Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Album Review: J. Tillman-Year In The Kingdom
I think one of the beautiful things about music for me is that, at various times of my life, I can point to the music that I listened to at that time and define my life with it. My high school years were defined by MxPx, Unwritten Law, and Lagwagon. My early relationship with my wife could be summed up by Something Corporate, Alkaline Trio, and The Get Up Kids. After a few spins of the new J. Tillman album, Year In The Kingdom, I can definitely see it becoming a definitive album years from now.
Let me preface this by saying that J. Tillman is without question one of the most underrated musicians on the planet. He's much more known as the drummer for Fleet Foxes than he is as an able creator of beautiful music. But he's been making records not only for longer than he's been a member of Fleet Foxes, but longer than Fleet Foxes have even been in existence. Although he certainly blends perfectly with that band, both in terms of his playing and his harmonizing, his solo music really allows him to shine.
If you're looking for amazing musicianship and/or groundbreaking songs, J. Tillman probably isn't your man. But if you're looking for painfully, beautifully, simple music, you're in the right place. I think one thing that perfectly summarizes his style is by saying he'd fit perfectly in a movie soundtrack that was carefully crafted to convey emotions; something along the lines of Garden State, or a movie based on a Nick Hornby novel.
Most of his songs are straight-forward acoustic guitar and voice driven songs. Sure, there are occasional embellishments, like the thump of an upright bass or the tinkle of a harpsichord, but the main focus is clearly on this guy and his guitar. Either way, the sound is at once immediate and lasting. Though I Have Wronged You has a tension that can't be placed. In Age Of Man, he trades his guitar for a banjo, but the execution is the same.
The ultimate compliment I can give this album is that it's the rare one that, song after song, manages to suck me in. I can't pick a favorite, only because there's literally not a bad one in the batch. My only hope is that my life that's now accompanying this soundtrack can be as good as the music.
Age Of Man