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The Tallest Man On Earth - There's No Leaving Now

 No, you're not listening to Bob Dylan. It isn't even his son, nor he is related by blood in any way. The resemblance, however, is uncanny. I hesitate to label it as mimicking, rather an extreme influence. Kristian takes elements from one of the greatest songwriters of all time and filters those through his own lense, producing a decidely American sounding combination of rasp and skillful guitar finger picking that creates a harmonious and free flowing song style. His previous record, The Wild Hunt, was a tight and well balanced record, producing mountainous peaks such as King Of Spain and Kids On The Run, supplemented by an energy and movement that didn't let up or feel forced for the entire length. I was so impressed I bought tickets to his concert. His performance led my friend and I to label him as 'The Boringest Man On Earth'. His stage presence was poor, he appeared nervous and timid, and he didn't show much energy or vitality. It was a disappointing night.

There's No Leaving Now has an energy that belies Kristian Matsson's performance style. It is refreshing to know that The Wild Hunt was no shot in the dark, this is a man with a clear and concise songwriting style and method that is incredibly effective. Upon first listen it can be difficult to nail down a natural progression from his previous work, I wasn't sure if he was just treading water because of the comfort of his surroundings or whether he had reached his creative extent. On closer observation this album is a step forward, if not sonically then technically speaking. There are new instruments, with drums making a surprise and welcome appearance and the occasional woodwind injection. Surprisingly, the album feels less aggressive, slower and more calculated than The Wild Hunt which had the energy of a runaway bull at times. There's No Leaving Now is more an exercise in control, producing a tighter sounding mix of instruments. It has the effect of reeling in the raspy click of Matsson's voice. On Revelation Blues, a cluttered sound is greeted with a laid-back and restrained vocal performance in which the listener can hear the kinetic energy building. You want a King Of Spain moment, and Matsson doesn't leave you in the cold. The bridge is a runaway train, gathering speed until 'It's the damn revelation blues when you see the path'. Then he reels it in. The effect is mesmerising.

The effect of these extra instruments being added to the mix is a more polished sound, one that feels as though a tighter production method has been employed. 1904 begins by filling the gaps that the single guitar leaves with more guitar, backed by the irrepressible voice wailing 'And some will say it's not even healthy / But body is young and mind is sure'. The perfect situation. Something must be said for the vague nature of Matsson's lyrical content. At first digestion it may feel as though he is putting together unrelated themes and actions, cobbling a nice but ultimately unfocused collection of words and thoughts that sound impressive but are quite unfathomable. This can be said for some stanza's, and it isn't me as a reviewer being lazy and not seeking to unjumble the jumbled. On the delicate Criminals he sings 'Come see the hiding rain / Come see the stillness in all them worms / Come see the lovable strain of someone diving for all you know'. Even more perplexing is Wind and Walls, 'This is wind and walls and weathered leaves and tearing sails / Minnows in your pockets when the rapid's on trails / This is not the future but I sense it's right up there / Just another hour, another pass, another day anywhere' The bewildering thing about him is he doesn't sound pretentious as most do when spewing a vocabulary of unfocused thought at you. It is endearing and provides the listener with a challenge that is so difficult you will not decipher the entire record, but if you do manage to crack a songs code you'll feel a sense of achievement. On Little Brother for instance, the lurid imagery Matsson provides hides a torrid tale of a friend or even relation of Matsson's that is struggling with a darker demon than reality is presenting him with, possibly through a mental struggle. 'And when your memory's lost on a hillside / And a wind takes you further forward now / And your world is a kite in the weather'.

The amazing thing about the album is despite this rambling path you're taken down with Matsson's lyrics you never feel overwhelmed or frustrated. The temptation with a situation like this is to give up, it's so difficult to follow his train of thought that you feel hopeless and turn the music off. The saving grace is the adept nature in which he complements his lyrical content with a soothing and free flowing musical energy. Already a master of the art of finger-picking, the addition of more guitars to most tracks on this album allows an easier listen. It's more attractive to turn your brain off for a moment and fall back in to the melody, to be seduced by it. It's an instant heart rate lowerer, whereas on The Wild Hunt the aggressiveness of his delivery was more a call to arms. This record is a breather, it is an excellent oasis of noise with the occasional introduction of adrenalin to ensure you haven't drifted off to sleep.

7/10. The disappointment on this record are the difficult lyrics and the slower than glass moving progression. It's a nice relaxer, but one dimensional. 

Best tracks: Revelation Blues, Little Brother, 1904

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