Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The Tallest Man On Earth, Kristian Matsson, gets lost in the stupor, in the pre-dawn and in the watery ramble of all that isn't muscle memory. He gets distracted by the darkness, intoxicated by it, and by the drizzle that he enjoys the company of from time to time. He leaves himself plenty of moments every day to just sink into this textured hammock of leathery toughness - where the street address is something along the lines of "a rock and a hard place," where he's able to sort through a lot of the details that typically make you sleepy or reserved and depressed that there haven't been many improvements to write home about. The diminutive Matsson never finds himself making cranky songs about his woes and all the negligence that the world and its creatures sometimes show - twisting nipples, playing dumb and offering blank stares or gawks. He professes his love for the downtrodden examples of a man in the clutches of a struggle to make matters sweeter, for making food more succulent, for making the air soak into his lungs with more purity, and for the eyes to get better adjusted to the blackness if none of the above can be had with any sort of simplicity. He professes his love, period, for all of these struggles as the steel a man, while stealing some of his sanity, even if it's not really being used all that much. He sings with a high bit of squeak in his voice, as if his throat is curled a bit at the end, puckering itself and just giving it all it's got to crow up to a young and vibrant swath of sunlight in the morning hours or to croon at a chalky moon that allows him to bask in a tolerable coldness. The title track on Matsson's latest album, "Shallow Grave," has him identifying the contrasts that exist with his surroundings and their inhabitants - the little birds, the sneaking people who live next door, the moles sleeping below the ground - as he sings about chilly waters and more, "Come see the ripples on the water/As I throw pebbles in the pond/To let the sky go past the surface/Empty my pockets filled with stones/Come see the sadness of the sailor/As I will scratch his deep blue floor/Already in my years of bad luck/I broke his mirror long before…I found the darkness in my neighbors/And I found the fire in the frost/And I found a season once claimed healthy." The season once claimed healthy could be any of the four as Matsson seems to get into all of their extremities - the brittle colds, the oppressive heats, the rapid changes and the rainy weeks that seep through house foundations and flood the fish blind. He sings later in the session that "that old dark was mine," and it feels like a funeral, as if something was lost because somewhere along the line, the dark becomes scary. The old dark, before you learn of so many bad things and bad people, isn't anything to be afraid of. It may actually be loving and comforting. But it always becomes something else, something to avoid, something that gets redefined and kind of ugly. There's a lingering desire in Tallest Man On Earth songs to overcome, to get to a slumber that's therapeutic, that he'll wake up from completely refreshed. He's just gotta keep closing his eyes and getting that first step out of the way.
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