J. Tillman, Pearly Gate Music, Sleep Whale

J. (Joshua) Tillman is probably best known for being one of the Fleet Foxes, despite having toured extensively with the likes of Damien Jurado and Jesse Sykes. Hired as an arranger and drummer for live performances just before the release of 2008's Fleet Foxes, Tillman somehow escaped implication in the juggernaut success of the album (I recently heard "White Winter Hymnal" piped in as background music in the airport) and retained his identity on his solo, September-released LP, Year in the Kingdom.

The ghostly, goose bump-inducing harmonies and windswept acoustical resonance of Fleet Foxes are slightly muted in Tillman's work, but the breathy struggle of Tillman's voice and glimmers of baroque mysticism in his delivery are prominent and exactly what one would expect from a cat associated with the band. An author of short stories in his own right, Tillman can weave a sad, earthy yarn like some world-weary granddad on a rickety old rocking chair, then whip up the banjo, handclaps and piano into a jangling, ecstatic frenzy.


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