I have to admit, when it comes to Sweden I have a bit of a musical bias. I don’t think I’m alone though. Abba has emotionally scarred a lot of people, and I think it’s fair for all of us to hold a grudge. Plus, the country is also home to a thriving death metal scene. But I suppose I should ease up on the Swedes a bit, and take a bit of time to explore the rest of their music, which lies somewhere between the polar opposites of 70s synth-pop and gloom, doom, and screaming. Nestled deep in that musical valley is Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, a man who holds little in common with Abba or In Flames.
Matsson’s stage name is misleading, because he’s apparently quite normal in height. What he lacks in extraordinary height he makes up for in songwriting ability though. With just his distinctive voice and an acoustic guitar he’s able to command a stage and tell an audience a complete story. He draws a lot of comparisons to Bob Dylan, and there certainly is something Dylan-esque about him. But Matsson is just beginning his career, so any comparison is going to be inherently unfair. He seems to recognize and acknowledge the comparison though, winkingly referring to Dylan’s song “Boots of Spanish Leather” in his song “King of Spain”.
Matsson’s recorded his debut album, Shallow Grave, in his home in Sweden, with just an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and his voice as instruments. The album’s simplicity is part of it’s power though. With nothing to hide behind the songs must stand on their own, and they succeed. Critics loved the album, and its success got Matsson a gig opening for Bon Iver on tour. Once he started playing for US audiences they started to realize that this guy is real. And they started spreading the word.
Fast Forward a year and Matsson is set to release his follow up album. The Wild Hunt sounds like a logical progression to Shallow Grave. The songs and production are a little more polished, though not distractingly so. He builds off Shallow Grave without losing the simple power that made it so good.
“You’re Going Back”
“Where Do My Bluebird Fly?”, live on KEXP
“The Gardener”, live on La Blogotheque
“King of Spain”, live