Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Wherever you are right at this moment, rest assured or rest very uneasily, that you won't be there for long. We're talking about impermanence - short-term and long-term - of such that it will feel like a blackout happening and when you awake some time later, you'll feel safe and completely clear. You'll be carefully uprooted, the pebbles and black dirt from the bottoms of your kicking and dangling unders will fall slowly back to the earth like pedals from spring trees, and placed - like a potted strawberry plant being transferred for better or worse into the cold ground to see what it can make of itself. Before you know it Josh Tillman - or J as he truncates his name down to an initial and a punctuation point for his recorded output - will have replaced your surroundings, or the ones you thought were yours, for some sort of close and personal world canopied by translucence and the kind of secure and comforting light that is all but fictionally accepted and perceived. Where he brings us is completely sheltered from the tangles and twisted ankles of where we spend the greatest amount of our time internally and we're stowed away where he spends most of his time - internally in the caverns of his severed loves, lifeless loves, crippling fears that make a man whisper at all times and places where the red blood is always visible. It's enchanting, but not so much for any kind of whimsy as enchantment is most likely to call to the pulpit, but because it's so breathtaking where he takes us through these vulnerable and quaint songs of struggle and repose, as if the two have formed an alliance that brings together tragedy and relaxation for the definitive first time. He's been stricken and struck by many invisible hands and it's all expressed in his songs - these feathery workings of a thoughtful man, sometimes waving a white flag and sometimes showing the sounds of no surrender in a way that blurs the line between the two considerably. He showcases an exquisite comprehension of weariness and of the many ways that we let our struggling arms and bodies just let themselves slump to the dejection, to the discouraging weight of matters that cannot be given any sort of direction by anyone. Tillman, the drummer for Seattle band Fleet Foxes, sings about not wanting to be brought back in another life for no better reason than he doesn't want the one he's living in the present time to ever end. He makes this claim sound so charming and sad - for we're all aware that this life of the moment will end sometime and then it's done. Or is it? Tillman's character could be in for an unpleasant surprise and that's the kind of pull that he sews into all of his heartbreaking tales that remind of the saddened wonders that Matt Ward and Will Johnson revel in most of the time. For this session, taped down in Austin during SXSW at Big Orange Studio, Tillman broke out an older song called "When I Light Your Darkened Door," and throughout the taping you'll hear a grackle on the outside of the studio adding its voice to the atmosphere - at the :13, :28, 1:01, 1:42 (right before a tambourine shoe blasts into the mix), 2:09 and 2:52 marks of the song, and we're thrown into the middle of a prairie where the prevailing winds smell like rainwater and freshly cut straw, with darkness setting in and we think about how he wrote the line, "How easily the heart of man is tamed," and how it makes sense.
J Tillman MySpace Page
Western Vinyl Records