Release Date: Nov 9, 2010
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Another dose of sparse, acoustic daydreaming—still pensive, gorgeous, mysterious One thing missing from a lot of music today is mystery. In the pre-Internet days—before everything was leaked and available for anticipation-killing preview at the click of a mouse weeks before its scheduled release, back when there were special midnight record sales and fans so badly wanted a new album that they camped out in record-store parking lots to be first in line—people used to buy a lot of music based on nothing more than an intriguing album cover, say Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, or a bizarrely awesome band name, like The Jesus Lizard. As a music lover interested in discovering something new and amazing, the safe bet was that any album with a cover featuring two businessmen shaking hands while one bursts into flames—or by a band with a name that enigmatically juxtaposed the Christian savior and a menacing reptile—was going to kick some serious ass.
Perhaps there is a lost artist colony of expat Mississippi Delta bluesmen living somewhere in rural Sweden that no one knows about? There’s no other way to explain the one-man-folk demigod that is Kristian Matsson. For years now, he’s been turning the glitch-ridden, techno-influenced Swedish music scene on its ear by producing nothing but bare, heartfelt tunes about love and longing. His new EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, delivers that classically beautiful sound Matsson is known for, albeit with one shocking surprise: dude’s gone electric.
Though he comes from Dalarna (a town near Stockholm), Kristian Matsson's music has never sounded particularly Swedish. It's usually influenced more by American folk and blues than by anything from his own country. But on his new EP, there's an unmistakable tinge of Scandinavian melancholy. Ironically, it's the first album he's recorded entirely away from home.
Following close on the heels of the excellent album The Wild Hunt, The Tallest Man on Earth offers this equally impressive EP of front-porch folk songs. It may turn out to be one of the year’s best. Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird finds Swedish-born Kristian Matsson carving a trail through wide meadows and acres of wheat fields, leaving in his wake gorgeous meditations on loneliness and longing.
Neither a sequel nor a satellite to this year's The Wild Hunt, the Tallest Man on Earth's new EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, is a statement in its own right. While many post-LP EPs round up same-session tracks or studio experiments for diehard fans, these five austere folk songs were written on the road and recorded during a recent break from touring. They're unmistakably Tallest, marked by the vulnerability in Kristian Matsson's croak of a voice, the strident complexity of his guitarwork, and his thoughtful, often fractured lyrics inspired, ostensibly, by his native Sweden-- specifically the mountainous region of Dalarna, northwest of Stockholm.
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson, aka the Tallest Man on Earth, keeps it sparse with a summertime EP of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and vocals, written on the road just after the release of The Wild Hunt. Comparisons to a young Bob Dylan are common, and in a rustic, intimate setting such as this, the similarities are hard to ignore. Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, Matsson's quietest EP, demonstrates just how powerful a man can be alone with a guitar and a voice.
Review Summary: Kristian Matsson stays the tallest man in your eyes for five more songs. When Kristian Matsson released The Wild Hunt earlier this year, it pinned his soulfully barked folk ramblings firmly on the map. Though in person a diminutive man, it was an album that further cemented the idea his moniker referred not to his height but to his presence as an artist, and to his confidence in a voice that could firmly stand out to listeners.
Distilling the essence of Kristian Matsson’s (you know and love him as the Tallest Man On Earth) sepia-toned folklore is probably a task best left to the image that graced the cover of his 2010 full-length, The Wild Hunt: a dusty plain on the verge of sunset, taken—we can reasonably assume from the small strip of highway along the photo’s border—from the window of a moving vehicle. These are grainy snapshots of what Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America,” the kind of fleeting transmissions you might expect to pick up while driving through a stretch of Iowa where the only things you see for 150 miles are cornstalks, deceased rodents and the occasional sign attempting to divert an understandably bored driver 20 miles off-road even deeper into the middle of nowhere to gaze upon the world’s largest ball of yarn—sparse, vast, desolate, and epic in its quirkiness. You could forgive someone for being skeptical upon hearing that this guy’s from Sweden; with all due respect to that nation’s great countryside, this is some of the most distinctly American music we’ve ever heard.