It’s rare to see a songwriter like Kristian Matsson get the attention and respect he deserves from a larger section of the online press than simply the die-hard folkies, as the recent “Best New Music” nod from Pitchfork, as well as all the recent posts from blogs usually reserved for music much more “now” sounding than this, attests. As The Tallest Man On Earth, Matsson writes and performs songs that are hardly ever arranged beyond their most basic elements - often just violently strummed or delicately-picked acoustic guitar and the kind of voice that will get a room to stand in rapt attention. No chill-wave sound effects, no raging electric guitars, and no looped beats to be found. Songs with little flash beyond the bare sounds and the often striking words. I may have gotten into 2008’s Shallow Grave a few months late, but it left such a mark that I’ve been anticipating its follow up since it was first announced.
His latest, The Wild Hunt, has already produced a pair of appetite-whetting early singles, “King of Spain” and “Burden of Tomorrow”. Both are representative of what to expect from the new material, and fans of Shallow Grave will not at all be disappointed. There are a few surprises to be found though - “Love Is All”, perhaps a reference to his fellow Swedes in the band sharing the same name, has a unique and refreshing chorus melody, and “You’re Going Back” sounds downright angry in a way that I don’t remember hearing before in Matsson’s songs. Perhaps most disarming is album closer “Kids On The Run”, a piano ballad/anthem that may have it’s inspiration in last year’s Daytrotter version of Shallow Grave’s “I Won’t Be Found”. Simply put, it’s one of the best songs I‘ve heard all year. If you’re going to invite the “early Dylan” comparisons (not to mention those of early blues-men like Dock Boggs, Mississippi John Hurt, and Leadbelly) as obviously as Matsson does you better have the songs to back it up - and he has them in spades. Simple arrangements and all, The Wild Hunt is one of the year’s freshest albums. It’s also one of the best.
MP3 :: King Of Spain
MP3 :: Burden of Tomorrow
(from The Wild Hunt. Buy here)