Tallest Man on Earth Stands Tall with New Album

June 26, 2012

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 

For more info, check out http://www.myspace.com/thetallestmanonearth


She Has Been Released: Bono Serenades Aung San Suu Kyi in Dublin

June 20, 2012

This past Monday, June 18 in Dublin, Bono (with others) co-presided over the Amnesty International “Ambassador of Conscience” Award presentation to democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. In addition to the ceremonial aspects, the “Electric Burma” event was a rousing concert that included Bono singing solo (the rest of U2 were not onstage) acoustic versions with accompaniment from Damien Rice and others.

In media reports, Bono spoke glowingly of the events. “I’m star-struck,” the singer emoted. Reflecting more on Aung San Suu Kyi, Bono expounded, “It’s really her nonviolent position that I find so impressive, because perhaps I find it hard to fathom. I think she will be remembered for that kind of spiritual insight really, as much as the sort of nitty-gritty of her politics, because she’s a tough customer, too.”

In the concert, with Rice on guitar, Bono performed touching versions of “Walk On” (link to video: http://youtu.be/Sl081Q5JfD4)  and “One.” He also joined rousing ensemble versions of such Amnesty staples as Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up.” Lots of flashes from Twitter from that night can be found by searching the hashtag #electricburma.

Bono To Present Prestigious “Ambassador of Conscience” Award to Aung San Suu Kyi

June 2, 2012

On June 18, Bono will present Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award at a tribute event in Dublin.

The concert, called Electric Burma, is being held in honor of her achievement and will also feature performances by Damien Rice, the Riverdance troupe, actress Vanessa Redgrave, and Bob Geldof. Bono has shown support for Suu Kyi for years, holding a series of concerts in 2009 in support of her release and dedicating all U2 360° Tour performances of the song “Walk On” in her honor. However, this is the first time he will meet the Burmese opposition leader, who has spent 15 of the past 24 years under house arrest.

Bono stated in regards to her release, “It’s so rare to see grace trump military might, and when it happens we should make the most joyful noise we can. Aung San Suu Kyi’s grace and courage have tilted a wobbly world further in the direction of democracy. We all feel we know her, but it will be such a thrill to meet her in person.”

Suu Kyi will attend Electric Burma as part of her first international tour following a long period as a political prisoner. In 1990, her National League for Democracy party achieved a strong victory in the country’s first multi-party elections since 1960, but the ruling military junta refused to recognize the results. Her next two decades were spent in house arrest or, while free, unable to leave Burma for fear of being barred from re-entry. She was then banned from the next elections in 2010, leading to an internationally-questioned election in which a pro-junta party took office. Suu Kyi was finally elected to Burmese Parliament in April of this year and has launched an international tour that includes Electric Burma, an address to the British government, and a stop in Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize that she received in 1991 but was unable to accept in person until now.

The Ambassador of Conscience is the most prestigious award given by Amnesty International, and it is given annually to honor activists who have worked to promote and protect human rights. Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Peter Gabriel, and U2.

Source: Associated Press

For more information on the Ambassador of Conscience award, visit amnesty.org.