Artists are often accused of making safe records when a new effort lacks a certain punch or edge that was prevalent in previous work. This is often said in accompaniment of newfound critical acclaim or a transition to a new label and broader appeal. There’s No Leaving Now released earlier this year by The Tallest Man on Earth, nee Kristian Matsson, could be called one of these safe albums and has garnered new consideration in the public eye. But with two strong albums and two EPs already in his catalog, There’s No Leaving Now could more realistically be seen as a risk for the ascendant Swedish folkster.
My favorite part of listening to The Tallest Man on Earth’s music was appreciating the power in his delivery. With little more than a ragged voice and an acoustic guitar, melodies were wrestled and dragged out in a way that was only beautiful in a vein akin to boxing or sacrifice. The Tallest Man on Earth’s songs kicked up dust as it roared past, certain it had to keep moving and never look back. But despite that forcefulness, his lyrics always had a delicate tenderness. There’s No Leaving Now turns up the tenderness and buttons up the barnstorming.
Standout track “Leading Me Now” summarizes the theme of assurance and willing resignation found throughout the album. In it, Matsson measures, “We will end up somehow with a peaceful mind, and you’re leading me now.”
The new accompaniments of electric guitar, pedal steel, keyboards and percussion on There’s No Leaving Now offer an even more literal reminder that Matsson’s latest work is rooted to one place. One can always tear off in some new direction with just a guitar or harmonica. But in the layers of multi-tracking, Matsson has made a bed for his dense, poetic lyrics.
The album is full and refined—if not demure—but the production still allows Matsson’s voice to carry the album. The spirited vocals range from a howl to a quiet coo. Despite the trembles and cracks, Matsson sounds convinced that everything is turning out the way it was meant to be. There’s No Leaving Now may not be what one might have expected, but it is a solid effort in the growth of The Tallest Man on Earth.