After his stellar 2010 album, The Wild Hunt, Kristian Matsson, better known as The Tallest Man On Earth, cemented his spot as one of the best folk artists in the world, and it wasn’t a stretch to say he was the best. He followed that record with a similarly stellar EP, Sometimes the Blues Are Just A Passing Bird. Now, two years after those releases, Matsson looks to capture lightning in a bottle once again on There’s No Leaving Now.
The first thing longtime Tallest Man fans will notice is that this album has a different sound. Specifically, there’s more instrumentation than ever before. Of course, before there was just a guitar and a voice, with the occasional banjo mixed in. To say that there’s more instrumentation than ever doesn’t mean Matsson has developed a sound to rival Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, or Seryn, but there is more sonically going on here. I’m not one to discourage progression for a band, if an artist I love makes a change that works, I’m all for it. Slow Club’s sound changed considerably from their first album to their second, and the second is superior. I liked the first two tracks on There’s No Leaving Now, but something felt off.
The beginning of the album sees the addition of jangly keys, electric guitars, and woodwinds. The most noticeable difference is that there is a less earthy feel, and a more plugged in vibe than on Wild Hunt or Shallow Grave. Not too grand a departure from the normal Tallest Man sound, and it all worked instrumentally, but the songs as a whole felt detached. Specifically, Matsson’s vocals feel distant. This is unusual for a Tallest Man song, where vocals are often the driving force. At first, I was taken aback by this change. It felt too separated. The music has always been extremely emotive and though he hides truth with abstract lyricism, he’s never hid the emotion. The vocal mix made it seem as though a detachment was being made on purpose. A wall being put up. Then, moments later, on “Leading Me Now,” whatever wall or barrier I imagined was completely destroyed. The third track is extremely reminiscent of Tallest Man’s previous recordings, driven by catchy finger picking and vocals with an added bass drum that works to great effect. From there, the record explodes in a string of brilliant song after brilliant song. “Bright Laterns” sees the addition of pedal steel, which works beautifully with Matsson’s vocals and guitar work. “There’s No Leaving Now” is a heartbreaking piano ballad, think “Kids On The Run,” that is a perfect center piece for the album. I could go on and on about each individual song, and I would, but there’s more to talk about. Continue reading