#16. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

In the same way that camera work plays such an important role in films, how an album is produced plays a crucial role in how recorded music is perceived. No camera angle, production choice, or vocal texture is ever neutral or accidental. When approaching a work like The Wild Hunt, you'll hear few people talk about the production of such an album, but I promise that you will forget you are listening to an acoustic album by the time you get through the opening track because of it. After all, its easy to write off Kristian Matsson's blatant Dylanisms and simplistic folk songs as cashing in on pop culture's deification of Bob Dylan or recent folk trends in indie music. But there is something so majestic about the minimal production and honest songwriting of The Wild Hunt, that it seems to transcend its role as mere imitation. You won't mind that a few plucks on a banjo and some foot taps are the only non-acoustic guitar instruments on the album. Instead you'll hear the cracking and clipping of Kristian Matsson's crooning vocals; the smoothness of his eloquent guitar playing contrasting with the cracking harshness of his vocals; the consistent vocal qualities against the ever-changing guitar textures of each song. Strangely enough, the one musical anomaly of the album, the piano-led "Kids on the Run", will have you glad that Matsson keeps his style and production choices the way they are for most of the album.

Although The Wild Hunt isn't too different stylistically than anything else Matsson has released, it finds Matsson developing as an artist and songwriter it just the ways you'd hope. The Tallest Man on Earth's take on folk is more modern thematically than you think at first, its lyrics resembling a mix between Fleet Foxes and Robert Frost rather than anything Dylan wrote. In an interview with Face Culture, Matsson states that despite his obvious influences, he never intended to write his music in any particular tradition. In fact, while being transparent about his influences, he also never tries to hide his European origins. In the title track, Matsson recalls the ancient European folk myth of the same name, using its imagery to talk about living a hopeful life knowing death is at the end of it. Finding introspection and meaning in pastoral settings and folk mythologies, Matsson discovers something convincingly authoritative and ancient about 'folk' because of his complete capture of the poetic language. His interesting word choice and phrasing can sometimes be strange, but is always refreshing and bold: successfully avoiding the songwriting cliques that are so prevalent in pop music today. Ultimately though, Kristian Matsson continues to be incredibly successful because he's not shy about where his musical influences come from, but is also persistent on making the sound his own. Although very different, The Wild Hunt is one of the best folk-revivalist album since Fleet Foxes' self-titled release in 2008, and that's definitely saying a lot.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this video. Just as amazing as the song.