Music Reviews
The Wild Hunt

The Tallest Man on Earth The Wild Hunt

(Dead Oceans) Rating - 9/10

Nowadays, there’s an insidious morbidity in how the general public perceives the archetypal folk musician. He’s romanticized as this lonesome, rallied off track troubadour with solemn intentions and a deep search for meaning, perceiving the injustices of an ever-increasing contemporary lifestyle, escorted by the never-ending rough land. He’s the protector to us all; his land is his muse. Yet, for every folkster in the, um, crowded streets of the city, there will always be that true balladeer roaming among us, reciting his everyday struggles with a potency that can’t just be ignored – and we’ll devour every last word.

Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, known broadly as the Tallest Man on Earth, has a clear perception of Americana. Yet, behind his croaked voice or his occasional conked out English, Matsson’s bucolic ditties seem true to life, as if he really were holding the pony by its flying mane. I imagine how barren the landscapes of Scandinavia must be to produce this sort of inspiration, since most of his imagery doesn’t ring as tawdry or encyclopedic. The Wild Hunt, just like 2007’s Shallow Grave, follows that safe intimate production that could very well sound like vignettes of his relentless approach to going on tour. It still sounds as if he were basking in a recording booth, fingerpicking with utmost delivery as the microphone registers his every last breath. Like a younger Van Morrison, his high pitch occasionally steeps off the adequate frequency, but it’s that same fractured croon that compliments his mostly clamped acoustic resonance.

Matsson doesn’t have the same inherent sadness as say, Bon Iver, whose doomed tales on love are mainly his muse. Yes, his narratives are mostly to his own, but those slices of life are confidingly dressed as fantastical tales of heroism that read as epic poems. Just like in The King of Spain, an allegorical fantasy that seems to concern the process of changing one's persona for someone else (Well if you could reinvent my name, well if you could redirect my day, I wanna be the King of Spain), he fantasizes about wearing Spanish boots while the señoritas sigh at the mere sight of his impressionable persona. He comes out as vengeful, even if anecdotal or inoffensive with this approach. In Burden of Tomorrow, his accelerated, strum-like approach makes an adequate contrast to the more blues pickin' compositions, every vibration of the strings shining with unsullied clarity.

Matsson’s songwriting on The Wild Hunt remains unchanged, yet the pacing has vastly improved. Within such a constricted musical range, each individual track boasts memorable melodic variations, as if he knew every single scale of the guitar with impenetrable mastery. Matsson only stumbles in Kids on the Run, an unremarkable piano ballad that’s far too blasé, coming close to detonating the overall spirit of the former nine acoustic bouts. Ultimately, The Wild Hunt’s stumbles are too little to mask what could be Matsson’s finest hour. He may act as if he’s the tallest man on earth, but he may very well literally be a talent of Goliath proportions.