THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH > The Wild Hunt

Written by April 13th, 2010 at 7:01 am

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THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH

The Wild Hunt

(DEAD OCEANS)

Rating: ★★★½☆

While Kristian Matsson’s pseudonym would suggest he has quite a physical presence, he appears to be of average height. However, what the Swedish native lacks vertically, he more than makes up for vocally. His idiosyncratic croon, variously overpowering his guitar work and underscoring his distinct musical approach, commands your attention as soon as it interrupts the beginning of each of his songs.

The Wild Hunt’s title track starts with some cathartic guitar and banjo riffs, but a listener is quickly forced to adjust to Matsson’s jarring voice. With a very particular timbre, it falls out of his mouth a bit like Dylan’s rambling, conversational style from his Freewheelin’ days, but Matsson’s persistent wail is more nasally than gravelly. While he doesn’t sound simply like a Swede singing songs awkwardly in English, his abrupt intonation is either endearing or obnoxious. The content of his songs, however, is more universally pleasant.

With the exception of the sustain-heavy piano on “Kids On the Run,” The Wild Hunt is composed of fairly formulaic, acoustic numbers that feature some nice fingerpicking and occasional embellishments. His lyrics, on the other hand, drift through fairy tales on a cosmic odyssey that includes “1600 tigers tied to silver strings” on “Thousand Ways.” “King of Spain” is about a man with regal aspirations; a Hemingway wannabe proclaims, “I will settle in Pamplona and I’ll provoke the bulls with words.” Some songs are more seriously colored with themes of confession, heaven, and hell as in “Love Is All,” when Matsson sings, “I walk upon the river like it’s easier than land; evil’s in my pocket, and your will is in my hand.” Thematically, these songs are reminiscent of Blitzen Trapper’s Furr or perhaps some of Shel Silverstein’s more edgy creations. While his vocal style is not for everyone, Matsson is an imaginative songwriter whose songs deserve your attention.

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