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Posted on May 25th, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Nick Manai

Dark Bird Is Home is not a foray into the grand spectacle that so many of the new-age folk troubadours have paraded down in recent memory. There are no musical theatrics or climactic shout-alongs in Kristian Matsson’s fourth LP as The Tallest Man On Earth, but rather Matsson’s own deeply introspective Swedish persona presented even more elusively than expected. Like 2012’s There’s No Leaving Now, Dark Bird deepens the roving folk singer's musical palette, with lightly draped strings, horns and percussion, making for an accomplished album that takes another medium-sized step away from the austere howling of 2010’s breakthrough The Wild Hunt.

One of the main avenues into Matsson’s songwriting used to be his propensity to sing about the road, or at least the unshakable transience of his vision; even his most stationary songwriting was wrought with change and shake ups, envisioning the departure of a loved one “going back.” If you weren’t a traveling musician, you could still imagine what it felt like to be a character in these songs longing to be the King of Spain. Dark Bird Is Home departs sharply from this kind of direct storytelling to glimpse something more ephemeral. The difference between a title like There’s No Leaving Now, with its physical immediacy, and Dark Bird Is Home, whose postmodern dream-scape is richer in feeling, should be noticeable before you press play.

The songs mostly hold up to this kind of reading. “Fields of Our Home,” with its gnarled guitar chords, is probably the closest thing on Dark Bird to the ragged aesthetic of those early cuts, contrasted with Matsson’s noticeably subdued voice, imagining, “What if you’d never been through lies/Young sorrow, wailing loans.” Probably even more jarring is the chorus of “Singers,” which muses, “Guess we’re always in the question of the things we never learn/But we’re only gone like singers are till springtime/Let them out if they shall let them out.” Here, what's most refreshing is how Matsson tip-toes the line between over-played folk-pop hooks that have been recycled endlessly by so-called revivalists like Of Monsters and Men, The Lumineers and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. “Slow Dance” embodies this, as a characteristically-paced guitar chord gives way to moaning strings, glowing horns and a down-tempo piano dagger. As he lets out the mantra “At times like these, even travelers can win,” it is easy to remember the infectious joy of those early recordings, only lifted to a more picturesque pedestal.

Coupled with constant crescendos of “Sagres” and the ringing outro of the title track, Dark Bird might not be Matsson’s strongest artistic statement, but it is a brave measure in permanence. These songs aim to sound accomplished and pretty while touching on some seemingly un-graspable subjects. It is to his credit that they so often work.

Track List:

  1. Fields of Our Home
  2. Darkness of The Dream
  3. Singers
  4. Slow Dance
  5. Little Nowhere Towns
  6. Sagres
  7. Timothy
  8. Beginners
  9. Seventeen
  10. Dark Bird Is Home
The Tallest Man On Earth: Dark Bird Is Home
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

72 / 100
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