A Mellifluous Blending of New & Old
‘I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.’ flips the script on the wayward nature-bound inclinations of past albums, creating a new sense of musicality that sees a weathered Matsson explore the deepest recesses of himself while still retaining the folk identity fans have come to admire.
Throughout his discography, The Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson has mastered the art of the vagabond. His folk melodies are bucolic, instantly creating soundscapes that are larger than life which could act as the soundtrack to one’s own adventure towards unexplored worlds. This theme has been present throughout most of his albums, and even when facing the struggles of a fresh divorce, the thrill of the hunt and the pastoral dreams were still alive and well with 2015’s Dark Bird Is Home. Now, four years later, Matsson dives into the deep end, telling intimate stories of his inner self with I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.
I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream. narrows the scope of the lens, focusing in on Matsson himself. The once fearless wanderer is now isolated, alone. A curtain has been drawn and listeners are now seeing just how human Matsson truly is. It’s a beautiful shift that provides insight into Matsson himself, making for an album that also allows for connections to be made with ease. The image of a wayward adventurer playing on street corners, open fields of tall grass, or to the empty streets he walks often follows Matsson and his work. On his first two albums, Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt, this is what fans received. An energetic and robust soundscape full of banjo twangs and guitar picking made for a sound that often stirred up Bob Dylan comparisons, and they weren’t wrong. They offered large dreamscapes listeners could escape to, but now the playing has softened and the tempo slowed.
His musicality remains ever on-point, though, making for an album that sounds absolutely gorgeous, even during the moments where one can’t help but feel the hurt that Matsson shares. Sonically, the album continues the trend of folk instrumentation with stellar uses of harmonica, banjo, and guitar, but bits of synth, piano, and horns add to the mix and harmonize perfectly. It creates the best of the old with the lush sounds of the new. When it comes to storytelling, he remains unmatched. Each track presents some of the strongest lyricism of the year with no word being out of place and no story feeling rushed nor incomplete. Many questions such as “what’s next” or “what now” are brought up, giving light to a new side of Matsson. This new theme is evident with each track, all told in their own self-contained stories.
‘I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream’ – The Tallest Man on Earth
Absolutely chilling. “Hotel Bar” kicks off the album in the most hauntingly beautiful way. The themes present in the track provide a great taste for is to come as well, giving way for the stories that will begin to unfold. What begins as only guitar plucks blossoms into a soundscape filled with horns and piano that give this tale of loneliness a reassuring yet still somber tone that will leave one breathless.
All I can do is say things will be fine
Some days we will be
All I can do is say things will be fine
Some days we will be in the same town
When discussing isolation, it’s terribly easy to fall into a pit of depression with it and create music that reflects that, but Matsson grabs this sensitive topic and turns it into a sonic wonderland. He has a knack for it, and the rest of this album shares in that gift.
The Running Styles of New York
With an immediate inclusion of electronic twinkles and piano, “The Running Styles of New York” offers a phenomenal example of the evolution of Matsson as a songwriter and artist. It’s a meditative track, one that aims to showcase the very best of people. The tendencies one shows or believes to have the most of often tend to be some of people’s worst. Why is that? People are more than what they view themselves as, and Matsson wants to showcase this.
There is beauty out here
Like peculiar running styles, some are wild
And the breath on the other side
Of getting around
The best tendencies are the ones unnoticed, but they deserve attention. One might view themselves through a single lens their whole life, but if they don’t take the initiative to wipe the dirt off of them from time to time, that view becomes distorted. There is beauty in everyone, and this track is gentle reminder of that fact.
There’s A Girl
Listeners are given a taste of nostalgia with the classic harmonica and guitar plucks of albums past with “There’s A Girl.” For the Dylan fans, this might be the track for them. The harmonica always finds its spot in the track, never overstaying its welcome while still adding a new level of depth to it. A shining example of the profound musicality Matsson possesses.
There’s a girl that tells me I’m alright
I hope she means it
Because I’m way too stubborn to believe
That we won’t make it
There’s hopefulness behind this melancholic anthem of one’s personal darkness. This hope drives Matsson forward, looking towards the day to see if he will be proven wrong and that he will no longer be a thrall to the dark he seems to be stuck in. All with the help of a new love.
Some of the most stellar guitar work is heard on “My Dear,” offering a finger plucking groove and melody that will remain in the heads of listeners for quite a while even as the music stops. The energetic plucks on previous albums provided flash, but Matsson shows that the flash isn’t always needed to make a memorable melody. He’s achieved a new level of artistry with the soft strokes, a pattern the album as a whole follows.
