Zach Tillman’s self-titled debut into the folk scene did not strike a chord with me—but the name, the name did. Zach Tillman is Joshua Tillman’s brother. Most recognizably a member of the folk darlings Fleet Foxes, Joshua has also been a member of several other groups and has released prolifically as a solo artist. Big brother Joshua, little brother Zach, meet WGTB. To be completely honest, it is unclear which brother is the older and which is the younger—however, several clues, including each brother’s respective time spent being a presence in the indie folk scene, and especially the raw, even unpolished sound of this album itself, indicate Pearly Gate Music is very much Zach’s little-brother-debut.
Musically the two brothers are unsurprisingly related—their voices sound very much alike (smooth and sweet and wonderful), yet Joshua focuses more on harmonies, while Zach showcases his voice bouncing off the walls of his songs on its own. However, at this point, the brothers diverge—Joshua’s solo work is closer to classic indie folk ballads, while Zach’s is…a little stranger, a little less recognizable. Zach’s set of songs in this solo release are hard even to define, let alone judge, because within each song it seems like there are three or four songs, with only a set of lyrics in common. Little Brother’s tempo picks up, slows down, several instruments come blaring in, die out again, leaving the listener at least utterly confused, if not a tad bit disappointed that the album is not more rounded out à la Big Brother. “Gossamer Hair” and “Oh What a Time,” albeit two of the album’s stand-out tracks, also perfectly showcase this lack of musical continuity—it is much like carrying on a conversation with someone who hasn’t quite figured out how to carry one on yet, and pauses for so long you’re unsure if it is your turn to speak, then raises and lowers his volume so frequently and abruptly you’re unsure whether to follow in turn or just end the conversation entirely. And yes, while Zach may have grown up with music in his blood, playing in his big brother’s bands, maybe he too hasn’t quite figured “it” out yet. HOWEVER. All else aside, this fresh, continually echoing album does show scores of unharnessed potential, so don’t shelve away the Tillman name quite yet—perhaps a traveling family band is in the works? There's always something we can learn from our older sibling––I should know, I am one.
-- Fiona Hanly