Kristian Matsson, the enigmatic Swede otherwise known as The Tallest Man on Earth, unleashed The Wild Hunt, the follow up to his sublime sophomore album Shallow Grave, today, April 13, 2010. The album borrows heavily both thematically and stylistically from his previous work and, although it lacks the growth that one may expect from an artist of this caliber, it is nonetheless one of the most moving, emotionally-charged albums of the year thus far.
The comparisons to Bob Dylan are obvious and unnecessary, so this reviewer will simply outline them and let the listener judge for himself. Mattson's endearingly raspy, occasionally jarring, infinitely listenable voice belies a deeper emotion than many vocalists could ever dream to conjure, and it begs the listener for a second listen. The lyrics, though often seemingly nonsensical, tend to become more meaningful with each listen. Both of these characteristics are admittedly Dylanesque, and both work in Matsson's favor.
The album is both melodically and lyrically similar to his previous work, and while some may bemoan the lack of maturation and growth, one must appreciate an artist who is so masterful in his craft as to produce something as uncannily similar yet fresh when compared to his library of work.
Though the album is fairly solid top to bottom, the most polished songs include "You're Going Back" and "King of Spain". Tight, measured finger-picked acoustic guitar accompanies the artists signature voice in nine of ten of the tracks. By far, the most disappointing track is the finale, "Kids on the Run". The piano-driven ballad simply tries too hard to be something it cannot, and should not, be. The chorus, which laments, "we're just kids on the run", is all too reminiscent of a Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty to sound at home on this folk album It simply doesn't fit the ethos of the album not do it's influences justice.
The Wild Hunt is currently available via the Dead Oceans imprint. In the mean time, readers are encouraged to check out Kristian Mattson's free Daytrotter session, self-titled debut, or 2009's Shallow Grave.