Review Summary: Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird doesn't offer anything revolutionary, but it showcases a darker side to Matsson's work and keeps up his trend of writing consistently engaging, moving folk songs.
There's a line in the first track, 'Little River,' of Kristian Matsson's most recent EP. 'There is something 'bout the quiet surprise in darkness,' he croons contemplatively. And he's not wrong; whereas his previous full lengths 'Shallow Grave' and 'The Wild Hunt' were, for the most part, vivid depictions, and celebrations, of various happy journeys into and through the joys of nature, Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird sees Matsson turning to a slightly darker atmosphere, both lyrically and musically in places, and there certainly is a quiet surprise to be found in the EP's dark tone; he pulls it off just as effortlessly as he's been accustomed to with every other aspect of his short career so far.
The five songs here cover a range of emotions and stories, but each of them contains only Matsson and his guitar. The one 'experiment' that Matsson attempts here is his first recorded use of electric guitar in the thoughtful 'The Dreamer,' but there's not really a huge evolution in sound here from 'The Wild Hunt.' But with a lyricist as talented as Matsson, that's not really a problem. He tackles topics ranging from unrequited love (the aforementioned 'The Dreamer') to suicide ('Like The Wheel') and it's this obvious shift in lyrical tone that sets the EP apart from his other work, on at least one level.
What hasn't changed from 'The Wild Hunt,' however, is the overall quality of the songs. Opener 'Little River's' melody is as immediately appealing as anything to be found in Matsson's previous albums, with gorgeously evocative lyrics painting the kind of vivid picture that fans have now come to expect. 'The Dreamer's' use of electric guitar isn't as much of a game-changer as one might expect, although, returning to the Dylan comparison that seems to follow Matsson wherever he goes, it will certainly elicit a 'Judas!' from at least a few fans. The song itself, however, is reminiscent of the kind of atmosphere that Jeff Buckley created in a lot of the songs on 'Grace,' and the uplifting chorus features one of Matsson's strongest melodies yet.
'Like The Wheel' is by far the darkest song that Matsson's penned yet, with deceptively gentle sounding lyrics describing a man committing suicide. 'Tangle In This Trampled Wheat' is probably the weakest track on the album, and doesn't bring anything new to the table that we haven't already heard from Matsson (although it's still excellent, as most of his songs are even if they're not inventive). Final track 'Thrown Right At Me' is a tender love song, featuring a curiously appealing guitar line and bringing the EP to a, fittingly, low-key finale.
Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird is extremely good at what it does but, being an EP, it doesn't really do too much. It does, however, show that Matsson is constantly progressing his already-superb songwriting in subtle, but beneficial, ways, and it showcases a darker side to the artist that we haven't seen before now. Sure, it will simply serve as a stopgap between full albums for most fans, but one day we might look back on this EP as a significant shift in The Tallest Man On Earth's career. Based on the quality of what's on offer here, let's hope that he has a long one ahead.