J. Tillman – Year In The Kingdom

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Rating: ★★★★★

Since 2004 J. Tillman, born Joshua Tillman, has been consistently releasing quiet, understated records on various labels in the Pacific Northwest.  These records, while all solid releases, always followed the same template: hush vocals, gently picked guitars, mournful lyrics. With the release of Year in the Kingdom something has clicked with Tillman’s formula.

Maybe it has been his tenure as drummer in the Fleet Foxes these past couple of years that has lead to this beautiful and full sounding record or maybe it has just come with age.  On Year in the Kingdom we hear a road-weary Tillman lamenting on the human condition, we are met with songs of repentance and rejoice.  This is a simple record: mostly just acoustic guitars, a banjo here and there, light percussive elements, and Tillman’s voice, prominent in the mix.  Initially having the vocals so high in the mix turned me off to the release, and I retreated back to 2007’s Cancer and Delirium, which is quieter and more restrained, but the title track on Year in the Kingdom kept pulling me back, and I’m glad it did.  On repeated listens you realize that why the vocals are so high in the mix is, perhaps, because Tillman is confident in what he has to say and doesn’t wish to hide it in flowery instrumentation.

From the theme of repentance in ‘Year in the Kingdom’ to lines that would make King Solomon blush on ‘Earthly Bodies’ to the redemptive crescendo of  ‘There is No Good In Me’, we have been given one of the most fully realized records that I have heard in years.  Robin Pecknold better thank his lucky stars that he has someone of this caliber backing him, because, frankly, J. Tillman is doing just fine on his own.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/J-Tillman-Though-I-Have-Wronged-You.mp3]

Download: J Tillman – Though I Have Wronged You [MP3]

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