Review Summary: With The Tallest Man on Earth's third release he proves just how versatile he is as a musician and songwriter.
Evolution in music is difficult to master, and to do so while staying true to an already established sound is harder. What often helps make a great album is the ability to take every element of previous albums and expand upon them, simply creating more of an already beloved quality. With “There’s No Leaving Now,” the Tallest Man on Earth has managed to do just this – taking a step forward in his career without losing track of the lovably crazy and relatable folk charm that he’s mastered. It’s clear that it’s a different album, emotionally subdued and mellow when compared to The Wild Hunt, an album that favoured rapturous choruses and explosive guitar playing, but one that possesses the ability to evoke just as much emotion as anything he’s ever done.
Each of the Tallest Man’s albums is packed with emotion – light-hearted and pure happiness, a sense of eerie mystery or nostalgia, but he’s always seemed fully aware and focused, and never confused. This shows musically too – each of the album’s 10 songs is well crafted and concise, and for the first time they build due to added instrumentation and an ever growing sound rather than just emotional and vocal climaxes, although those are still present. It’s an album that contains so much more musically yet ends up with a much more mellow and rich sound, evoking the same emotions he always has, just in a different way. The first track for example, “To Just Grow Away” is arguably his most full sounding yet, containing much more than just guitar. “1904” follows the same pattern, as electric guitar quietly fleshes out the song, adding to the overall atmosphere but never becoming abrasive. The mystery behind each song and the fact that their meanings are always partially obscured by Matsson’s unique lyrical style make each song more rewarding with every listen, and the album as a whole reveals more of itself depending on the amount of time it’s given. It can be said that Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt were more immediate albums, albums that produced a sound that many immediately fell in love with, and with this album Matsson has strayed from this formula. There’s simply a bit more to this album and therefore more to digest and it ends up complementing Matsson’s versatility as a musician and songwriter more than anything else he’s done to date.
The abstract lyrics that have by now become a signature aspect of his sound are as engrossing as ever, a mix of various different ideas that somehow result in a cohesive album. The reason these lyrics are captivating and not just frustrating is that it’s clear he knows exactly where he wants each song to go. His words create a frame to the music, and the music, complete with added variety and some truly impressive guitar playing, fill it. This isn’t always true however, with songs such as “Little Brother” that contain a near perfect mix of emotive vocals and lyrics. Lines like “Why are you drinking again little brother, when your rambling’s the hard part of loving you"” transform the song from pretty to heartbreaking, and the fact that Matsson so rarely writes such pure and straightforward songs makes it that much more captivating. It seems however that through the majority of the album he is focusing on conjuring an emotional response from the listener rather than sharing any of his own experiences, and it’s a style that works well for him.
As a guitar player, Matsson is phenomenal. With his third full length album certain traits of his style can be identified, but it doesn’t make any of them any less impressive and they never fail to carry a song. On “Leading Me Now” he creates one of the catchiest and most light-hearted songs on the album, through an incredibly unique melody and fast paced fingerpicked guitar playing. “Revelation Blues” is likewise one of his most upbeat, and the added instrumentation and excellent lyrics result in one his most vibrant and lively songs. These songs don’t stray far from any of his past work, but despite the familiarity in them, “There’s No Leaving Now” is his most diverse release yet. The gorgeous title track features his vocals at their strongest, and though he’s said that he’s not a great pianist the song more than succeeds, giving us one of the most memorable songs he’s done, and “Bright Lanterns” is a stand out, with its slower, atmospheric pace and beautiful imagery.
Following up an album like The Wild Hunt is hard. It was an album that at once defined his sound and served as a reminder of the power one man can achieve with just a guitar. On “There’s No Leaving Now” the Tallest Man on Earth hasn’t radically altered his sound nor has he played it safe. Instead he’s made the album that he felt necessary at this point in his career. It shows a slightly slower, mellower side to his music, but it’s also naturally diverse. He utilizes the same brilliant folk sound that he’s proved he can nail time and time again, but also finds the beauty in simplicity. On the chilling closer “On Every Page” he sings “It’s all we’ll ever be.” At this point though it’s safe to say that there’s just no knowing if this is all his music will ever be. He’s proven that he’s willing to evolve and because of that his future seems both promising and intriguing.