I hadn’t planned on writing about The Tallest Man on Earth this week. I actually had another musical artist narrowed down from my ever-growing list of New Favorite Music Ever and had already begun writing that post before I even knew there a man making incredible music with mostly just his voice and a guitar under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth.
That was last night, and in that time, I have listened to all three of his full-length albums to-date straight through, and then the most recent album, There’s No Leaving Now, twice. I fell in love with it immediately and all of my plans about that other artist I started writing about for this week went right out the window. I was so taken with this particular album and enjoyed it so much that rather than risk my life by climbing up to the highest point on my roof to scream my music recommendations at my neighbors first thing in the morning, I figured this has to be the next best and much safer thing to do.
The Tallest Man on Earth is Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson. Recommended to me based on my ridiculous love of Conor Oberst (seriously, if you thought my post about Rilo Kiley was an exercise in extreme fandom, you haven’t seen a thing compared to how I feel about pretty much anything Conor Oberst has ever musically touched. Give it time; he is still making music and you are bound to get a post about him eventually.)
After listening to everything I could find by The Tallest Man on Earth, literally, I wouldn’t necessarily compare him to Oberst. Their music, while in the same (mostly) folk vein, isn’t terribly similar. They do have one glaringly obvious thing in common, however. Both Conor Oberst and Kristian Matsson have been repeatedly compared to Bob Dylan. I have long been a critic of putting that badge on Oberst, just because I think he has the weight to sit comfortably on his own without the incessant need to compare or lump him into the same bubble as the epic, legendary Dylan. I am generally uncomfortable with comparing one artist to the next to the next as it is, but I immediately, with just the first song I heard Kristian Matsson sing, flat-out compared him to Bob Dylan, in both songwriting and vocal styles.
The first The Tallest Man on Earth song I listened to was “The Gardener” from the first album Shallow Grave, and within just the first few words Matsson sung, it was as if I were hearing a young Bob Dylan sing about insecurity and relationships.
It is my understanding that Shallow Grave was heavily inspired by Bob Dylan, but I was delighted to see him acknowledge and own up to what he was able to learn and take away from him in an interview I was able to find. He is asked about how he became familiar with the vocabulary of American songwriting and answers with, “I started when I was 15, I started to listen to Bob Dylan… no shit.” Here is the link to the interview, and the question begins at the 2:40 mark.
As I listened to the second album, The Wild Hunt, which came two years after his debut release, I could hear Matsson getting a little further away from the distinct vocal tone and delivery that is a constant in the first album, and I enjoyed it more because of it. I was able to just begin to hear him as himself, showcasing his real abilities.
Kristian Matsson so obviously matured as a songwriter and vocalist in his third and latest album, There’s No Leaving Now, which came out in the summer of 2012. He finally wrote, recorded, and produced an album that is more him standing on his own as an artist than any of the previous releases, and perhaps not surprising at all, this is my favorite album of his.
My favorite song on There’s No Leaving Now is the title track. It’s the slowest track on the album, which should surprise no one because I naturally gravitate towards the slow and sentimental and this is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in a long, long time.
A phenomenal example of folk music that can be upbeat, make you happy, give you goosebumps, and get your brain ready to start the day is “Wind and Walls.”