There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man on Earth (Dead Oceans, 2012. 39 minutes)
The Tallest Man on Earth is the stage name of Swedish singer-songwriter, Kristian Matsson. Matsson has released three full-length albums and two EPs. He is heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. Matsson is married to fellow singer-songwriter Amanda Matsson of Idiot Wind.
In Exploration of Top-Notch Analysis
In case you didn’t notice, my previous review explored a book of poetry—the first poetry review on this blog. I’ve avoided poetry because I don’t know what to do with it. It has been said to critically review art one must question whether the artist completed her purpose. If you don’t like the art but the artist achieved his ends, shouldn’t, then, we label his work “good art”?
I haven’t studied poetry academically. I understand its emotive qualities and its attempt at constructing or deconstructing structure. But often, my analysis of poetry results in phrases such as “I like,” or “Me no like.” Top-notch analysis, I know.
Poetry: A Pillar of Good Music
So how does poetry connect to There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man on Earth? Well first off, the same issues in poetry apply to lyrics. My typical response to song lyrics resides in an affirming or denying category. Sometimes songwriters throw me a bone by writing a themed album, but most records are a collection of dissimilar songs.
There’s No Leaving Now contains an assortment of songs with some overarching themes, certainly. But what interests me about the record is Kristian Matsson’s ability to use piquant guitar playing, unexpected melodies, and poetic lyrics in perfect harmony.
Sometimes you can feel music; it is a unique quality to this art form. When an artist strikes chords underneath a weighty lyric, a chill might run up the spine. To me, Matsson’s ability to bring this triple-threat to the table offers a potential rubric for feeling music.
Take the first single “1904” as an example.
Matsson relies on an open-tuned guitar to supply an aggressive-but-airy chord foundation. His melodies float around the chords sliding up and down as requested. But Matsson’s lyrics make the song. The words just fit. When he needs a quick syllable, it’s formed; when he needs to prolong a syllable, the word is enhanced.
“But the lesson is vague and the lightning / Shows a deer with her mind on the moor / And now something with the sun is just different / Since they shook the earth in 1904”
As an added layer, Matsson references an early century, life-altering earthquake in Sweden. In many ways, this seismic event shifted the way people viewed their home country much like events in our personal lives shake our individual foundations.
Leading Me Now
“Leading Me Now” provides another stellar example.
Matsson’s open-tuning allows for intricate and melodic picking while the vocal melody offers perfect counterpoint.
“On the gallop to mother’s field / We would lose our breath and fight / And you give me the look of thorns / We give liars every night / But I get you somehow / Leave the reins inside / You are leading me now”
Thematically, Matsson illustrates the notion of dependency through letting his horse lead the way. But more impressive to me, again, is the perfect connection between poetry and music. Every word fits.
There’s No Leaving Now
While most reviewers want to talk about the obvious Dylan influence on Matsson, I am thoroughly impressed at Matsson’s attention to detail. The difficulty of poetry often resides in the limits it places on the words you can use. You’ve got 10 syllables to get your point across. Each word must be selected with the precision of a surgeon.
But what do I know? I like There’s No Leaving Now because I feel it. Matsson’s combination of instrumentation, melody, and lyrics leaves me in a blissful state. Isn’t that what we want out of music at its core?
If you are a fan of rigorous lyrical writing, elaborate guitar playing, and a rootsy folk-singer voice. There’s No Leaving Now is for you. There’s nothing better than exact poetry. Matsson achieved his purpose. Here’s to good art.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5