Tallest Man on Earth Stands Tall with New Album
June 26, 2012 · Print This Article
The third full length recording by 29-year-old singer-songwriter Kristian Mattson—performing under the name The Tallest Man on Earth—There’s No Leaving Now can be defined by the growth it represents. While many artists with his mastery of a particular style might find themselves complacent, Mattson turns his comfort into confidence. In the process, he crafts an album that manages to push forward while holding tightly on to its roots without sounding strained or losing itself anywhere in the process.
Fans of Mattson’s previous efforts will notice the difference only seconds into There’s No Leaving Now. The first song, “To Just Grow Away” starts with the same minimalistic fingerpicking typical of his style but quickly blooms into a landscape of reverb-drenched strumming with stray guitar tracks floating above, marking Mattson’s first serious venture into multitracking. The following songs continue to play with layered sounds adding slide guitar, woodwind, and even subtle percussion in various combinations.
This all leads up to the title track wherein Mattson returns to a more minimal style closer to previous albums and, though select songs do feature multiple tracks, never fully returns to the heavily-layered sound of the first few songs. This is one area where the album excels—despite reducing the complexity of later songs, the transition is by no means jarring. The fullness is maintained by way of reverb ensuring that no sonic space is left empty, and even the most basic tracks feel warmer than anything seen on 2008’s The Shallow Grave or 2010’s The Wild Hunt.
The growth seen here is just that—an expansion of an existing sound, rather than a shift or refocusing. Although very distinct from previous albums, none of the staples of Mattson’s success are abandoned, creating an experience that is unlikely to alienate fans. His mastery of fingerpicking is only highlighted by the new additions and his voice is in top form. The bond between vocals and guitar, so strong that Mattson usually records the two together, remains unbroken. Lyrically, There’s No Leaving Now continues his tradition of celebrating nature and, as Mattson’s lyrics are packed with such imagery, the music even comes closer to a matching organic sound than the older, more bare-bones albums.
This album highlights an artist capable of growing without losing himself. While Mattson sings that “whatever happened to the boy is now a tale for the seas,” the boy that wrote and recorded two of the most essential works of the late-2000s indie folk explosion is still very present. None of the songs here, different from one another as they may be, feel like experiments. Every piece of this album is pushed forward and held together by Mattson’s skill and, just as importantly, confidence. From the lyrically blunt and uncharacteristically personal “Little Brother” to the metaphor-cloaked narrative “Wind and Walls,” from “Revelation Blues,” in which the many instrumental layers blend into one wave of sound, to “On Every Page,” where the spotlight is on a smooth classical guitar line, this album thrives from its willingness to explore.
There’s No Leaving Now succeeds on many levels. As an album, it is worth the time. As individual songs, each is strong enough to stand out. Outside the context of The Tallest Man on Earth’s discography, the album has a wide appeal. Compared to previous works, it fits in just fine. And looking forward, one sees an artist ready and able to do even greater things. There’s No Leaving Now ensure that, for its young composer, there’s no leaving now. —Austin Phy, Contributing Editor
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