Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When Kristian Matsson?better known as The Tallest Man on Earth?first touched down with his scrappy debut full-length in 2008, he was seen as a Swedish Dylan composite, and for not unfounded reasons. Replete as he is with a lyrical arsenal worthy of launching protests or lamenting insomnia-induced hallucinations, Matsson’s talents were firmly rooted in an American tradition of finger-picked folk anthems. Subsequent releases post-Shallow Grave furthered Matsson’s introspective poetry, forging an uncanny symbiosis between his gravelly tenor and his six-string.
Dark Bird is Home, the fourth full-length from the Tallest Man on Earth, has been described as the singer/songwriter's most personal and direct piece of work to date. But it's also his most stylized and welcoming, suggesting that Kristian Matsson (a.k.a. the Tallest Man on Earth) possesses a charm and personality that hadn't fully been exposed on his earlier works.Written in various countries, the ten tracks that make up Dark Bird Is Home tackle subjects mostly related to a life on the road: long distance relationships, a yearning for home and a yearning to find oneself.
Kristian Matsson is the Tallest Man on Earth; at least, that is the moniker he has chosen since his eponymous 2006 debut EP. Enthusiastic critics have placed additional titles upon him, none the least being the ever-popular “new Dylan” tag. Certainly, his expert guitar and banjo picking style and deliberate, ‘30s-inflected vocal affectations on his debut full-length album Shallow Grave lent credence to the comparison.
Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, who is not the tallest man on earth, is following a Dylanish musical progression: after three albums of wordy folk minimalism, he’s reached his noisy stage – and it’s promising. Opening track Fields of Our Home starts understatedly, with Matsson’s high, arid vocal lines shadowed by a banjo, but acquires layers of guitar, brass and keyboards which gradually swamp his voice. When the massed weight of the instruments kicks in, there’s a triumphalism that recalls Simple Minds in their stadium pomp.
An acoustic guitar strummed in elegantly offhand fashion. A penetrating, wistful vocal that at times sounds like it’s being dragged up through its owner’s throat by weary will alone. A simple, crystalline melody. Kristian Matsson’s fourth full length as The Tallest Man on Earth starts in familiar, very welcome fashion.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It happens about three-and-a-half minutes into album opener 'Fields of our Home', a quiet choral explosion knocks you off balance with its bass, shifting the steady ground of expectation towards unfamiliar territory. The song ends before your equilibrium is fully restored, before your brain can process the change Kristian Matsson races into 'Darkness of the Dream', leaving you somewhat incredulous, wait, is that a snare drum?.
Especially for longtime fans of his, it is hard to ever meet the music of Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, with any displeasure. With his slightly gravelly, nasal voice—sometimes compared to Bob Dylan's—his brilliant guitar work, and his often poetic narrative lyrics, he is always a delight to listen to. And with an average of about two years between albums, he doesn't keep fans waiting too long for his next output.
Review Summary: Through a rainbow darkly. What do I want from a Tallest Man on Earth record? It’s a question I’ve had difficulty answering since Kristian Matsson’s fourth LP Dark Bird Is Home leaked what seems like ages ago and Matsson revealed himself as the world’s most melancholy soft rock apologist. There’s no doubt that, all things considered, Dark Bird Is Home is Matsson’s most coherent vision yet, a fully realized monument to a crumbling marriage and a future that’s lyric sheet reads far more uncertain than the lush production soundtracking it.
The Tallest Man on Earth gets likened to Bob Dylan all the time by listeners who use the name to signify little more than nasal vocals and acoustic guitar. With three minimal albums to his name, Kristian Matsson finally reaches beyond that beloved guitar on Dark Bird Is Home. Halfway through opener “Fields of Our Home”, he sticks his fingers into the meddling mess of a full band and looks back up with a stoic gaze, proud.
Kristian Mattson’s fourth album as The Tallest Man on Earth lies somewhere between the two biggest records of 2015 to have sprung from “folk” origins: Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell and Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind. Luckily, Dark Bird Is Home hews far closer to the intimate elegance of the former, but it does share Wilder Mind’s expansion of its creator’s acoustic origins. It’s to the album’s credit that it accomplishes this expansion without losing the emotional or musical subtlety of its predecessors, or without reverting to the empty stadium-filling of Mumford & Sons.
Early on, Kristian Matsson, the Swedish singer and songwriter better known as the Tallest Man on Earth, was content to be a simple contemporary folkie, strumming and singing all by his lonesome. But having taken that formula as far as he cared to go, he's been consistently upping the production value on his albums, and in terms of his studio treatments, Matsson's fourth full-length, 2015's Dark Bird Is Home, is his most ambitious set to date. Matsson himself is sounding a bit different with the passage of time; the craggy side of his voice has mostly fallen away, and he's developed a winsome tone that vaguely resembles the young Paul Simon.
It’s a little ironic that some of the most stirring, evocative Americana in today’s indie-rock landscape comes from central Sweden. On the other hand, Kristian Matsson, better known as the Tallest Man on Earth, might sing in the key of Dylan (though recently he’s adopted more of an adenoidal naturalism à la Deer Tick’s John McCauley), but he knows better than to indulge the kind of historical pageantry that makes even the most virtuosic, authentically rustic folk-rock bands sound like novelty acts. Instead, he enlists American folk’s instrumentation and rural iconography to tell haunting first-person narratives untethered to a time or place.
The music of Kristian Matsson (who records as the Tallest Man on Earth) doesn't carry the same loneliness of other heartbroken folkies; Matsson's music, instead, has solitude. Loneliness is a condition, a place you end up and from which you are eager to leave, but solitude is a choice. Like Henry James or Emily Dickinson, who best detail the workings of their mind when they are cloistered away from the world, Matsson is more concerned with a wellspring of autonomous thought rather than the chirpings of modern society.
Waking from a twelve month hibernation and reassuring us, buried in a short teaser video, that “this is not the end – this is fine”, Kristian Mattson’s fourth album as The Tallest Man on Earth feels worthy of such a frank disclaimer. ‘Dark Bird Is Home’, the Swede’s first album since 2012’s ‘There’s No Leaving Now’, paints a different Mattson altogether – rounding off the sharpness of his previous releases, he’s self-medicated his loneliness through the company of other musicians, and these songs project a new kind of warmth and vibrancy. For those in doubt, refer back to the disclaimer – it doesn’t take too much digging to unearth the qualities that brought Mattson here in the first place.
opinion by BENJI TALYOR Sweden’s province of Dalarna is notable for its rich forests, glorious fishing lakes, and for Kristian Matsson. The folk-pop supremo records his meld of spirited but wistful songcraft under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth. Dalarna has a rich and quirky folk culture and distinct music, traditions that inform Matsson’s fourth LP Dark Bird is Home.
On The Tallest Man On Earth’s 2010 Sometimes The Blues Is A Passing Bird EP, Swedish folk songwriter Kristian Matsson had his first major departure from his roots when on “The Dreamer” he replaced his acoustic guitar strums with the harsh, firm tones of an electric. The singer so often compared to Bob Dylan was following in his hero’s footsteps and plugging in, and the result was exquisite. Now, on his fourth LP, Dark Bird Is Home, Matsson is again departing from the expected, but this time it’s from his status as a solo act.
The fourth album by The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Swedish songwriter Kristian Matsson, is the first to feature a full band on nearly every track. The extra players elevate Matsson's sparkly folk to shimmering levels, while the subtle arrangements keep it grounded and organic. Dark Bird Is Home sounds carefully constructed, and Matsson keeps things simple rather than making easy moves toward a grandeur that could bury his songcraft.