The Tallest Man on Earth is, quite simply, one of the most original and talented musical artists working in the world today. This statement may seem hyperbolic (or even hyper-hyperbolic if you’re a stickler for soundbites), but The Tallest Man (real name Kristian Matsson) is a truly exceptional musician, songwriter and performer. You may recall the ‘Unknown but Awesome’ feature on Mr. Matsson which was published on here last year, and also remember that his début album, Shallow Grave, placed a lofty 10th in the ‘Best Albums of the ’00s’ rundown from January.
So when I discovered that Matsson’s second album, The Wild Hunt, was being released on April 13th, my heart did a little leap and I endeavoured to track down this new record from one of my personal favourites. However, this excitement was tempered with a little trepidation as I was unsure if the mighty Swede would be able to conjure up a second album as good as his first. There has long been a belief in the ‘difficult second album’ in the music industry, and I must confess I considered the possibility of a sophomore slump from the enigmatic, charismatic songsmith.
Fortunately for me, and indeed all fans of Matsson/music in general, The Wild Hunt picks up from where Shallow Grave left off, delivering tracks every bit as memorable and creative as the likes of ‘I Won’t Be Found’ from the songwriter’s first record. The title track kicks the album off, and much like the aforementioned ‘I Won’t Be Found’, the first track is the best. With lyrics that belie his Swedish roots, Matsson is able to create wonderfully vivid images in English that would put native speakers of the tongue (me included) to abject shame:
And oh machines abandoned by the ancient races stand/I hear them hummin’ down below in hollow earth/Oh and I guess in a while I will go under too/But just for now I’ll let the spring and storm return.
Matsson’s lyrics preoccupy themselves with natural beauty, but acknowledge the fleeting realities of life; however, rather than bemoan this brevity, he celebrates the impermanent joys life offers: Let’s watch phenomenas arise out of the darkness (‘The Wild Hunt’).
Whilst the first track is your author’s favourite, it by no means is forced to make up for a substandard record, as The Wild Hunt is crammed full of brilliant songs, from the triumphant ‘King of Spain’ to the delicate ‘Troubles Will Be Gone’. The intricate finger-picking that defined Shallow Grave is still present, but Matsson’s vocals and lyrics come through a lot stronger in this second album. Personally, it seems that the songs are better crafted on The Wild Hunt, no mean feat given how many fabulous songs the first album contained. The final track ‘Kids on the Run’ is the only weak-ish link, its piano-based melody a touch slow and (dare I say) plodding compared to the usual joyous music that Matsson creates.
Overall, though, The Tallest Man on Earth’s sophomore album is a fantastic listen, full of cracking songs and Matsson’s inimitable, tuneful melodies soaring over the lovely fretwork. A cracking record and one definitely worthy of your attention (and money!), so check it out come its official release on April 13th. Might be an early favourite for O&T’s album of the year aswell.
Sickest tracks: ‘The Wild Hunt’, ‘Burden of Tomorrow’, ‘King of Spain’, ‘A Lion’s Heart’.
If you like this, you’ll also like: Shallow Grave – The Tallest Man on Earth, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan, The Crane Wife – The Decemberists.