The Tallest Man on Earth is Swede Kristian Matsson and he has been creating memorable folk with his rustic, gravelly voiced tunes since 2006. Dark Bird is Home is his fourth, full-length album release.
The album will be out on Dead Oceans May 12 and we take a listen as the album is streaming over at NPR and we share our First Impressions.
The Tallest Man on Earth is firmly planted within today’s talented and notable singer-songwriters. This time around with Dark Bird is Home Matsson offers up a nice balance between soaring dream folk and beautiful acoustic based tracks. The songwriting feels nostalgic and personal which reels the listener in throughout. This album is solid during it’s entire 40+ minutes and can be played in any relaxing and calm environment.
I have a soft spot for more of the dreamy folk – my two favorite tracks are “Fields of Our Home” and “Dark Bird Is Home”, which start and finish the album nicely. Matsson seems to perfect starting the base of his best songs with himself sans guitar, and then builds it beautifully into a melodic and complex audible dream.
With more of his acoustic tracks, “Beginners” is a perfect example of being able to captivate the listener with just his voice and strings. Some of the other tracks including “Timothy”, “Slow Dance” and “Sagres”, it’s almost a hybrid between folk and americana and the mix is nice and refreshing. Dark Bird is Home is absolutely a thumbs up for me. This album will get many more spins and will be added to some other great releases we have already seen this year including Sufjan Stevens and José González.
I have been a fan of The Tallest Man on Earth for a good while. His dreamy folk fits neatly in my musical wheelhouse. I was slightly disappointed in There’s No Leaving Now. On that album Matsson did what I had hoped he would do and expanded his sound. The net result was not quite what I wanted although that album has grown on me.
On Dark Bird is Home Matsson continues to fill out his sound but subtly refines it just enough to make it more interesting and urgent. Songs like “Darkness of Dreams” and “Sagres” are less folk and more Americana rock giving them a very The War on Drugs vibe. These tracks are nicely spaced through the album with more classic acoustic folk gems like “Singers” and “Beginners” where Matsson lets his beautiful voice captivate the listener. This one will get many repeat listens and is without a doubt vinyl worth.
In 15, 20 years from now when we look back at Swedish music history, Kristian Matsson’s name will likely be recognized as the pioneer of indie folk in that country. He may not have invented indie folk, but he helped bring the music and sounds of Bob Dylan and Nick Drake to a new audience while adding his own elements, namely taking folk music into a dreamier more ethereal direction.
On Dark Bird is Home, Matsson retains many of the dream-folk sounds with which he has become associated. Yet, at the same time, he heads back to the roots of folk music and his teenage influences, such as on the lovely but simple “Beginners” and the delicate “Singers”. His restraint is almost as if he’s paying respects to what folk music was meant to be – to connect with people through stories and using the music as a medium to stir people’s emotions.
Matsson doesn’t completely withdraw from dream-folk. “Darkness of the Dream” leans towards the euphoric Americana. “Slow Dance” is trademark Matsson, a stirring and moving track. Then there is “Sagres”, a gorgeous, uplifting song that mixes Americana and folk.
But where Matsson at his best is when he combines traditional folk with dream-folk, where the tracks begin with minimalist instrumentation and then transitioning to its wonderful, multi-layered climax. Not surprisingly, “Fields of Our Home” and the title track, the two bookends of the album, best exemplify Matsson’s mastery. It’s just yet another demonstration that Matsson is still finding ways to create something new and not settling for what he has become known for.
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