Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Tallest Man On Earth

The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans, 04.2010)

For: errr, Bob Dylan, Phosphorescent, Bon Iver

Byline: Affectingly gorgeous Dylan-esque (shudder) folk from Sweden.

This is why it seems kind of pointless to compare someone to Bob Dylan in this day and age. Just about every country and generation has had their uber-talented, incredibly prolific phenom that gets the "next Dylan" tag slapped on them. Not that this would be the worst thing in the world. Dylan is easily the most beloved and influential American musician of the 20th century, but still comparing yet another folk singer to Dylan seems lazy. That is why I am (not) comparing Kristian Mattson's nasally croon or hyper-literate song writing to Bob Dylan's, uh, yeah, you get the point. But...ah, who am I kidding, the dude sounds like Dylan. Now that I have laid that to rest, I can move on. I just had to say it. But, whatever is apparent from the start is sure to be swept underneath Mattson's obviously huge talent (this guy is moving units and selling out shows like his name was Conan). His vocal delivery runs the gamut from fidgeting exuberance to exquisite melancholy on Wild Hunt's thoughtful track placement. Songs composed of nothing but guitar, voice, an occasional banjo and one "Forever Young" piano ballad either sweep in; barely held together by little more than a melody and Mattson's edge-of-his-toes exuberance or burn slowly, marinating in gorgeous sadness. Even on in his bleakest moments when Mattson sings his voice raw, veins straining against his long neck, his quiet compositions move from delicate fingerpicking to major chord ascendency and betray any sense of angst with a relentless tinge of hope brightening the corners.

Bob Dylan once called John Prine's songwriting "pure, Proust-ian Midwestern existentialism". The existential loneliness of America/Canada's midwest that inspired the turning inwards of Dylan, Prine Young, and Sparhawk is infused into Mattson's own vast expanse of Sweden's tundra. Or probably something like that, I don't know much about Sweden. But geography and nature is a reoccurring theme throughout Mattson's songwriting, giving his hopes, fears, and longing some physical space to roam and travel.

There has been a lot written about this album, average scores rank in the mid 80's-90's and so I can merely echo what has already been said, but more than anything this is an album you need to hear, to live with for awhile. Let it console you, make you laugh, make you sad, make you remember places you lived when you were a kid. I can think of only a few albums that have had the same emotional impact.

Ryan H.

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