It is often a nuisance whenever a critic calls a new and young artist a “beatnik”, but I suppose that it would be a somewhat suitable classification for Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth. Despite a fresh and wavering scene that mainly dismisses gritty folk as a component of the past, Matsson has chosen to disregard the skeptics and carry on with a style that suits him the best, similar to the individualistic ideals of his namesake. If you had read any article concerning Matsson prior to this one, you are probably aware of one comparison that is consistently evident. Dylan-like, Dylan-esque… yeah, you get the drift – Matsson sounds a bit like the folk legend. It seems that the tag has been granted to seemingly every folk songwriter with an acoustic guitar these days, but Matsson actually makes a case for a legit comparison. Playing a varied style of acoustical folk is one thing, but Matsson’s excelled lyrical prowess is where he shines most uniquely. Providing a cohesion of metaphorical imagery and anecdotal musings, Matsson’s emphasis on nature serves as a refreshing change of pace when compared to other, somewhat melodramatic songwriters. Though the transcendentalism of Thoreau and Emerson provided us with a similarly successful literary device for two centuries, the delivery is exceptionally suited for Matsson’s music. Appropriately enough, the talented Swede sounds nothing like the indie-pop the country has been stereotypically churning out enjoyably in massive numbers. In fact, I would have taken him for an American if I had not known prior of his geographical origins. His style of folk takes plenty of dues from rootsy Americana, with his soulful croon embodying the genuine ardency that western folk music has come to be known for.
Folk remains Matsson’s primary stylistic preference, but he also weaves in elements of finger-picked blues (Piedmont blues) to provide a reminder of artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Curley Weaver. To make the sense of nostalgia even more suitable, Mattson utilizes a form of production that relies on both his raspy vocals and instrumental minimalism. The lo-fi approach is overwhelmingly appealing when applied to Matsson, and it mainly has to due with the fact that his lyrics are constantly invigorating. Considering they play such a large role and are impossible to avoid due to the minimalist style of production, his poetic talent provides a breath of a relief. Also, the fact that his debut, Shallow Grave, sounds like it was recorded on a random tape machine is part of its lo-fi charm; it is the same method that made the preceding EP so uniquely enjoyable. I admit that, like Dylan or any artist in a similar vein, not everyone will find themselves growing easily accustomed to Matsson’s vocal style. It has a sense of intimacy to it that usually only songwriters that are old in age and bountiful in experience encompass, being unconventional in the most broadest sense. I personally was enamored with it the first time I heard the opening track on Shallow Grave, the fantastic “I Won’t Be Found”. Rather than simply repeating “carpe diem”, Matsson signifies the importance of treasuring every moment in life, looking upon death as an imminent circumstance that can only be enjoyed if its preceding life was lived to the fullest extent. Over a fastidiously plucked guitar progression, he sings ardently and establishes time as a component that should be treasured. “Well if I ever get to slumber just like I’m old deep in the ground, hell, I won’t be found.” “Into the Stream” features a more simplistically repetitive progression that is excelled by Matsson’s vocal melody and the slight melodic transitioning that takes place after each verse. This time around, Matsson tackles the obstacles in turning a fantasy into reality. Using natural elements like alternating weather with metaphorical significance, the values of societal perception are also put into question, eventually settling on circumstances that are widely dependent on the individual. As far as recent folk artists go, I have heard very few that compare to Kristian Matsson’s raw skill as a lyricist and songwriter.
The Tallest Man on Earth – I Won’t Be Found
The Tallest Man on Earth – Into the Stream