Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt

The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt
8.6 on a 10-Point Scale

I’m sorry for eavesdropping, but did you say you were looking for a Swedish folk artist that sounds sort of like Bob Dylan minus the harmonica, but with more guitar glissandos, and with a Scandanavian name that ends with –sson?  Oh… Sorry… I misheard you… Here’s the salt.  But in case you were wondering, The Tallest Man on Earth, the stage name for Kristian Matsson, is a great acoustic folk artist that you will be sure to enjoy.  He may not sound celestial, but his voice meets the genre perfectly.  Musically, his vocal lines are flowing, but at the same time are somewhat predictable. On the poetic end, his lyrics and mystifying and can keep a stoned-out coffee shop crowd scratching their heads (excluding his tracks that are narrative).  The guitar music?  Finger pickin’ good!  There are only so many chords to play, and he works his hardest to change up the chords (contrary to his previous album) and alters both the pitch and rhythm using arpeggios in the guitar lines and different combinations of rhythms.  However, despite this attempt at diversity, most of the songs are in a standard 4/4-meter that restricts him.  Is this being rough? Don’t a lot of other artists use common time as well? Of course.  But it’s much more obvious and stands out more when their isn’t much variation among the instrumentation.  In the track Kids on the Run, however, he changes it up and brings in the ol’ piano.  Unfortunately though, the effects on the piano force the listener to ask herself whether or not The Tallest Man on Earth realizes that the piano is out of tune.  I, now classifying myself as a rough critic, understand that it may be the effect he is going for, but musically it simply creates many minor dissonances that would keep the listener much happier if they were left out. 
The mood of the music however is redeeming, some songs invoke joy while others summon malaise.  It doesn’t take much for me to laugh and cry (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton [the movie] made me do both), but this album definitely is something you can get lost in. 

It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you tap for your footsies.  It makes you question the reality you live in.  More importantly, it’ll help you appreciate folk music once again. 

In Sum:
Pros: Good lyrics, awesome mood, like his voice, finger pickin’ is well done
Cons: Songs too similar (except for the favorites), minor musical problems on a few of the tracks.

Plus, he’s not even the tallest man on earth… everyone knows Robert Pershing Wadlow, at 8 feet 11.1 inches was.  Duh

Favorite Tracks: The Wild Hunt, You’re Going Back, King of Spain, Kids on the Run

-- Alex Podkul
"Nothing but a G-O-D Thang," Tuesdays 2-4 pm on WGTB


Mark said...

robert pershing wadlow - the "Alton Giant"
St. Louis represent!
but he died so young

Fiona said...

I think Kids on the Run is really out of place on the album--and what about Love is All? SO GOOD. but I guess that speaks to the strengths of the album, that there's not some kind of unilateral agreement about what's great about it etc

ps. "tap your footsies" YES

igs said...

I think that this album will deservedly be on most top ten lists at the end of the year. with that said, did anyone get the feeling that it moved too fast? i thought the pacing was better on Shallow Graves. and pacing is really important when its one of the few things in your arsenal as an acoustic crooner

Caroline said...

I felt like this album was better and SMOOTHER than the last one, the guitar is less harsh which frees up room for his voice to move around more. although I agree, I loved every track except "Kids on the Run" (ps Springsteen influence much? It's a replica of "Thunder Road," and a poor one.)

"Love is All" is the bestbestbest, and the title track is a heartbreaker as well. His lines are so good. "I'm leavin' cause you don't feel what you're dreamin' of"

Ben said...

I think Alex Podkul did a phenomenal job reviewing this album. Way to go Al

GT said...

I've never agreed with you more except for the time with the alligator hats and the keg