Matsson — with backing vocals added where needed. This leads to a sound with a richer, more melodic milieu.

Meanwhile, Matsson’s lyrics remain painfully personal as he explores dealing with life’s tests and trials. The depth of these lyrics will provide much for you to ponder as you listen to the album time and again.

Dark Bird Is Home starts with “Fields of our Home.” Long-time fans will feel quite comfortable for the first 1:15, then — what’s this? Horns? Keyboards? Synth strings? Backing vocals? These stylistic changes foretell the many wonderful surprises to come.

Track 4, “Slow Dance,” is a bouncy, up-tempo tune with piano, soaring synths, muted brass (or is it synth again?), and a simple rhythm. Another standout is the sixth track, “Sagres.” This is a song with a really catchy, almost pop-rock melody that has great hooks and is about a town in Portugal where Matsson goes to get away. (Radio will have to deal with the phrase, “It’s just all this f**kin’ doubt” to play it.)

The second to the last track on Dark Bird Is Home is “Seventeen,” an inspiring guitar anthem, with big strumming guitars, distant steel echoes and piano.

The album ends with the title track, a song that starts simply and minstrel-like, but builds to a march-like rhythm, bigger guitars and synths. A great closer!

For fans of the traditional Tallest Man on Earth style, this is indeed a bit of a departure. But it clearly demonstrates why Matsson is one of the top folk-rock artists today.

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