Kristian Matsson is amazing and not really above average height. ‘Little River’ is a song that was suggested to me and comes disconnected from any sense of the Swede’s oeuvre but is all the more beautiful for it. As a stand-alone piece of songwriting, of whimsical storytelling and intricate guitar work, ‘Little River’ holds its own and, like a good song should, cuts through without the need for background information, producer credits or a back catalogue to prop it up. I am notoriously bad at picking good singer-songwriters. There is something about the confidence required to back yourself with only a guitar or piano that makes me fall, particularly in a live setting, for anyone who fronts a room on their own. That said, I usually get tired of such quietly sentimental songs when the intimacy of a live performance is stripped away. Coming to Matsson and this track in particular without expectations helped confirm its prettiness later on.
The first reason Matsson is amazing is that the superb lyricism on display throughout ‘Little River’ is written in English. The haunting, evocative power of couplets like ‘And there is something ’bout the quiet surprise in darkness/You just sing about your own death in your closet’ is lent even more gravity when you realise that Matsson has a better grip on his second language than many English artists have on their first. The obvious parallels to be drawn are to folk idols like Dylan. Associations with the ultimate counter-culture figure are plain but don’t diminish the power of this track. Instead, a lack of contemporary artists who really craft their songs around expressive lyricism makes this rare example of sincerely dedicated songwriting – a throwback to an era when high-concept and promotion weren’t within the artist’s purview – such a precious delight.
The second reason Matsson is amazing is that against a backdrop of hugely produced pop, bigger electro and increasingly outlandish hip-hop, he reminds you with ‘Little River’ that a good song is still a good song, even when its just one average sized man, his voice and an acoustic guitar on the recording. Devoid of any sort of production trickery, layering or sequencing, ‘Little River’ is the sort of song that appears simple for its limited elements. In reality, Matsson’s well-practiced guitar technique (trained classically as a child) and his way with rambling, sweeping phrases replete with wonderfully thick imagery might give you an impression of ease but belie the serious talent behind them. While initially hesitant to fully embrace the singer-songwriter (potentially given my predilection for those over-produced genres mentioned above), I’m glad that I’ve now made room for ‘Little River’. Like it’s namesake, this song flows at first ponderously and then ever more strongly, evoking the sort of emotion that only the Tallest Man on Earth might be qualified to dredge up. There are other reasons why Matsson is amazing. Discover them.
Tallest Man On Earth – Little Rivers