The Tallest Man on Earth, ‘There’s No Leaving Now’ – Album Review
How is it that one of our favorite American folk singers comes from a town of 6,000 in central Sweden? Kristian Matsson, who has been peppered with comparisons to Bob Dylan since his 2006 debut ‘Shallow Grave,’ has a cozy cabin bedroom of a third record in ‘There’s No Leaving Now,’ out now on Dead Oceans.
The new album is more domestic than the previous — the troubadour has galumphed his last and is now settled into his own countryside home. He writes simply, directly, and not a little bit adorably, yearning to be aided in the way that “rain helped a river” in the opening ‘To Just Grow Away.’
Beyond being at home here, the new album adds fuller instrumentation than his previous work. Percussion makes itself first appearant in the downright Dylan-ly titled “Revelation Blues,’ while multi-tracked guitar lifts up the catchy Neutral Milk Hotel-like ‘1904.’ Unlike some other folk bros, Matsson is comfortable with self-deprecation, winking in ‘Leading Me Now’ that “we will come back and joke of days when I sold you to the unkind.”
The heartwrenching title track eschews the guitar strum and pulls in piano to produce an intimate marriage of interior monologue, interpersonal consolatio, and naturalistic imagery. With lines like “there will be times you harvest rivers that for so long refused to row,” Matsson employs a staggering economy of efficiency that’s easily delivered.
The boy strums a breezy guitar in ‘Wind and Wails,’ the instrumentation fleshed out by a few subtle strings, his voice shifting into a vulnerable falsetto in the chorus. The impression of the album is one of settling in, perhaps by the “oh lords” engendered by “sleeping by the tracks every night.” In only 29 years, his songs are pocked with wisdom, melancholy and hope.
Matsson is at his most affectionate and fraternal in ‘Little Brother,’ cautioning the listener of the dangers of thought and wolves and drink and drowning. When he sighs, “If only we could lose these miles,” he’s talking as much to the listener as himself. The guitarist has grown into maturity, and in ‘Criminals’ he reflects on where he came from: “There was a time in my life when I was carried by all of you.” But that time is clearly gone.
As with most writers, Matsson tends toward self-analysis. The closer ‘On Every Page’ is as much wincing as it is winsome. You can just see him skipping stones across a lake, reflecting on how his life became his art: “There must be marks on every page from the past to these songs.” Reflective and sensitive, Matsson’s songs are as authentic as he is.