At a slightly below average height of 5'5”, it seems ironic for Kristian Matsson to go by the moniker The Tallest Man On Earth. But honestly, I think it's safe to say he lives up to that title with his passion, ambition, and unforgettable stage presence. The Swedish musician has learned to overcome his small stature with words and melodies, and he is really, really good at it. Along with that and his true appreciation of his fans, Matsson's followers are beginning to grow exponentially.
Before listening to The Tallest Man On Earth's new EP, Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird, I will admit I had my doubts (regrettably). He had just released a damn good LP a few months before and I was worried it was either going to be too different or all the songs would be too similar to really stand out and it would get old. But I'm starting to believe Matsson is incapable of writing a bad album. I should've known better as Matsson's unique finger picking and rough, wonderful voice has many sides and all of them seem to work for him. His lyrics only become deeper and richer, and I don't know if I could ever be disappointed in the way his voice delicately carries the poetic words over guitar, piano, and banjo.
“Little River” opens the album with the unmistakeable TTMOE finger-picking that's been symbolic ever since the release of his self-titled EP back in 2007. Just below ten seconds into the song, Matsson's ragged vocals float over the notes just as the birds in his songs do in the sky. The uplifting guitar contrasts any sadness that may be entwined into his great story-telling. The second track, “The Dreamer,” will probably still give me goosebumps every time I hear it. There is so much power and passion brought out, in the chorus especially, something that isn't easy to achieve in a recording studio. It is also the only song with electric guitar, which Matsson hardly ever uses, but somehow still makes it fit in with the rest of the album. Lines like, “I watch the birds, how they dive in then gone / it's like nothing in this world's ever still,” are reminiscent of Matsson's writing style not only on this album, but in all of his previous ones as well. This song is also another one that illustrates how Matsson has managed to turn a cracking voice into something strangely intriguing. The chills return as the song nears the end and the power in the line, “just enough dark to see, how you're the light over me,” increases with each repetition. Yeah, that's passion.
Also included on the new EP is a track titled “Like The Wheel,” which was released as a bonus track on the LP released earlier this year, The Wild Hunt. The original track was sung over piano and was much slower and darker. It mirrored Bob Dylan (who almost everyone has compared Matsson to at one point) and had a hint of Tom Waits. The new version ups the tempo with a guitar instead of a piano and also with way more hopeful vocals. He sounds a lot more interested in this one than the former, and I don't blame him – the updated song is wonderful.
This EP shoves more into seventeen minutes than most bands can manage, and he's just one guy. Every song is a little bit different from the rest but they all still flow together so nicely. Blues is the right concept to put in the title, because each track echoes those melancholic days everyone experiences at some point. But despite the somewhat depressing lyrics, Matsson's vocals and guitar reek of hopefulness. I know one thing we all hope for is laid out in the final track, “Thrown Right At Me,” “one day, I'll find just that friend who can see all this weird beauty thrown right at me.” And well, “weird beauty” is probably the best way to describe this album.
By Amber John