by Brad Roberts
The music of J. Tillman is difficult to categorize. Not strictly a freak folk singer/musician, he comes from the strong songwriting tradition of the Pacific Northwest and writes complex melodies that are fragile yet sturdy with haunting orchestrations of auto harps, mandolins and assorted musical embellishments that sometimes sweep the songs into rich audio soundscapes. Nature is a strong theme in the compositions, which are deeply personal explorations of life's mysteries half-revealed as J.'s hushed and moving vocals impart their keen wisdom and insight. This is music that will stand the test of time. The lyrics haunt me and possess me... and I can barely understand them. Some may take years to comprehend. I've always been a fan of the elusive lyric, hell, I'm still trying to figure out some of the lyrics from the sixties.
J. Tillman has been touring extensively this year on the strength of two releases, Vacilando Territory Blues and Year In the Kingdom, both of which belong on any top ten list of the year's best releases. I saw his show at The Echo last August and, just as with Fleet Foxes, for whom he plays drums, the live performance is surprisingly more muscular than the recorded music. To watch him dancing around the stage with his tambourine was an expression of pure joy I haven't been able to forget. (Thanks to Joe McQuillen of Kill The Microphone for evocative photo from that set) Since that performance, Year In the Kingdom was released and I'm looking forward to hearing those songs now that I'm familiar with them. This is also not just a solo artist, but a full band. Joshua Tillman has surrounded himself with a group of accomplished artists who play as seamlessly as it they've been together for years. J. Tillman performs Wednesday at The Troubadour, but get there early because openers, Pearly Gates Music, another Northwest band, show tremendous promise.
"West Coast Left Coast", the unprecedented festival that's been going on for the last couple of weeks at the Walt Disney Concert Hall celebrating "the unique spirit of California's creative renegades" for it's final week features a staggering variety of artists from The Airborne Toxic Event and Kronos Quartet to the music of Frank Zappa and my favorite film composer, Jerry Goldsmith. Check out the listings for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for details.
And a whole host of wonderful local bands are playing throughout the week including Seasons, The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, Avi Buffalo, Dios, Castledoor, Marvelous Toy and more. They're all among the picks of the week.