Album Review: The Tallest Man on Earth has successful Wild Hunt

Album ReviewWild Hunt★★★½

Swedish folk artist Kristian Matsson, also known as The Tallest Man on Earth, released a new album, The Wild Hunt, on April 13 through American record company Dead Oceans.

The opener and title track, "The Wild Hunt," has a similar feel to Matsson's previous album Shallow Grave, starting with his comparable strumming pattern and characteristic voice. Unique to The Tallest Man on Earth, the banjo is not used in the melody but in little wisps in the background, while the guitar is used as a voice switching strumming patterns and the vocals are the harmony that carries the listener from one song to another. Matsson's simple, lo-fi recordings are stripped of everything but his voice and strings - elements that make the album succinct and enjoyable.

The Tallest Man on Earth doesn't fit neatly into any category, although it is associated with Dead Oceans' international alt-folk based acts (Dirty Projectors, Bishap Allen and Bowerbirds). Partner labels Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar respectively feature Jason Molina, Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. (more deconstructed with country and blues influence) and Bon Iver, Company and Okkervil River (more alternative and meticulous).

Unlike these bands, Matsson is more modern, though he does have a very heavy country twang in his singing. He is also classically designated as folk, especially considering his newly apparent interest in the grass-roots movement of the 1960s; The Wild Hunt exemplifies this even more so than Shallow Grave, Matsson's first LP.

Depsite being born in Sweden with English as a second language, Matsson is certainly not lacking in the lyrics department. Similar to Johnny Flynn in voice and authorship, he interjects into serious subjects whimsical backgrounds. In the "King of Spain," he writes, "Still I am not from Barcelona, I am not even from Madrid / I am a native of the North Pole, and that can mess up any kid," signifying the boost of confidence in finding new love as seen through the eyes of a child at play.

The most interesting song in the collection is "The Drying of the Lawns," which has a change of tempo with foot tapping to keep the beat - something, when hearing The Tallest Man on Earth's other songs, that the listener would think that is rather constricting for how many times the pace changes.

The guitar work, similar to a stripped Fleet Foxes, starts the most melancholy, "She said I cannot tell you why, she said I'm in a rush / there are softer dreams for you to think about now love." Mid-song, Matsson stops playing to bring in and conclude the purpose of his song. He is a master of subconscious, willing the listener without their knowledge, and thankfully he uses this power for good.u