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The Tallest Man on Earth: There's No Leaving Now (Dead Oceans) 

A couple of years after his breakthrough sophomore album, The Wild Hunt, Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson has toned things down for There's No Leaving Now, but it's still a beguiling, dark work. Matsson seems to have mastered a certain sad troubadour style that, when he expresses depth, pegs him as the bastard child of Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson, with his particular brand of poetic, folky tunes.

Opener "To Just Grow Away" unfurls a lovely jangle of British folk that sets a template for the rest of the album. For instance, "Revelation Blues" threads a rollicking acoustic chug over lachrymose observations ("Sometimes it's just roses dying too young"), but also allows in some soft flute at its conclusion that suggests another work entirely.

"Bright Lanterns," however, remains an unapologetically gorgeous standout, with Matsson's adenoidal voice coming through, eerily distant and intimate, over beautiful slide-guitar whines and tight acoustic balletics. Still, Matsson's musical palette allows him to veer into both acoustic MOR ("Leading Me Now") and blustery, rote acoustic rev-ups ("Wind and Walls").

Even if There's No Leaving Now feels a bit less inspired than its predecessor, the title track, a gutting piano ballad about cruel inevitability, is a stunner. Similarly, the trickling guitar lines that add body to the thrum of "1904" and the lyrical explorations of familial madness coloring "Little Brother" lift Matsson's music above the banal morass.

More by Michael Petitti

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