Fourth album from acoustic troubadour The Tallest Man On Earth. On Dark Bird Is Home the Swedish Dylan-voiced songwriter Kristian Matsson brings a welcome touch of Springsteenian/David Brent chord structuring to his palette, whilst retaining that soft, heartfelt tenderness for which he is known and often loved. Out on Ltd coloured vinyl LP, vinyl LP and CD from Dead Oceans.
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Kristian Matsson decided that he can’t do this on his own, so he’s recruited some company for ‘Dark Bird Is Home’, ostensibly his fourth and definitely his worst record. With a band of disruptive naysayers behind him, he digs melodies into the ground, rushes through key lyrics like an uncaring tour bus driver, and gives zero shits about the lush arrangements he’s introducing us to. There was a time when The Tallest Man On Earth’s rapidfire folk songs could bestow beauty, inciting a frenzy to rival a Mumford & Sons song sped up x2 on YouTube. That time is not now.
One has to wonder if Adam Granduciel and Matsson run in the same circles at this point, what with “Darkness of the Dream”, which treats itself to the splendour of Americana, dangling piano notes over codified ambience and far-reaching drums. Come on, y’all: we are not all in this together. We can make our own music. We’re not all sailing the Good Ship Knopfler. Even Mark Knopfler doesn’t want a ticket for that cruise. “Sagres” takes the same tack, trying to make the plaintive folk of Matsson’s past sound shore-washed with accordion and slick percussive clicks over full-bodied drums. I'd rather be stranded.
I’d tell you I’d rather have him do the sparse solo stuff, but it couldn’t sound any more of an afterthought on this record: on “Fields of Our Home” he’s racing through his lonely strums to invoke a choir that sounds in the dozens, while the piano ballad “Little Nowhere Towns” is incoherently mumbled, Matsson tripping over his words in an attempt to reroute them to the same twee motif. “Beginners”, arguably a career low point, sees him trying to disguise the lack of substance with flash mob rock, a piano chord constantly intervening with proceedings for less than a second. There is, among it all, one perfect song: “Singers” sounds Nico circa “These Days” wistfulness. I miss those days: when Matsson’s songs sped ahead of you but then waited up so you could keep going together. I don't want to run with his whole crew.
8/10 Thomas Customer review, 29th May 2015
The Tallest Man on Earth has long been admired by folk purists and indie youth since his 2006 self titled debut EP. His previous albums to date include just his gravelly voice, an acoustic guitar and the hisses and pops of the grainy recording methods that he used. 2012's 'There's No Leaving Now' saw elements of instrumentation so it seems like his latest album is a natural progression. The howls, moans and sighs convey raw emotion in what appears to be an otherwise melodic and jangly Americana record but on deeper glance the listener is exposed to the themes of heartbreak and death which makes every song that much more poignant and left me feeling like I'd just listened to my parents breaking up.
Songs such as 'Timothy' really stand out and the Celtic bar-room melodies draw the audience into otherwise harrowing lyrics of heartbreak and despair. This is the Tallest Man's therapy, and the audience is left willing to go every step of the way with him.
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