Kristian Matsson deals largely in the abstract, but for a concrete idea of what There’s No Leaving Now sounds like, imagine Bob Dylan getting whiplash from a taste of Scandinavian air. A Dylan disciple since in utero, the Swedish-born Matsson’s songs reimagine Dust Bowl blues through a lo-fi lens. They also project coldness rather than intimacy, the floods of reverb taking on bizarrely inhuman shapes. The specter of hand-churned Americana does loom large over There’s No Leaving Now—it’s just warped into something taciturn and alien.
There’s No Leaving Now is a deadly serious record, never once wavering from the thesis potted on “1904”: “Well, some say it’s not even funny/And there you stand not even trying.” A similar indictment could be leveled at Matsson’s humorless past tourmates Bon Iver, but for all the superlatives with which that group has been showered, their albums meld pretty unassumingly into a stoned, comfortable blur. Matsson wants a spot in the canon, and seems to feel that his surest path there involves singing in a register high and supernaturally Dylanesque enough to convince Bringin’ It All Back Home fans that they’re experiencing a profound case of déjà vu.
Songs like “Wind and Walls” and “Revelation Blues” are certainly pretty enough, but they come in one shade: diffuse, wordy, ambling melancholy. The piano-jingling title track is a welcome relief, hinting at a pair of pop songwriting chops that the rest of the album tries hard to bury. Otherwise, There’s No Leaving Now settles too readily into a single slumberous mood. It’s all pull and no push.