What happens when a rambling man settles down? On 2010’s The Wild Hunt, Kristian Matsson, the scruffy soul from Sweden who sounds like he’s from anywhere but, traveled the globe- proudly declaring on the opening title track “yes, I’ll be leaving in the fall.” It was an album of motion; crossing continents as the tracks ticked on, eventually ending the album with a career defining song “Kids on the Run.” As evidenced by the title, There’s No Leaving Now finds Matsson tired of running and more willing to sit on a porch and reflect on everything he has experienced.
From the opening guitar strums of “To Just Grow Away” to the closing fadeout croon of “On Every Page,” Matsson sets this album up more as an invitation to listen than a cry to be heard. He trades desperation yelps for hushed lessons, lessons he has learned from experience. While this new method of introspective delivery allows the listener to let the music wash over them, I view it as a growth in confidence: Matsson doesn’t need our ears, he knows what he has to say is important, the choice to listen is up to us.
In addition to the relaxation of lyrical delivery, Matsson has also toned down the instruments: everything sounds a bit quieter than his previous records. However the choice makes sense: this is his most complex instrumentation to date, and as I learned, the softer volume allows the complexities to fully be heard. With the sparse songwriting of albums old allows for a louder guitar, if that were the case here, the instruments would overpower Matsson’s frail croon. While a few tracks, the lovely piano-ballad self-titled track and the closer “On Every Page,” stick to his stripped roots, this is a very instrumentally lush album.
So is it worth your time? Yes. But don’t go into it expecting the same old Swede. Rather than try to rush the album, push play and let it sink in. The immediate gems are there (“1904” is the most immediate, providing a journey through the years that seems both beyond our control and Matsson’s, while “Wind and Walls” maintains the folk-boogie that was so present on The Wild Hunt yet with a dash of steel pedal guitar) but for the most part the album is more rewarding with multiple listens, much like another album by a charismatic old soul.
For a man that is so oft compared to Bob Dylan, the weight of greatness must be a constant burden on Kristian Matsson’s tall, tall shoulders. So far, he has done a pretty damn good job of living up to the comparison. While There’s No Leaving Now may not be his career defining work, it’s a lovely welcome to the inner mind of a brilliant songwriter. While it may not provide as great of a road trip soundtrack as his previous works, it’s definitely a worthy place to hang your coat and stay for a while.