We have gone through many songs spanning several genres on our Top 11 of 2010 list. But, today we reach the end with the #1 song that is good ol’ fashioned folk music. I have gone through some pretty complex songs in the countdown. I’m sure you are thinking how did a folk song reach the #1 spot for the year. Well, this specific song is not only a plain folk piece. It is a work of absolute perfection from a 27-year-old Swedish artist named Kristian Matsson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth. The song combines a genius guitar riff, excellent lyrics and a voice that calls back to a young Bob Dylan (but it’s better). “King of Spain” is the most inerrant song of the year. It is both enjoyable and an absolute masterpiece. This is why it is #1.
Artist: The Tallest Man on Earth
Song: “King of Spain”
I’m not sure where to start. One side is telling me to simply post the song and publish the post. There is no need to defend a song that defends itself in its gritty beauty. However, I do feel that there may be some doubters out there and I do enjoy writing about music.
The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson. Well, not really. Ah, you know what I mean. Like I mentioned above, he is a 27-year-old Swedish singer/songwriter. He is a multi-instrumentalist with a voice straight out of the Swedish mountains, boisterous and rural. He plays a bare style of folk, concentrating on the essential three elements to a true folk piece, instrument, voice and lyric. Not everyone can pull this off, of course. Why do you believe so many have to add synthesizers, extra instrumentalists and harmonizers. I am not claiming that those who do this provide us with bad music. On the contrary, most of it explores beautiful sounds that Matsson cannot provide us with. But, I would certainly argue that those who do play this folk-blend style of music cannot support an entire song solo. Matsson can. He is an old-fashioned folk singer who has reached a level of notoriety and success playing a distinct solo style of music.
This is why constant comparisons to Bob Dylan follow him. And while Dylan will forever maintain the title of most accomplished and rich lyricist, Matsson’s two albums prove that he has a strong inclination for guitar style and vocals, enough that he may give Dylan a run for his money. A comparison between the two is quite bold at this time for Matsson simply does not have enough of a body of work. But, I can comfortably say that Matsson’s keen style of folk is some of the best I have ever heard. Yes, it is that good.
The first 27 seconds of pure acoustic guitar is beyond good. I have a tough time describing it. It causes an unconscious smile and you cannot help shaking your head. It is so simple, yet so complex. The song employs a capo over an already changed key. Unusual chord progressions follow and after a quick harmonic a lower chugging progression lays down an awesome rhythm that the song will follow. There is a purity to this progression, an excellence that makes you want to put it on repeat for hours. And then Matsson’s voice comes in.
A Bob Dylan comparison immediately does pop in your head, but the voices are distinctly different. Matsson has significantly more range. His voice follows the chug of the chords and meets the chorus with full force. It seems nasally but is not. Matsson puts this odd guttural inflection into his words and then utters them with such power you are actually blown away. And this is necessary for the lyric which displays passion. It is a unconventional love song. It seems like the song focuses on a lover who thinks he can be anything now that he has been provided with mutual feelings from another. He writes,
“Why are you stabbing my illusion?
Just cause I stole some eagle’s wings
Because you named me as your lover
Well, I thought I could be anything.”
It is described well in this final verse. His eagle wings allow him to soar (a common feeling when you are deeply in love). He feels like he can be anything, like the “King of Spain.”
Before the song ends, Matsson holds out the word “the” in this vocal climax that is shattering. It is also a perfect way for me to end this countdown. There is an animation in Matsson’s croon that is warm, inviting and aggressive. This is a true strength in his music. He is a folk musician who can provide the erupting emotion that Spector’s “wall of sound” does, but with only himself and a guitar. He is a one-man-band who is significantly stronger then mostly all of his five or more band counterparts. That is an impressive feat. Heck, he might actually be the “King of Spain”