Kristian Matsson (The Tallest Man on Earth) is from Sweden, and plays Americana-folk pop better than any American act of the aughts. Need proof? Sometimes the Blues is a Passing Bird
, a five-track addendum to this year's earlier full-length The Wild Hunt
, is a good place to start. An artful blend of poetry and arpeggiated fingerplucking, Matsson's music often draws him comparisons to a young Bob Dylan. But aside from raspy vocal inflections, the singer-songwriter similarities are superficial at best. While Bobby Zimmerman wore his heart on his sleeve with political zeal, Matsson's heart is quiet and introspective. Shy, even. You get the sense that The Tallest Man on Earth was once left for dead, his heart violently fractured into pieces throughout his chest; his music, an elegant and painful way of piecing it all back together.
On the EP's opener, "The Littler River," Matson revisits a past love-life, walking us through nuanced elation ("You've just spent so many years chased by a cloud, oh / It's taken you so far / far past the cliff's edge / And now your feet just poke around to feel the ground") and torment ("You see the diamonds when you yell / that let you stay in all the corners I have been here / but now you travel, go to hell"). On "The Dreamer" Matsson plugs-in his guitar and strums some naked blues, pulled back to spotlight his best vocals yet: "Oh sometimes the blues is just a passing bird / and why can't that always be / tossing aside from your birches crown / just enough dark to see / how you're the light over me." It's pretty self-explanatory.
"Like the Wheel" is pretty and delicate on many faces ("I said oh, my Lord / why am I not strong?") while "Tangled in this Trampled Wheat" is as its name might suggest folksy transcendental fare. The album concludes with "Thrown Right at Me," a forgettable lo-fi recording defined by country-ish twang, but by the time you arrive at it the EP is already over.
Sometimes the Blues is a Passing Bird
, like much of Matsson's work, is for anyone who ever had their heart broken and had to go through the messy process of putting it back together. The message here isn't in words or melody alone, but rather in the beautiful union of the two. Matsson may croon in English as a second language, but his music is best understood in more universal dialects: romance, heartbreak, and eventually finding yourself again.
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MP3: "Like The Wheel"
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