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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Tallest Man on Earth: There's No Leaving Now (Release Date: 6-12-2012)

        No one needs to tell Kristian Matsson to take baby steps: He knows the drill. The Swedish folkie released one of the most bare-bones debut LP's in recent memory with 2008's Shallow Grave. His follow-up, 2010's The Wild Hunt, saw him to much greater heights of fame, but it certainly wasn't extra studio shine that got him there. Matsson writes almost all of his tracks with only an unadorned acoustic guitar to aid him, and while Hunt added occasional periphery details, its sonics are essentially the same as its forbearer. Then came Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird, a late 2010 EP that featured, of all things, an electric guitar! While still holding true to his minimal one-man-show, the new sound not only showed a different side of the artist, but alluded to the next wrinkle that Matsson would add to his act.

        There's No Leaving Now doesn't exactly set out to reinvent the wheel, but it still wants you to know that it's not just a retread. Why else would it open up with that new-fangled aforementioned electric axe, all soft, warm, and kind. Before Matsson's Dylan-like croak even joins in, To Just Grow Away comes to involve no fewer than four instruments, which should cause anyone who fell in love with The Wild Hunt to double-take. It's a much denser, less specific sound in which Grow Away cloaks its troubadour's croon, whirling and lovely, if perhaps a tad less immediate. Revelation Blues is built in much the same way, a certain fuzziness that was no where to be found on Tallest Man's break-through disc permeating the track, alternating between spring-time peppiness, and howling desperation. It's an interesting way to set the table, especially considering how Leading Me Now hops right back into Wild Hunt simplicity on the very next track.

        The rest of There's No Leaving Now largely follows suit, hop-scotching between Matsson's new electric interests (1904, Little Brother, Criminals), and his trusty, outdoorsy strum (Wind and Walls, One Every Page). While that's not exactly the biggest sound-scape for a 40-minute album, the disc features about twice as much variety during its runtime than any previous Tallest Man efforts. For my money, I'll still take The Wild Hunt for its thematic purity, and beautiful details, but bless No Leaving's heart for not just being a sequel. It shows Matsson as an artist who is willing to gamble despite already knowing what works, and when his risks pay off, such as on Revelation Blues, or the piano ballad title track, the results can be staggering.

Grade: B+

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