opinion by BENJI TALYOR
Sweden’s province of Dalarna is notable for its rich forests, glorious fishing lakes, and for Kristian Matsson. The folk-pop supremo records his meld of spirited but wistful songcraft under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth. Dalarna has a rich and quirky folk culture and distinct music, traditions that inform Matsson’s fourth LP Dark Bird is Home.
It doesn’t take an encyclopaedic knowledge of music when listening to this album to discern Matsson’s musical reference points. Chief among them: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Conor Oberst. Like Dylan and Oberst, Matsson is not the world’s strongest vocalist. But he has a way with gorgeous heartfelt melodies and deceptively textured compositions. Both abound over the course of Dark Bird is Home. Matsson makes solid use of a band this time too, to flesh out the bare-bones folk-pop for which he has previously been renowned.
These ten tracks comprise dreamy arrangements, laden with longing, and steeped in nostalgia. Thematically, Matsson’s concerns revolve around the search for the notion of home, of the passage of time, of feelings of doubt. This is perfectly encapsulated on album highlight "Darkness of the Dream". His warped, cracked vocal on this track’s middle eight is nothing short of transcendent.
His vocals throughout are roughspun, but can be wonderful, subtle and nuanced. They imbue moody gems like the title track with the perfect blend of passion and malaise. Though undercut by a thin vein of melancholy, the instrumentation is often uplifting and upbeat, a foil to the dark themes that Matsson explores. His lyrics reflect this, forged from both light and darkness. There are dreams, but they’re shrouded in shadow ("Darkness of the Dream"). Relationships fray then fracture, but life goes on ("Dark Bird is Home").
“So you honestly believe in me?” a weary Matsson intones on album opener "Fields of Our Home". But despite his melancholic musings, after ten tracks of ageless and effortless songcraft, it’s hard to believe he ever had any doubt. B