The Tallest Man on Earth
I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.


2.8
good

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 16th, 2019 | 152 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Same man, different Earth.

I can still remember seeing Kristian Mattson being crowned as a visionary in 2010 on the heels of his seminal release, The Wild Hunt. There were comparisons to Bob Dylan aplenty, which most people considered to be a strength while others lamented it as a cheap derivation. Regardless, no one at the turn of the decade sounded quite so promisingly raw, and there was this sense of infinite potential emanating from his cracking voice and frenetically plucked acoustic guitar. It seemed he could go anywhere and do anything, although most of us hoped that he’d stay right where he was, making the same gorgeously imperfect folk that caused us to swoon at the likes of ‘King of Spain’ and ‘Burden of Tomorrow.’

Well, be careful what you wish for – because three full-lengths later, Mattson is still the same man making the same art in a musical landscape that is…well, not the same.

I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. carefully performs a backwards walk into the framework established by The Wild Hunt and There’s No Leaving Now, after Dark Bird Is Home teased more dynamic rock compositions, and even dared to flirt with some ambient effects. Instead of pushing these musical boundaries further, we find Mattson returning to his bread and butter while also eliminating any possible avenues of expansion. It’s the kind of move you might expect from a decade-spanning icon coming off of a long hiatus, but not a popular indie artist five albums into his career, where he should be entering his creative apex. In that way, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. feels like giving up – it's a refusal to chase the dream any further, in favor of returning to the approach that won acclaim nearly a decade ago. At best it’s frustratingly safe, and it's certainly not the outcome one might have hoped for when Mattson first began extending his creative reach with songs like 'Sagres', or when Dark Bird faded out to a resounding “oh, fuck” and a cathartic wave of pianos and guitars.

The problem certainly isn’t his skill set or songwriting ability, as these ten tracks all ring out with resounding poise and clarity. Yes, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. is a beautifully bare acoustic folk record, and we would not expect anything less from The Tallest Man on Earth at this point. Mattson purists can rejoice in the raw, pastoral folk that recalls The Wild Hunt, or in places, even Dylan. But that’s the problem…this album recalls more than it defines. The record’s chief success seems to be in helping listeners reminisce about a time where the landscape of folk music was being changed – be it in the 1960s or even back in 2010. Had he pioneered new territory that didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations, that would be preferable to treading old ground that still manages to fall short. This is just a batch of good but very familiar songs by an artist who has already done the same thing better.

Mattson falls under a magnifying glass of scrutiny thanks to the immense reception of his past works, which launched him into a fabled “god-tier” of folk artists. It may seem unfair to criticize him at length for not changing an approach that clearly works for him, but it comes with the territory when you’re considered to be at the forefront of your genre. The statement that Mattson is making with this album is that he’s comfortable in his acoustic folk niche. There’s little wrong with settling into a sweet spot, but it just means that Kristian might not be the visionary that some of us thought he was on the verge of becoming. There's No Leaving Now was almost as good as The Wild Hunt – and now I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. is almost as good as There's No Leaving Now. It’s diminishing returns on the same approach, and with this album we’ll definitely find ourselves satisfied yet again – only with another layer of appreciation eroded. He's chasing a milestone he'll most likely never again reach. Mattson is a talented artist and we'll all undoubtedly enjoy Fever Dream to some extent, but at this point it’s more nostalgia than it is awe.



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user ratings (114)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Atari STAFF (5)
Seeing eye to eye with The Tallest Man on Earth...



Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
April 16th 2019


30663 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

https://www.npr.org/2019/04/15/712752938/first-listen-the-tallest-man-on-earth-i-love-you-it-s-a-fever-dream

Digging: Tyler, the Creator - Igor

luci
April 16th 2019


10940 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Damn. And here I thought I was gonna spar with sowing in the thread for this.

I like this line: "It’s the kind of move you might expect from a decade-spanning icon coming off of a long hiatus, but not a popular indie artist five albums into his career, where he should be entering his creative apex."

This record is just so... useless when you have his older material. There's something about his fanbase and their low expectations though, he can get away with retreads.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 16th 2019


30663 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

It's a good record and he's still one of the most talented artists in mainstream folk, but this album just defines complacency.

SandwichBubble
April 16th 2019


9609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

From a 4.4 for their last one to a 2.8 for this? That's a pretty intense drop.

Slex
April 16th 2019


6636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

His last album sucked and the point of contention is that this one didn't follow in its footsteps? Yikes

Digging: Charly Bliss - Young Enough

Ryus
April 16th 2019


17444 Comments


his last album seriously sucked

luci
April 16th 2019


10940 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

last album was the only adventurous thing he's put out since 2010. gotta give him props for that

Slex
April 16th 2019


6636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If adventurous means trite and interminable, then yes

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 16th 2019


30663 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Funny, I thought Dark Bird was easily his second best. Sometimes I even prefer it to The Wild Hunt.

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 16th 2019


7614 Comments


Last two albums had a few really good songs and a few duds. I loved what I heard from this though... Can't wait to counter.

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 16th 2019


7614 Comments


"There's something about his fanbase and their low expectations though, he can get away with retreads."

lol the potshots, always the potshots

Slex
April 16th 2019


6636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Think Dark Bird is far away his worst, sounds like a lame soft rock album to me



This is his most emotionally/lyrically bare with enough embellishments to positively buffer his always phenomenal guitar playing, think it's easily his best since Wild Hunt

Lucman
April 16th 2019


2519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yikes! Was not expecting a score this low. I've only spun it once but I loved it easily as much as his past material.

Digging: Shiina Ringo - Shouso Strip

Lucman
April 16th 2019


2519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah, after reading the review I definitely get where you're coming from, Sow. I had far different expectations when going into this one. After hearing the lead single I was simply hoping for something that could live up to it. It also sounds like a very sad record so I believe that lends a big hand to the stripped back approach.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 16th 2019


24614 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm loving this so far

Digging: Radiator Hospital - Sings "Music for Daydreaming"

TwigTW
April 16th 2019


3734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm definitely enjoying this, but it's got me returning to the first three albums. So...

Digging: Rhiannon Giddens - there is no Other

AdolfChrist
April 16th 2019


20931 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i havent heard the full thing yet, but im disappointed to hear there arent more tracks like The Running Styles of New York.

Digging: Deus Mortem - Kosmocide

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 16th 2019


15798 Comments


Interesting that he's doing the "Gomen ne" gesture for apologizing in Japanese lol

Great write up Sow.

Digging: Full of Hell - Weeping Choir

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 16th 2019


24614 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sowing you didn’t mention Shallow Grave in the review and I see you haven’t rated it. If by some crazy chance you haven’t heard that one, it’s pretty incredible. “This Wind” is top 5 tallest man on earth





AdolfChrist
April 16th 2019


20931 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Shallow Grave is my #1



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