Music Review: I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream.
For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Tallest Man on Earth’s discography up to this point, imagine that a stray alley cat possessed Bob Dylan’s songwriting skills and you’d be 90% of the way there.
The remaining 10% can be found in his voice. Having studied at Marcus Mumford’s Academy for the Vocally Challenged, Kristian Matsson’s wailing has sounded more Appalachian than his native Swedish since his first release in 2006. But his Americana sound finds its stride in 2019’s I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.
Kicking off with a lingering harmonica, (I told you, Bob Dylan), “Hotel Bar” lets you know early that this will be a different project that previous album—slower, minor key, and a much more pleasant voice that carries throughout the next 39 minutes.
Other highlights include “There’s A Girl,” “My Dear,” and “I’m A Stranger Now”—hearkening back to earlier releases with its frantic strumming and “is he yelling or singing?” timbre. But for the most part, it’s hard to tell when one song ends and another begins—making it hard to pick out an obvious favorite or a song you’ll skip over every time.
This album, like others from Matsson, is like mom’s cooking. She keeps making the same meals but they’re just as good each and every time.
And that’s part of the complaint one might have (though I certainly don’t) with the album—it doesn’t stand out. In a genre filled with Lumineers, Vance Joys, and Avett Brothers, it’s hard to find anything unique in the world of folk music. All it takes is a guy and a guitar and being able to sing is just a cherry on top. To these critics I would simply quote the Coen Bro’s underrated classic Inside Llewyn Davis, “If it was never new, and it never gets old, it’s a folk song.”
Many artists try to make their sound new over the course of their career, but in folk music it rarely works. Head and the Heart, Mumford and Sons, and countless others have commercialized their sound in the name of progressing as an artist. And the hipsters who listen to them all immediately groan like their favorite IPA was just acquired by Anhauser Busch. But the Tallest Man on Earth is still standing high above his contemporaries with his new attempt on tap. Unless Kanye releases Yandhi (Lord, please answer my prayer), this is my “Album of the Year.”