Local Austin label, Western Vinyl, has caught hold of yet another bedroom country musician, but this time with a familiar name, at least to many. J Tillman is one of the various vocalists in last year’s adored Fleet Foxes. On his latest release, Vacilando Territory Blues, he offers the public his take on meandering folk tunes, this time sans multiple part harmonies.
While most that are unfamiliar with Tillman’s solo work will see similarities with his other group, this is an album that sonically goes outside of the spectrum of the aforementioned group. A noticeable difference upon first listen is that he does not seem overeager to fill all the empty space. He allows for the presence of hollow moments, or negative space if you will. This allows him to spend more time crafting the individual song structure, but that is the role when one chooses to go solo.
Oddly, the absence of multiple harmonies reveals one telling detail, that being that his voice might hold more strength than that other guy. There is an element of sincerity, tinged with personal clarity, that makes his songs immediately personable to the listener. It’s as if stepping out of the shadow allows him to find himself, and he does it through his songs.
Fans of modern alt-country and folk tunes will surely find a great deal of comfort in listening to songs like “No Occasion.” Sure, there is a definite sense of familiarity with the acoustic styling of the song, not to mention the vocal tones, but you’d be hard tapped not to notice the force behind the song. He uses a similar pattern throughout the album, which may be his one downfall.
As each song meanders through the album, the entirety of it all gets a little tedious. Often it’s hard to differentiate one song from the next one, though separately they all are somewhat striking. However, the patterns just go on and on, which can easily wear on any listener who is listening half-heartedly, allowing this album to merely seep into the background.
All in all, you’ll find comfort in the listening experience you get with J. Tillman here, though you may not fall head over heels in love. It’s an above average piece of output, but it simply needs a little extra something to push it beyond the level where it rests.
Download: J Tillman – No Occasion [MP3]