Compartmentalizing What Makes Us Human: A Track-By-Track Review of The Tallest Man on Earth’s “When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground”

Adrian's Take

After dripping out singles throughout 2018, The Tallest Man on Earth’s open and sincere multimedia & EP project, When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground, is at last finished, giving listeners a stripped-back and soothing experience unlike anything released before.

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When it comes to playing with only the bare essentials of a song, none do it better than Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson. Performing as The Tallest Man on Earth, Matsson excels at evoking the most sincere of emotions into his audience with a refined bravado that no other modern artist possess. He achieves this with minimal intrusion, normally his beautiful lyrics and guitar melodies being the only forces behind his alluring presence.

When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground – The Tallest Man On Earth

Matsson has taken that formula and expanded upon it with his multimedia and EP project When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground. Released in installments throughout the year, this project is both unique and very in sync with Mattson’s style. Each of the five videos begins with an introduction to the song, providing the viewer an insight into his workings and what went into the track. He then performs in a stripped-back manner with only his guitar. It’s one of the most human projects out there – almost like a video chat from a family member who is eager to show you the latest happenings in their life.

Each performance is a melancholic journey that holds an unimaginable amount of sincerity and beauty to it. From being absent in one’s own life to the self-doubt that lingers in all of our minds, Mattson is at his most personal, and the payoff is extraordinary. Additionally, a studio version of each track is released that is as captivating as his homey, almost in real-time performance shown in his videos. With the studio version, listeners can expect subdued brass accompaniment sprinkled throughout, something that was introduced in his 2015 album Dark Bird Is Home.

Each video has a charm to it, almost feeling as if the performance is private and just for the viewer. The intimacy Mattson brings with When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground is admirable and a work of art that is not to be missed.

Listen: ‘When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground’ – The Tallest Man On Earth

An Ocean

The first track is a calming ballad that utilizes soft yet powerful electric guitar playing that is later joined by a brass arrangement that brings an additional layer to fall in love with. There is a nostalgia factor that surrounds the track, sounding reminiscent of previous albums while still being brand new and fresh.

Oh, somewhere in this stubborn light
Over the waves and troubles now
I look out for yours like you’ll for mine
So deep in the arms of the ocean now, mmm
When the bird sees the solid ground, mmm

His lyricism is as enamoring as ever, providing listeners with a gateway into a perfect and imagined world created by Mattson’s own hand. In the video, Mattson provides a background behind the meaning of the track and the project as a whole.

He talks about his dreams of learning “how to fly, lift off and levitate a little… being so much in the present moment you can just do anything.” He later adds “because self-doubt feeds on the past and the future, so you can just do it… but if you doubt yourself, you go straight back onto the ground, which reminds me of love.”

I’ve been counting on
The wind would know where I’m going to
Oh, when stillness comes around
I’ll ask what my heart would do
About drifting around
So deep in the arms of some ocean now, mmm

“An Ocean” is an excellent start to the project that opens up a piece of dialogue that is waiting to be continued and shared.

Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York

Snapping out of the fear that change can bring is an almost universal struggle most will face, and Mattson is no exception. The second track dives into adaptation and the ways in which one can find gratitude and the positives in life, no matter how big or small they may be.

Looking for my breath
In these dark and stormy days
All I do is miss you
Darling one, in so many ways
Should I not look back?
Oh, I know, hour’s getting late
And I won’t sing of sorrow, but please
Don’t take your love away

The electric guitar is replaced with his acoustic, creating a more melancholic sound in an instant. Joining his guitar melodies is the soft playing of a trumpet in the background that creates a steady rhythm throughout. It’s a calming tune, and when explained in his intro it feels like a story, a lesson he wishes to share with his viewers. That wish is carried through his poetic lyrics.

Some nights will haunt me
Till the daylight comes around
I’ll be fine, it’s all I really own
It’s always been around
Hanging on the dream of you
I will fall through days
But I get up stubborn
All your warmth and funny ways

Storytelling and poetry combine, creating an evocative, delicate listening experience. The title alone creates a splendid visual; daylight waiting to happen, the sun beginning to fly above from the cracks of a mountain. Despite the somber theme of heartbreak, the track sounds like the sunrise of a new day, and it even feels like one, too.

Forever Is A Very Long Time

Almost like a direct continuation from the previous track, “Forever Is A Very Long Time” explores the at times impossible action of letting go, that there is still life to be lived, even if it feels like it’s nothing more than empty bitterness.

