Sweden’s Kristian Matsson has likely inspired nearly as many quick-and-dirty dissertations on the utility of the term “Dylan-esque” as he’s inspired sincere, unqualified uses of the word. The natural impulse when describing Matsson is to try to explain how he isn’t like every other adenoidal strummer out there. But that isn’t so simple. It isn’t easy to envision the headspace that generated his boldly wheezed, spellbinding melodies. It isn’t clear why his sputtered lyrics sound so effective even while they read like fairy-tale word-association on paper.
Matsson’s sophomore outing as The Tallest Man On Earth ups the visceral appeal of the already surprisingly accessible songwriter, with heightened production lending satisfying crispness to the guitar picking and Matsson’s twisty-turny delivery. Do the lyrics make sense? Usually not. He tends to write lines that start out promisingly direct, but end up derailing with the use of some small, seemingly misplaced word. In macro, though, there’s an impression of a man thinking in terms of eternity, contemplating the ways identity is immutable and a product of uncontrollable forces. “The old machines abandoned by ancient races, I feel them humming down below in hollow earth,” Matsson yowls on the album’s title track. It sounds like code, but in his inexplicable, entrancing way, he’s acknowledging both his influences and his ancestors.