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J Tillman - Year in the Kingdom

By Graham Reid

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Rating: * * * *

An unassuming acoustic folk album which opens with, "When I look back on my life, a stillness passes over friends..." is immediately engrossing. Especially so with the introverted but uncommonly reflective Josh Tillman who is so young he has his life ahead of him, but has been a onetime/sometime member of Fleet Foxes whose acoustic folk-rock album was the most surprisingly successful and quietly exciting debuts of 2008.

Possessing the same kind of intimate, engrossing voice as Anglofolk legend Nick Drake - and with an equal interest in Drake's hushed, dreamlike ballads in which death, and the transitory nature of life and love are themes - Tillman offers his sixth solo album where the songs are barely fleshed out but their sinew and strengths are immediately apparent.

With discreet dulcimer, piano and string arrangements around the acoustic guitar, these nine songs have an unnerving stillness and ease/unease at their centre and Tillman's vocals (like quivering Eddie Vedder waking from a deep reverie) sometimes have a transcendent quality where lyrics suggest emotional states or moments in time.

Tillman's Anglofolk-cum-Cohen sound hints at Fleet Foxes and you can hear a hint of their choral folk on Though I Have Wronged You.

But whatever his connections and emotional state, this may be the quietest, most transporting album you will hear in a long time.

- Graham Reid (

- NZ Herald

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