J Tillman – Year In The Kingdom


I should probably just make this J Tillman week here at The Steinberg Principle shouldn’t I?!  Just when I think I’ve come to terms with missing his show on Friday in Glasgow, I go and buy his brand new record ‘Year In The Kingdom’ and upon listening to it I am now even more gutted that I missed his show. 

Like I said in a previous post, I got into J Tillman over a year ago when I bought his album ‘Minor Works’.  It’s a gorgeous piece of music and I instantly fell in love with his songs and his voice. His voice really is something special.  It is most definitely the first thing that draws you deeper into his records.  But his records are not just about his voice.  During his more minimalist moments, there is so much more going on if you open your ears.  Little touches of instrumentation, backing vocals that take his songs from a man with a guitar creating good songs to an artist with a wonderful sense of how to craft and shape his songs to create great songs.  What I love most about listening to J Tillman is that his songs fill me with emotion and that for me is the sign of a great artist.  I want to be moved.  I want to have feelings of longing, loss, desperation, calm, happiness.  All the feelings that are generated in me by J Tillman’s work. 

This release is his second of 2009, such is the output of the man.  I missed the boat in terms of reviewing ‘Vacilando Territory Blues,’ his first release this year, but rest assured that it’s another great album and well worth checking out.  However, he’s only gone and trumped the lot with this his latest release, which for me is simply outstanding and his best record to date.  Gone are the louder moments of previous records and left are 9 tracks of exquisite delicacy and beauty.  Sometimes it’s just Tillman and his guitar, sometimes there is more to it than that, but there is never a let up in the intensity of the record.   Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s bleak.  But it never lets go of its grip on your ears, heart and mind.

Ultimately, there is overall warmth to this album and undoubtedly a message of hope underpinning the whole record.  A message of forgiveness perhaps?  This is an album to play on repeat, as it’s over all too soon.  Again, the sign of a great album is one that makes you want to listen over and over and over.  J Tillman has never failed me on this front but with this record he’s created an album that I know will be a constant on my stereo and will always be a favourite.  My top 10 list at the end of the year is going to be hard to put together, but this album will undoubtedly be topping the list.  Gorgeous stuff.   Check him out here.  Enjoy.

TSP Grade = A