Wednesday, April 11, 2007
In the world of overactive bloggers, I’m actually stunned that more people don’t sing the praises of J. Tillman. His records are honest, dark, melancholic, and beautiful. The Stranger declared his music breathy and breathtaking and I really can’t think of a better description.
Yerbird released his new album – Cancer and Delirium – on Tuesday, and it is all I hoped and more. Despite his young age, Tillman writes the type of songs you expect a grizzled old man to be playing in the dark corners of a seedy bar. With only a few sparse strums and a delicate harmonica solo, Visions of a Troubled Mind sums up everything fantastic about his work. He doesn’t rely on anything, except his ear and his smoky voice. With instrumentation so soft you have to strain to hear, you get swept up in the wave of emotion his words deliver. As the song ends, you are left exhausted, but somehow craving more.
Tillman is not afraid to offer himself up on every track. He doesn’t hide his feelings behind solos, bridges, instruments, or even harmonies. He’s able to make you want to listen, but I don’t think he really cares if you do or not. His songs are his own, and that’s why they work. He strikes me as the type of person who would write a song about how a woman has shattered his heart, and sing that song to a room full of people (including the woman) who know the real story. Not to embarrass her, or be vindictive. Simply because those are the feelings he has inside.
Ribbons of Glass stands out from the other tracks, simply because of the banjo riff and slow drawn strings that bolster the sound, but Tillman’s sound truly relies on what he doesn’t add. Instead of throwing in a pedal steel at every turn or echoing harmonies and lush strings, he resists the urge to over complicate things. That’s why the tender sound of the singing saw on A Fine Suit, the metallic plink of the xylophone on , or the vocal help on Under the Sun push through the gloomy from the haze. On any other record, they’d creep quietly, lost in the arrangements, but Tillman asks for help so rarely that the extra sounds can’t go unnoticed.
I’d like to describe this record, talking about every subtle squeak on the fret board, every nuance of his voice, but these songs are truly better heard than described.
MP3:: Under the Sun