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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tallest Man on Earth

The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)

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Bounding, ebullient, fraught with youth, at once joyous and tortured: The diminutive Swedish whirlwind of songwriting energy known as The Tallest Man on Earth is back for a second full-length release.

As on 2008’s Shallow Grave, Kristian Matsson reveals himself to be undoubtedly a man of the world and, probably, of his father’s folkie record collection. Bert Jansch pops up, as does the ghost of Nick Drake, but there’s far too much optimism and hope on the likes of the title track and the lush “Troubles Will Be Gone” for anything too sad/sappy.

His offerings are that of a tireless troubadour with a commendable, frenzied right-hand technique that displays little regard for the well-being of the strings. And with that unrestrained nasal croon—part rustic, part street-corner—it’s unavoidable to compare him with Greenwich Village-era Dylan. Of course the lilting jingle-jangle delivery is at least in part derived from a certain American voice-of-a-generation, but this is still undeniably lyricism of a singular, personal kind.

There is imagery to inspire bad high-school term papers (“The Drying of the Lawns”), and the vibe of dark bedroom poetry (“Burden of Tomorrow”). But with such tight, hooking turns of phrase, and such a heedless, wide-eyed, jaunty enthusiasm for, well, everything, it might be best to simply appreciate such a uniquely freewheelin’ force of nature.