What I’ve Been Kicking Around
“What I’ve Been Kicking Around” continues the streak of soft, fanciful guitar plucking and heartfelt lyrics. The imagery present in this track is outstanding, providing one of the most visually appealing tracks on the album with nothing more than his natural ability at lyricism. “I open up the windows. Let the wind right through my country home. Let my notes just fly around,” he sings. If one were to close their eyes when listening, they’d be hard-pressed not to find themselves in the world Matsson created.
I’m A Stranger Now
“I’m A Stranger Now” harkens back to The Wild Hunt with its energy and rhythm and provides a reprieve of sorts. Soft touches still surround this track, allowing for a terrific mix of two opposing sounds that share a common theme and present it beautifully. Despite the upbeat nature of the track, agony surrounds it as Matsson explores when he and his former love faced the struggles of growing apart.
A little drop of poison in the rain
A little drop of madness in my heart
It’s nothing but will nothing grow away
Look nervously at things that come apart
If only this one held the answer
To our loneliness and all
This track showcases the storytelling ability of Matsson with a dignified presence. The poignant lyrics offer a relatable touch to the track, and those connections being made is what makes this album shine. Agony can only last for so long, though, and as the track progresses so too does Matsson. His identity and independence, which were once lost, are now found. He is now in the process of reclaiming his former self, and witnessing it unfold through this track is a treat like no other.
Waiting for My Ghost
The always tasteful harmonicas make their return with “Waiting for My Ghost.” They accompany this intimate story of wishing for the past, always chasing far off memories that ultimately turn into scattered dreams. “Why do the hours disappear when I speak so loving of where I have been,” he laments, questioning why the past offers more than the present, why it’s so difficult for him to continue. But despite it, he sees the pain this choice causes, assuring himself that things will change. “Though I’m tired and longing for pleasure… I will teach them to look like some treasure.” Leave the past as it is: treasured memories, ones not to be yearning for.
I’ll Be A Sky
With “I’ll Be A Sky,” inadequacy takes a leading role in the story of this track. However, Matsson doesn’t mind this. The sky, what lies beyond the welkin, is a boundless space that will never be fully understood. So why feel pressure from it? He walks a path he knows he will not fully understand and acknowledges it, relieving himself of the judgment that might come with it.
I traveled the fever road
I traveled clouds of my mistakes
And sure, I can drift away
But I’ll be just around the corner from your love
Aiming for perfection might be admirable, but it’s often misguided, and Matsson shows that his path forward will face mistakes and hardships, but it will all simply pass.
All I Can Keep Is Now
A whimsical aroma wafts around “All I Can Keep Is Now” that immerses listeners with its brevity and charm. Guitar and piano collide to build upon the story that is taking place. “Whenever I sleep, it’s a goddamn journey. Every then I’ve seen is now. Here, darling, all of the moments all the time,” he sings. Throughout the track, there are talks of isolation, following the theme that has been present on the album, along with a refreshing stance of light in the dark.
There is the light
The light is in me
Wasn’t this all
Some crazy dream
Lyrically, this track is another powerhouse. It serves as a great introduction into the finale and opens the door to the last of Matsson’s stories with grace.
I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.
It all comes full circle with the title and closing track. With “Hotel Bar,” the emotional weight attached to the track was heavy which made a statement about the coming tracks as a whole. It’s a journey of his inner-self, and what started low ends high. “But I keep the hope I carry, little things so I can love wherever I go now,” he sings with a tinge of joy in his voice. His reclamation is complete. His journey forward can now begin.
I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.
Self-discovery lies at the heart of this album, and Matsson has explored this topic with unmatched beauty and grace through his ingenious use of colorful harmonicas, delicate guitar plucks, robust horns, and soft piano strokes – all wrapped around personal lyrics that unraveled stories of personal triumph and failure. The fragility that Matsson displayed on I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream. is an admirable and praiseworthy telling of the musicianship he possesses. Fans were given a full display of the humanity behind the artist, giving way for connections that elevate the album to a higher tier. These connections are what allows this album to be appreciated by all. Personal pains and pitfalls plague people everywhere, so for those who face struggles in surpassing them might find comfort in Matsson’s exploration of his journey to overcome the personal pain he’s endured. While this might be his saddest album to date, it also obtains the status of his most reassuring.
It’s safe to say I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream. is one of 2019’s most memorable albums.
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📸 © Kaitlin Scott