The Tallest Man on Earth

Shallow Grave

If this is where Swedish pop is heading, we may just avoid the impending hyperglycemia. First on the scene was José González, a Gothenburg-reared troubadour of Argentine descent who was spoon-fed João Gilberto as a child. Now there’s Kristian Matsson, another Swede keen on eschewing the sacchariney pop stylings of his countrymen. Matsson, who performs under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth, fully embraces Appalachian folk music. Hear the finger-picked melodies, floor-stomping tempos and twangy vocals on Shallow Grave, and you’d swear on your Labrador Records collection Matsson was from sooty West Virginia. And while such genre appropriating can often play pretentious, Matsson avoids such pratfalls with vulnerability and dilettantish style, while the album sounds as if it was recorded from the slatted rocking chair of a rickety porch. Shallow Grave is weightier than your standard Swedish fare thanks to Matsson’s ability to conflate natural imagery with sober themes. When he sings “And now that death will grow my Jasmines / I find it soothing, I’m afraid,” one gets the sense he hasn’t just helped bury a loved one, but Swedish pop’s worn-out template as well.