Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday, we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “King of Spain” by The Tallest Man on Earth from the 2010 album The Wild Hunt on Dead Oceans.
In response to a compilation CD I’d recently made him, one of my favorite friends in the world recently asked me “So, where did you find that Tallest Man on Earth guy?” I believe I erroneously replied, “Pandora” — WTF? no, I heard about him from another favorite friend Jarrod. Jarrod records music and sometimes wears blue denim suits with shiny green ties. He also sometimes works with John Vanderslice, which is how he heard of The Tallest Man on Earth. There you go. Cycle of life –- next stop, YOU. Trippy.
Favorite friend #1 was of course referring to Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson’s (a.k.a. The Tallest Man on Earth) 2008 debut album, Shallow Grave (Gravitation). Unrefined and graceful, Matsson’s stripped down debut is a masterpiece borne of folk’s warmest corners. Despite his roots as a way-up-Northerner, The Tallest Man on Earth reverberates with the sounds of Americana. Influenced by the likes of (wait for it) Bob Dylan and Lead Belly, Matsson builds upon those techniques and vocal inflections that have come to be synonymous with his special brand of poetic sincerity. Comprised of one gravel-throated voice, ten fingers and six strings, The Tallest Man on Earth pours from the speakers with the fullness of a symphony and the excitement of a Spring day. This is the kind of record that will have you studying the needle’s journey through the grooves, all the while wondering “how is all that in there?”
Yes, Shallow Grave is an EPIC debut album. I’ve listened to it over and over again, inserted its tracks onto countless mixes and blathered on and on about its complete and total awesomeness to anyone who’ll listen, but for some reason I never stopped to wonder about the next Tallest Man on Earth record. It has been two years! The time is upon us! Our moustached friend from the north has been writing!
Never straying too far from its predecessor (epic though, remember?), The Wild Hunt, out April 14, brings to light ten new intensely heartfelt tracks, each of which boils over with Matsson’s signature raw energy. A live favorite, “King of Spain” is a foot-stomping example of Matsson’s distinct talent as a melody-maker. Light-hearted, jangly strings and fairy-tale lyrics balance perfectly above the looming strength of Matsson’s vocal chords. I’m putting it on a mix CD for you as we speak.
And guess what?!? Two sold out tours in support of Bon Iver and John Vanderslice garnered enough attention to prompt a fresh record deal with the ever-expanding Jagjaguwar sister label Dead Oceans, making The Wild Hunt that much easier to scoop up. Saweet!
P.S. If you can’t wait for the official release, the complete album is available for download with an online pre-order of the physical LP/CD. Check it out over to the label’s website.
P.P.S. The Tallest Man on Earth will embark on an extensive North American tour next week that includes stops in Buffalo, NY, Birmingham, AL, Chicago, IL, SF, CA, Portland, and Vancouver (among many, many others). Absent from the list is Seattle –- but we get to see him at Sasquatch! on May 30th, so not to worry. You did buy tickets, right??? Because that sucker is now sold out!
This is the most popular of all the numerous videos on KEXP’s YouTube channel by nearly double the next most popular… that’s how powerful Matsson’s voice is live here on “Where Do My Bluebird Fly?”: