From the light-filled strums opening The Tallest Man on Earth’s third proper album, there’s an immediate sense of shifted perspective, a return to see the world and a life through the lens of a fixed place. The man whose music always had a fleeting, nomadic quality, who sang “I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone” and “Kids on the Run” is noticeably more vocally stable, less pointed, and less migrant this time around.
There’s a brightness to this album, an image of the sun peeking out from behind steadily shifting clouds. His songs are still revealed by the strokes of a paintbrush, of watercolors that bleed from time to time, and come to life in the light. The delivery and inflection are still very much influenced by the kind of quiet thinking that happens in the basement of your childhood home with your father’s liquor cabinet at your disposal, but the guiding worldview is markedly different.
Somewhere between There’s No Leaving Now and The Wild Hunt, Kristian Matsson seems to have had the realization that what gives our time here weight is what we leave with each other. While there’s a pervasive feeling of change throughout this album, it’s no longer with bags always packed for a moment’s notice. The more settled, first multi-track effort that was recorded at home reportedly finally sounds the way he really heard his music in his head.
“To Just Grow Away” unfolds like a box of your favorite possessions, with fuzzy vocals and a night carnival of a melody that acts an opening exhale. It sets the tone for a new way of embracing, and lays out the idea that it doesn’t take constant movement to elicit growth, or create a life that’s full. “Revelation Blues” keeps melting into the aesthetic of the world he creates that’s a wide zoom at the realization that everything has its place, and liberates all your thought processses about a vagrant life at once (“But you showed me that a wind is sometimes broken and its flying path has no meaning nor a ghost within”).
There is a theme of maturation and the ability to give up constant control, the sense of relief and peace that comes with real trust. No longer afraid of staying in one place and getting too intimate, of ever feeling truly weak to another person, it becomes a part of how he now sees the world—what he thinks is out there, what’s possible and why we’re here. The music breathes more easily itself, of a life that feels like is forming and molding on its own, unhinged from its self-imposed limitations.
Tracks keep moving at a brisk pace with a strumming intensity of a history lesson on “1904,” and in fact, it isn’t until mid-album offering “Bright Lanterns” that it eases its gait. What starts with the soft glow from a row of paper lights swaying in the twilight captures his beautiful sense of cinematic, almost iconic visions of longing, and pulls you up in its breath of forward movement. It’s a sonically gorgeous track of nature’s quiet and vast resetting power of perspective.
The piano-backed, vocal-driven title track is the center around which the rest of the album tethers, a point of settling down to “your quiet damn devotion.” It may be the album’s most intimate moment, open to wondering if it’s too late to learn to stay after years built on running.
The second half of the record is about making amends with the past, and of knowing it has no power over now, no matter how toxic or misguided. “Wind And Walls” is a reminder to fight the urge to fall back into habits of drifting, finding a balance between the open road and home. “Little Brother” is the lullaby that lets a part of your younger self go, being aware of that sense of departure—a way of taking one last look before you go.
At some point there must come the realization that you can’t just run away from everyone you fuck up with; that there is a blessing in confronting personal weakness, in laying it bare and facing your worst fears about yourself. Though albums past may have felt more novel with a sense of discovery, his source of inspiration has evolved from the childishness of wandering to a real sense of a settled home, when the idea of what that is runs suddenly in motion. It’s of learning to finally let go of immature tendencies, as poetic as they seem. A collection of ten songs that leaves you feeling not weighed down by all its thinking, but floatingly light, in awe of a newfound consciousness in the natural world.
There’s No Leaving Now is itself a fearless sigh, the sense of a man who’s found a bit of internal peace, not unlike Bon Iver, Bon Iver. For artists like Justin Vernon and Matsson, whose music is built upon raw honesty more than anything else, you can’t ignore the living, breathing person who exists beneath the music. To compare its merits as an album against The Wild Hunt would do a disservice to the evolution of a man whose life changes through the passage of time constantly inform the direction of his music. We sometimes forget that creation is borne from experience, but if it’s still honest, if it’s an expression of where they are now, then that’s what matters. Like considering the usefulness of one year to the last, these things work in more of a cyclical manner, in the same way that an awareness of all things past is important to always inform the constant present. This is a portrait of a man who’s taken a look back and decided: I like it here.