Heartstrings New Release Review

A ‘Dark Bird Is Home’: The Tallest Sounds on Earth

By Arran Fagan/Photo by Erik Jacobs for NPR

The Tallest Man on Earth (Kristian Matsson) holds a special place in my heart; his music lies at the core of my ever-expanding appetite for music. The journey began by browsing NPR music online and seeing a concert for The Tallest Man on Earth, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012, not having known who he or the festival were at the time. I listened anyway, as I felt intrigued by the cover photo, revealing a rugged looking man, pale in complexion, contrasted by a black tank top, and a bright orange Gretsch guitar.

I listened to the concert roughly over one hundred times in the next week, changing my life forever. His sound sent a new concept of music through my brain, heart, and soul, all in a single moment; a surge of energy, knocking out everything in its path and everything which came before. His music created new experiences, a soundtrack of sorts, including dancing with a girlfriend to “There’s No Leaving Now,” swaying in my room to a Jackson Browne-like melody and a feeling of true peace. The physical landscapes of my travels were coupled with the soundscapes of his three records, felt all over this country; feeling romance within the lines of a highway, the sun, the moon, and the horizon at bay, all with the grace of “Leading Me Now.” Even the thirty-six songs and three uninterrupted (and exceptionally rare) hours of The Tallest sounds in the background of a bar/restaurant, including the singing of the “The Wild Hunt,” while the crowd became transparent amidst our steadfast listening party. He was there, the third member, on the trip of a lifetime, across the country —  from Portland to Newport Folk Festival — with my dad last summer, a summer which will remain a highlight for the rest of my days. And finally, not realizing the growth I’ve had until I’ve looked back, as I do in this very moment, to see how far I have actually come, and almost all of it with The Tallest Man riding shotgun. The Tallest Man has always been my soundtrack for growth because Matsson is trying to figure out how to do just that, and fighting with the concept in a beautiful and brutally honest way, and giving back to us by recording it all.

ttmoe_2015_500_wide-5d85688f1216341f4946228ae8e3e5c7973470d9-s800-c85Photo: Cameron Wittig

Whatever it is that Matsson has lost, he has attempted to replace it with something new. This album is the first album Matsson has made with a band, and by the sound of the record, most likely will not be his last. It is a record about darkness, temptation, and the stuff that life throws at you when you are already on your knees. What makes this record so fascinating is at first listen you wouldn’t know this record is about darkness, it feels warm, full, and aged, but upon close inspection, the lyrics are about obstacles — questioning where Matsson, himself, is going next and looking back at a time of hardship after rebuilding. The synthesizers and horns fill any lonely space, forcing Matsson to feel his loneliness and trials alone, yet surrounded by the noise and busyness of every day life. These songs Matsson brings are familiar, yet mysterious. Under The Tallest Man on Earth moniker, Matsson has always crafted cryptic lyrics, and this may be his most complex and cryptic record to date, but may also be his most honest. I think this record will sit with a lot of people this summer, a deliberate and calculated time to release a dark record; a brutal poem of life, where, all in the warmth of a bright summer day, hiding in plain sight, a dark bird is home.

The album is available for stream on NPR’s First Listen now, and available everywhere May 12:

The Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird Is Home

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