Off the Beat and Path: The Wild Hunt

Rob O’Donnell

Columnist

I could start this column with a series of lame jokes about The Tallest Man on Earth’s actual height. Trust me, I tried a few out on my friend, and I’m lucky he’s so nice. Instead, I’m just going to jump right into reviewing the Swedish singer-songwriter’s album, “The Wild Hunt.”

The Tallest Man on Earth’s real name is Kristian Matsson, and based on his biography, I assume English is his second language. When you listen to his music, you wouldn’t believe it. His lyrics are absolutely original. My first language is English, I am an English major, and I still would have no chance at matching him. His style is very abstract, so it took me a few listens to truly understand most of the songs. But once you start dissecting them, they start to make more sense. Each song is an intensely personal story, so it has to be dealt with individually. I believe abstraction is his way of distancing himself from pain so he can sing with intense emotion and not break down.

He recorded all of the songs at his house by himself, yet the quality is flawless. It’s hard to describe the music, as it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before. His guitar is fiery and complex, but breaks your heart at the same time. He is one of those rare musicians like John Frusciante who can tell you their emotions just by playing the guitar. It’s acoustic folk guitar but feels like a full band.

The vocals are probably what draw most people in. I would say he’s a cross between early Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson, the infamous blues musician. But at the same time, he is so distinguished it’s almost unfair to compare him to anybody else. His work is rasping and cutting, yet incredibly delicate when he wants. The last song, “Kids on the Run,” is him on a piano, and the result almost made me laugh the first time I heard it. The juxtaposition of the soft, sweet piano and his razor blade voice is unnerving at first, but now it is easily my favorite song on the album.

It takes a little while to get used to his style, but once you do, he has no equal. You truly believe every word he sings, because he sings with such passion he could not possibly be superficial. So when he says “Rumor has it that I wasn’t born, I just walked in one frosty morn’, into the vision of some vacant mind,” I believe him. Because that’s what I imagined when I first listened to his album.

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