The Tallest Man on Earth is really just a guy named Kristian Matsson. He used to front the band Montezumas, but went solo in 2006. Since then, he’s released two EPs and two full albums, the first of which (2008′s Shallow Grave) got an 8.3 rating from Pitchfork. He’s from Sweden, he sings like Bob Dylan, and his newest LP, The Wild Hunt, is fantastic.
The guitar work is consistently lovely. “Love Is All,” one of the most emotionally raw songs (“Here come the tears, but like always/I let them go/Just let them go”), also has a beautiful melody and delicate, pretty guitar picking. “Troubles Will Be Gone,” an optimistic tune with reassuring lyrics, also has a bright, intricate guitar line. This is in contrast with some of Matsson’s earliest work, like his 2006 self-titled EP, which demonstrated a heavier hand with the guitar and less delicacy.
The lyrics are as honest yet whimsical as ever, but with more maturity. Title track “The Wild Hunt” is full of imagery like “there is a crow moon comin’ in, well you keep looking out/It is the hollow month of March now sweeping in.” Meanwhile, “King of Spain” carries on in the same linear story vein as “The Gardener” from Tallest Man’s first LP, and includes a nod to Bob Dylan (“And I’ll wear my boots of Spanish leather”), as a response to the comparisons with the famed troubadour that have hounded Matsson since his debut.
Although the last song, “Kids on the Run,” seems like a weak, somewhat sappy departure on the piano, each song stands on its own merits, while also blending into the group well.
The whole package reaches a level of cohesion that 2008’s Shallow Grave lacked. Whereas the first album seemed more like a collection of songs, The Wild Hunt is tied together more sturdily. When all the songs are put together, they present a complex story about identity and love.
Matsson isn’t shy about his influences; it’s clear that he loves early Bob Dylan. This is obvious in his wandering lyrics, searing vocals, and upswept hair. But the music is no inauthentic carbon copy; it’s all genuine, which makes the comparison even more of a compliment. The difference between the two also lies in their geography; where Dylan is Americana through and through, Matsson brings us into the quiet countryside of Scandinavia.
The wonderful simplicity of one man with one guitar and one voice is executed perfectly on this record. Where some other singer-songwriters fall flat in terms of energy and electricity when they go this minimalistic, Tallest Man delivers. The intimacy is an asset rather than a detractor. But one also wonders what he could do with a full band, or even an electric guitar.
The Wild Hunt demonstrates the growth that a sophomore album should. The third album will hopefully do this even better, so we can hear what The Tallest Man on Earth can really be (other than Bob Dylan’s long-lost son).