Kristian Matsson does one thing and he does it very well. He’s a Swedish fellow who has been performing since 2006 under the name The Tallest Man on Earth, which makes him sound more like a member of a traveling freak troupe than a singer-songwriter, but maybe that’s the point, I don’t know. Frustrating this record There’s No Leaving Now is, young Jedis: it’s a collection of ten original songs performed with mostly acoustic instruments supporting Mr. Matsson’s stunning voice, and what a voice it is! If you removed the qualities of Bob Dylan’s voice that are loathed by his ignorant detractors, but retained that bard’s soaring melodic raspiness, you would wind up with something like Mr. Matsson’s golden pipes. Each melody has about a thousand notes and each is sung so perfectly I would not be at all surprised to learn KM is not a Swede at all but is instead some kind of genetically enhanced songbird.
The songs themselves are immediately likable as well; “To Just Grow Away” sucked me in at once with a quality I can describe only as rollicking; if you’re familiar with Harry Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” you know what I mean. He is a consummate guitar player whether finger-picking or strumming and his song composition is strongly reliant on his masterful technique. There is a lot going on in these pieces. This top-end singer-songwriter merchandise, folks, and I can’t imagine KM has many rivals in the department. No one of whom I know rollicks better. These are very well written songs that are performed and recorded beautifully. I have no idea what he’s singing about but the lyrics that I can discern sound original and are certainly compelling.
So why is it frustrating, as I mentioned earlier? Well, readers, this particular songbird has staked out a territory in the forest in which he is the undisputed master but he doesn’t ever fly anywhere else, not on this record at least. The songs are beautiful, as I mentioned, but they’re fairly interchangeable in spite of such strong melodies and the rollicking and all that. It’s like an art exhibit of ten exquisitely rendered landscapes, each lovely in its own right but feeling a little inconsequential when viewed in the context of the others. There is no doubt that KM has mastered this style of music, but it makes me wonder what he’s planning next. By the last song I was ready for the album to end. Too much beauty is a little inhuman, don’t you think? Perhaps he really is a songbird after all.