[Dead Oceans; 2010]

Kristian Matsson, the Tallest Man On Earth, has long been levied the burdensome tag of the “Swedish Bob Dylan.” Such a label seems destined to alienate legions of fans, but such has not been the case with Matsson. Perhaps it’s because he quite simply isn’t trying to be Bob Dylan. He’s a folk artist with an unconventional voice and witty wordplay, but his songs come from a radically different viewpoint. Matsson is not trying to work behind the shadow of Dylan, but rather sound like his own kind of wise-beyond-his-years troubadour.

And here we have an EP released soon after a full length. While EPs released shortly after full albums are generally comprised of unused material from previous recording sessions, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird is its own unique affair. Even lead single “Like The Wheel,” a reworked version of a bonus track off of The Wild Hunt, feels divorced from Matsson’s previous work. The new version trades in doleful piano for a more adventurous guitar construction which transforms the song into a ballad of self-determination. “Wheel” is one of the five examples of how quickly Matsson has moved on to new ground. Even his voice shakes with conviction in a manner not apparent on previous releases. Where Matsson once sounded mischievous he now rings solemn and heavier. On “The Dreamer” Matsson makes lines as vague as “just enough dark to see/ how you’re the light over me” sound positively life-affirming. But he’s at his best when he lets his words meander a bit such as they do on closer “Thrown Right At Me.” Like many of his folk heroes, he succeeds at weaving disparate imagines together in a manner that feels natural.

The stage moniker was originally meant as a bit of a gag, but now Matsson’s music really has a tall shadow to cast. Much like his influences, he’s tightened his own songcraft without becoming formulaic, and the results are simply stunning. He is lead by his eagerness to evolve his songcraft. That he has released a new EP of songs that are divorced of his past so soon after his last album is a positive sign for the future. Given the upwards trend of his career, one can now see that full length masterpiece over the horizon.