Oh, I sleep in the mouth
Of some kind of creature of our time
And wild as it goes
I give up my body
And here’s my mind
Ah, to love and beyond
To love and to tumble in its light
Like a dream engineer
I built like a fool, now live like one

The track is an anthem of hope, and right from the start, it’s noticeable how different the tone is. It’s bustling, it’s loud, and it’s full of impassioned playing and honest lyrics that make their way into the listeners head and become implanted for some time.

What if nature is just numbers
You and I repetition
Are we free or just brought out again?
I will get through these days
Give me the spring and some summer
And then, will I still think of you
All the time?

Viewers and listeners have been presented a story. Starting from the moments where the hurt lingers the most, those moments that ravage and torment, it progresses into a more subdued heartbreak, but almost an acceptance of the eternal absence that will follow. And now, the story has reached the peak, where our protagonist has done away with his sorrow and aims only forward, even knowing the road ahead will be a painful one. He progresses with a fervent tenacity that echoes throughout the entire track, and it’s a work of beauty.

Down In My Heart

As Matsson explains in his video, “I’ve been trying to figure out what When The Bird Sees Solid Ground is ever since I started it, and I made a little progress with this song. ‘Down In My Heart’ happened really late one night while I was playing a fingerpicking that I’d made myself learn a few years ago.”

Take it out, I’m down in my heart
Where the winds and the wires alone
I hear them running the waves under me
The winds and the wires alone
I hear them running
And all I can say to you
My lonesome valley
I’ll fix my heart, and I’ll be gone before the night

The upbeat tempo is continued on this track, just not as loud. The repetition of the line “I’ll fix my heart” rings of truth and not denial, as if he believes with the utmost sincerity he’ll push forward and attain the life he strives for. His moment of brash acceptance and of letting go has passed, his emotion now stilled for the time being. Life is looking a little clearer.

Then I Won’t Sing No More

There couldn’t have been a more perfect closing track. Matsson brings it back to what “The Ocean” started in terms of melody. A gorgeous finger-plucked guitar carries the track with little else joining in, allowing the listener to embrace the words and music in full.

We’re just a bird who fell to shore
No grace in how things end I know
But its true
Some life does shine on through
Will we slowly reappear
Little walks until we’re new?

This project acted as Matsson’s feigning chair in a way, each track divulging more into his own personal heartbreak and the cycles he went through following it. Now he’s back to the present, these words happening in real-time. It’s a tender track that elicits the heaviest emotions on the EP. It’s a beautiful closing remark and an even more gorgeous beginning to something new.

When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground

“Finishing When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground lifted me up, it was a ride and I feel better now than I have in a long time,” explains Mattson. This EP acts like a conversation between himself and his fans, and open dialogue where he lays his honest self to us and only asks that we take the time to see and listen. Mattson has such a strong command over every note played and lyric sung, allowing him to do so much with so little. So no matter the version that is being listened to, one thing is certain: the three years leading up to this point have been worth the wait.

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:: purchase/stream When the Bird Sess the Solid Ground here ::

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:: The Tallest Man On Earth Tour Dates ::

10/1 — Amsterdam, NL – Duif – SOLD OUT
10/2 — Amsterdam, NL – Duif – SOLD OUT
10/3 — Groningen, NL — De Stadsschouwburg – SOLD OUT
10/4 — Copenhagen, DK – Bremen – SOLD OUT
10/6 — Stockholm, SE – Berwardhallen – SOLD OUT
10/7 — Goteborg, SE – Draken – SOLD OUT
10/8 — Oslo, NO – Folketeateret – SOLD OUT
11/9 — Washington, DC — Lincoln Theatre
11/10 — Philadelphia, PA — Union Transfer
11/11 — Boston, MA — Berklee Performance Center
11/12 — Northampton, MA — Academy of Music Theatre
11/13 — Montreal, QC — MTELUS
11/15 — Toronto, ON — Queen Elizabeth Theater – SOLD OUT
11/16 — Holland, MI — Hope College
11/17 — Chicago, IL — Thalia Hall – SOLD OUT
11/18 — Chicago, IL — Thalia Hall
11/19 — Eau Claire, WI — RCU Theatre
11/23 — Vancouver, BC — Chan Centre For The Performing Arts – SOLD OUT
11/24 — Seattle, WA – Neptune – SOLD OUT
11/25 — Portland, OR — Revolution Hall – SOLD OUT
11/27 — San Francisco, CA — Herbst Theatre
11/29 — Los Angeles, CA — Cathedral Sanctuary
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