Each year there is an artist that softly and gently creeps their way into my world in the middle of a season filled with hard-banging electro, power guitar riffs and boom bap drums, offering a little taste of what my Fall and Winter will sound like. In 2007 it was Bon Iver’s unorthodox melodies and haunting vocals; in 2008 it was the poetry of Kings of Convenience; in 2009 it was the intimacy of the debut album from The xx; and in 2010 it has been Kristian Matsson’s project The Tallest Man on Earth. From the moment I heard ‘King of Spain’ from Matsson’s second full-length The Wild Hunt, released earlier this year, I knew that Sweden had birthed yet another modern musical gem. Obvious Dylan comparisons aside, Matsson’s rasp and folksiness immediately give his music a texture which has been all but forgotten in the European music scene, and which has largely fallen out of vogue internationally.
To cap off his breakout year, Matsson will release the perhaps unfortunately-titled Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird EP, which is an emotionally dense, but empirically short, journey – a brief 17 minutes over 5 tracks. When I first put it on, I remember pulling out a magazine – as the album drew to a close, I was still staring at the same page. It had me fully captivated, supplanting any desire to cloud my mind with extra-sensory stimuli. The feeling was refreshing as it’s been months since I just sat down and listened to music without doing anything else. Hearing the first notes of ‘Little River’, I suppose I was completely blind-sided and found myself unexpectedly entrenched.
Matsson recalls the genre that he’s become most associated with on tracks like opener ‘Little River’ and the paysage-painting ‘Tangle in the Trampled Wheat’; then ventures into plugged in territory, flipping a bluesy pedal on ‘The Dreamer’, where his vocals make the track distinctly unpop. My favourite moment comes on what I believe to be his best track to date ‘Like the Wheel’. From the tender acoustic notes to the longing and elegiac lyrics, I can’t help but empathize with a mourning I haven’t felt before. “I said oh my Lord, why am I not strong? Like a branch that keeps, hangmen hanging on, like a branch that will take me home.” Let these 17 minutes spin on repeat through your Fall and Winter, but try not to listen to them while operating heavy machinery.
Tags: The Tallest Man on Earth