This ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ review was written by Omar Alavi, a GIGsoup contributor.
Ever wondered what would have happened had pre-Newport ‘Dylan’ mated surreptitiously with Folk-pioneer ‘Pete Seeger’? No. Well OK, because what purpose would it serve other than understanding the high bar ‘Kristian Matsson’, apparently ‘The Tallest Man On Earth’, has set for himself musically. It’s a long hard climb to be able to rise to the occasion consistently and cast your own shadow long enough to be noticed nay sharp enough to be taken seriously.
The fourth album, ‘Dark Bird is Home’, is a collection of folk-flavored rock songs that is a throwback lyrically. ‘Matsson’ writes and composes where is, as is! No embellishments, no crazy software-created hooks just sitting down and bringing ‘em out as he feels! Often listening closely one is apt to hear a soft cough, a clearing of throat which is endearing in a time where production values hide such ‘anomalies’. The fella sings it out for you with the brilliance of the human touch and a special truth of emotions. Couple that with a driving folk sound that, appear sparse but, makes liberal use of an assortment of smartly infused pianos, clarinets, percussions and strings and you have a richness that rarely features in folk pop without going over the top. It is no surprise, thus, ’The Tallest Man on Earth’ is huge live where staying true and projecting deep personal lyrics often elicit the most enthusiastic responses. ‘Dark Bird is Home’ blends phenomenally in the band’s repertoire of concert set-list.
‘Matsson’ set to write about the collapse of his marriage, embarked upon the project bearing in mind Paul Simon’s epic breakup album ‘Hearts and Bones’. The vision was set to achieve universality of idea, the uncovering of a kindred spirit that lives within us, all with deft personal observations loosely centered on the theme of a fast paced lifestyle outgunning the slow, layered walk of a relationship.
‘Fields of our Home’ starts the quest with quiet picking on an acoustic guitar, unadorned, reflecting a existential crises. Questions the significance of the ‘flaming town’ of no holds barred rat race competition that envelops one without the slightest idea of where the quest is heading as you “rush at the crossing to reach the other end”. With the frenzy of rhythm guitars interplaying with the haunting echo ‘Matsson’ discovers the ‘Darkness of the Dream’. Fast-pacing the crossing he vents out the story as old as time, the tale of the dream and the dreamer, the numbing fall from grace unearthing the mortality of a being coiffed in trappings of success.
‘Singers’ is a charming song lyrically. Small little answers that keeps one afloat as The Tallest Man turns to his trade of songwriting as you “rise into it and feel a little lighter”. But he simmers as the “weather builds in silence”, with an audible sigh and ‘hmmm’ heard across the mic as he talk-sings this classic folk-jazz feel. Slow Dance, a brilliant reference to unpredictable highs and lows of life, is ironic with mid-tempo beats and its very U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’-like intro inviting the listener to subliminally register that song’s yearning. That’s where any accidental similarities end and a seething, blistering ‘Matsson’ tattoos out the feelings of exasperation for “times like these where even jugglers cannot win”.
The introspective and bluesy ‘Little Nowhere Towns’ revisits the downside of fast-tracking through small but important aspects of a relationship the one ‘Matsson’ “barely can remember” as he “went through this house like a cannonball”, feeling “broken down”, cold and empty.
‘Sagres’ is the most commercially driven song on the set reminiscing the feel of Springsteen’s My Hometown but with a Folk-Rock arrangement thriving on the chaos brought on by a 20-20 hindsight! Sometimes one falls from grace suddenly, ruthlessly, and endlessly. ‘Matsson’, as his marriage crumbled, questions whether the “wild sets of rides” were worth the pain and that would the “sadness…hold [him] to the ground”. The haunting echo through the track, wistfully, reveals that maybe that’s a mirage.
The infectious Timothy scores with Matsson’s spectacular clarinet wails weaving through the entire melody structure. It is not uncommon to be influenced by an accomplished musician and The Tallest Man on Earth evokes Bryan Adam’s ‘Summer of 69’ passion into Timothy with provocative intensity. Beginners contemplates destiny with its rustic, run down, raw folk feel that elucidates the urgency of not having “a helluva lot of time…so let it out and let it ride”. The melancholic Seventeen laments the loss of youth but musically the song falls flat with its full sound that begs for a let up in energy and to slow it down.
The title track ‘Dark Bird is Home’ is a cracker of an end, feisty in its audacity of claiming the zone of absolutely no answers to Matsson’s predicament. And that’s how life is, there are no “aha” moments of truths, there are however series of what ifs. Dark Bird starts off in earnest “there are many ways of sorrows from just stepping out” and outros with an f-bomb which is a perfect punctuation for the whole album.
Dark Bird is Home is cleverly crafted. It’s daring and yet so very familiar. ‘Matsson’ has developed this persona with great depth while keeping raw emotions accessible. And while some may argue that there are too many influences that dilutes, and distracts from, his own musicianship they cannot deny that this album feels the joy of contentment which ‘Matsson’ can truly call his own unique zone – dark, lived-in, moody. Support systems when they explode, as relationship crumbles, heart aches, mind boggles, The Tallest Man begins his ecstatic and torrid affair with life. The album is riveting!
The full track-listing for ‘Dark Bird Is Home’ is as follows…
‘Fields of our Home‘
‘Darkness of the Dream‘
‘Little Nowhere Towns’
‘Dark Bird Is Home’
You can see ‘The Tallest Man On Earth’ at one of these venues…
19th June 2015 – Best Kept Secret Festival 2015, Beekse Bergen, Hilvarenbeek TICKETS