Ok so I am a little late with this one. Or very late. The most recent album by The Tallest Man on Earth dropped on May 17th, 2015. So almost a full year ago. But like with most non-metal music, there’s a certain deliberation between when an album is released and when I finally get around to listening to it. As such, learning that this particular musician would be playing Prescott Park this upcoming summer inspired me to pick up Dark Bird Is Home. Now, having listened to it several times over the past week or so, I can label this as nothing short of essential present-day folk. It’s that good.
But who is The Tallest Man On Earth? Well, he’s a folk musician out of Sweden that has only been gaining traction here in the past three or four years, despite ten years of activity and four studio albums. I was personally turned onto him back in 2014 when i was introduced to There’s No Leaving Now, which dropped in 2012 (again… assume at least a one year gap before I hear stuff). While I certainly enjoyed this preceding album, The Tallest Man on Display displays more creativity, more emotion, and a more identifiable personality in this latest effort.
Simply by glancing at the incredible photograph that is the cover art, you can get a sense of what is contained in these lines of music. The color and clarity of the house and grass in the image relative to the shadowy female figure standing before, having just walked through the gated fence is it so simple, yet powerful. The Dark Bird Is Home. Traveling through isolation, taking chances, feelings of loss and then discovering what is important and concepts that can found through this album.
Opening with the somber “Fields of Our Home”, which becomes almost hymnal towards its terminus and then sliding into the more upbeat “Darkness of the Dream” is a sufficient snapshot of what the rest of this album will do. It tells a story that can both be optimistic in sound and feel but also contain content that is extremely dark and depressing. In keeping the focus primarily on the music, the album really takes off in the middle section as we work through “Slow Dance” and continuing through “Sagres”. The album becomes a story of a traveler and the emotions they experience as they are forced to recognize their solitude and all that comes with it. Through well-defined acoustic guitar passages and his signature raspy voice (not unlike Bob Dylan), The Tallest Man On Earth expresses everything that haunts a wanderer… the loss of what they left behind and all the challenges they face now on their own.
The story really becomes whole because of the way the composition of the songs changes from one to another. There is an impressive mix of upbeat, energetic moments and those where the pain in the voice takes precedent over any other sound contained within these tracks. In a genre that, on occasion, may suffer from repetition from one song to another, this album is a tremendous example of creativity and diverse song-structures. It does wonders to emphasize the more troubling moments of the tale as well as enhance the optimistic nature of it, almost as if all these struggles still have something to be gained — moving the focus in that positive direction.
Overall, I’ll close by emphasizing my point from earlier. The Tallest Man on Earth has become essential folk listening in today’s music scene and I am convinced that Dark Bird Is Home is his best effort yet. A wonderful blend of both storytelling through identifiable lyrics and clever, well-produced musicianship makes this an album that is incredibly difficult to put down. Do yourselves a favor and check out the music video for “Darkness of the Dream” below. It is most definitely a worthwhile break from the metal that surrounds us throughout the rest of the week.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”