4/5 Stars

The cover of There’s No Leaving Now shows a simple blurred picture of a tree, fitting for an album byKristian Mattson, better known by his stage name The Tallest Man on Earth. The band traditionally shows unassuming — and boring — landscape photography on their album covers.  (It’s also asking for the “there’s no leaf-ing now” pun.)

But maybe complaining about album artwork these days is just plain passe; the critical equivalent of yelling at whippersnappers to get off your lawn.  In the era of Instagram, has album art fallen by the wayside, so easy to produce that it’s become more of an obligation than a craft? Call me old fashioned, but I sincerely hope not.

But I digress.  The album’s content, much like the album’s cover, doesn’t differ much from that of its predecessors, which  is probably for the best.

Those familiar with The Tallest Man on Earth will immediately recognize his trademark finger-picked guitar melodies and a voice so nasal you’d swear his throat was in his nose. Those hearing him for the first time will impulsively draw a comparison to a young Bob Dylan; it is rare to find two artists so similar both lyrically and vocally.

After two EPs and two albums, Matsson has most certainly found his niche.  There are no gimmicky drum fills, no effect pedals and no intricate layering techniques. It’s just, for the most part, a man and his guitar. The production on There’s No Leaving Now is certainly much cleaner than his prior work: Gone is the raw burlap bag in which Matsson seemed to carry his voice.  Faithful fans will decry this decision, while others will be pleased by the move that most will consider maturation.

Thematically, Matsson stays true to his earlier works as well. He paints lyrical images of mountains and plains, so much so, in fact, that at times it seems like he is singing directly to the landscape.  Other songs are characteristically dark, touching on such topics as alcoholism and the premature death of a friend. Everything on There’s No Leaving Now is exactly as expected. There are few derivations from Matsson’s tried-and-true formula of “man + guitar + woe = music,” so those in search of something new will be disappointed.

But those with a penchant for wistfully staring out car windows as you sit through yet another familyroadtrip will find the perfect soundtrack in The Tallest Man on Earth’s newest record.

Song to Download: “Wind and Walls”

Song to Skip: “On Every Page”

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