The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: The Tallest Man On Earth – ‘I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream’ (Dead Oceans)


In a sentence:

Trying tentatively to expand his sonic palette, Kristian Matsson springs few surprises on his fifth The Tallest Man On Earth album.

Over the course of a decade and four studio albums recording as The Tallest Man On Earth, Kristian Matsson has systematically put many other artists in the modern, mass-marketable ‘singer-songwriter’ category to shame. His track record shows that being indebted to well-worn and highly familiar musical tropes – namely early Dylan, Laurel Canyon folk, and all variants of the kind of anonymous coffee-house acoustic guitar chill-out music that’s long since become part of the aural wallpaper of society – is no barrier to originality and stamping your own personality on proceedings. As such, Matsson has consistently infused his take on the ramblin’-man, troubadour guitar player image with straight-faced sincerity and wide-eyed wanderlust.

Now on his fifth effort, there’s nothing to suggest that The Tallest Man On Earth is about to run out of road, but even he recognises in places on I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream that it’s time to think about changing things up. Or at least, until about halfway through, whereupon Matsson slips back into type, making the album sound like a statement by a man who’s trying to experiment but so utterly married to the music he loves that he can’t tear himself away.

Not that this is a bad thing, mind you – that second half of I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream are full of spectral and beautiful ditties. ‘I’m A Stranger Now’ showcases his Dylan-esque nasal register as he croons vaguely poetic lines like “a little drop of poison in the rain”; the devotional ‘I’ll Be A Sky’ sounds like it could have been an off-cut from The Freewheelin’; and the ancient folk rhythm that underpins ‘All I Can Keep Is Now’ shows that Matsson is literate in other forms of folk rather than just Americana.

Where I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream fundamentally lags a bit behind some of the rest of his output is that he’s been here many times before. Furthermore, the attempts early on in the record to rely more upon atmospheres and textures render his songs too ethereal to make much emotional impact. ‘The Running Styles Of New York’, for instance, sounds just like generic movie trailer music, and the ukulele-driven ‘My Dear’ comes off as a bit cheesy. The icy, fluttering folk acoustics of album opener ‘Hotel Bar’ are striking, admittedly, particularly when bolstered by the bright horns.

I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream is perfectly pleasant, but can’t be described as anything like the artistic evolution once suspects that Kristian Matsson was aiming for. It does, however, fit nicely into the canon of an artist whose modus operandi has hardly changed in over a decade – and that’s just fine. (6/10) (Ed Biggs)

Listen to I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream by The Tallest Man On Earth here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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