The Tallest Man on Earth

Dark Bird Is Home

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Early on, Kristian Matsson, the Swedish singer and songwriter better known as the Tallest Man on Earth, was content to be a simple contemporary folkie, strumming and singing all by his lonesome. But having taken that formula as far as he cared to go, he's been consistently upping the production value on his albums, and in terms of his studio treatments, Matsson's fourth full-length, 2015's Dark Bird Is Home, is his most ambitious set to date. Matsson himself is sounding a bit different with the passage of time; the craggy side of his voice has mostly fallen away, and he's developed a winsome tone that vaguely resembles the young Paul Simon. If Matsson sounds more like Simon than a wannabe Dylan nine years on from the Tallest Man on Earth's debut, he's writing a bit more like him as well, spinning tales of footloose lovers and romances walking the tightrope between joy and heartbreak (flashes of the older Tallest Man are still clearly visible on "Beginners" and "Singers"), but Matsson's emotions seem to be very much his own, and the album's eclectic approach to arrangements and production is a good fit for his music. Matsson produced the album in tandem with engineer B.J. Burton, and the washes of electric guitar, keyboards, electronic overlays, occasional horns, and masses of backing vocals give the songs a cool but formidable strength that doesn't distract from Matsson's performance, but reinforces it instead. Matsson's new willingness to expand the parameters of his sound would seemingly run counter to his increasing emphasis on his sensitive side, but Dark Bird Is Home shows the Tallest Man on Earth can have it both ways, and this more polished and tuneful exercise in modern-day folk-rock is effective and engaging music that speaks from the heart and soul.

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