Written by: Dave Cantrell
There are many musicians to whom the phrase ‘needs no introduction’ should be attached that in fact, for one reason or another, need just that. To our minds here at SEM we don’t believe that Tim Foljahn should fall in to that category but understand that, for some number of readers out there that aren’t buried up to their eyebrows in music, a bit of an intro wouldn’t be unwarranted. Foljahn first came to our and many others’ attention as Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s guitaring partner in Two Dollar Guitar, a project that straddled the turn of the millennium while producing six full-lengths. However, in what we would soon learn is a typical Foljahn trademark, that endeavor was not the sole occupier of his time and energy, far from it. Once his name was on the radar screen one noticed it cropping up across a wide – and quite intriguing – spectrum of the ‘alt’ rock universe, one populated by the likes of Half Japanese/Jad Fair, Cat Power, Christine Rosenvinge and, not surprising perhaps, Thurston Moore. Such was the distinct quality of the guy’s ensemble and session contributions – a quality marked as much if not more by his instinct-driven way of staying out of the way as it was by overt riffage – the appearance of solo ventures beginning with Songs from an Age of Extinction nearly a decade ago* couldn’t help but tweak our ever-curious antennae. From that album’s multi-colored, quasi-ambient flourishes – an atmosphericism that would serve him well a couple years later for the Dead River movie soundtrack – to the devastating beauty and hope and disturbed quietude of Fucking Love Songs, a certain through line of invention riven by a deep, if steady, emotional current has established itself, wending into our consciousness like a sighingly insistent stream of electricity. With the arrival of I Dreamed A Dream, dropped in our laps today, May 7th, 2021 by Cart/Horse Records, that stream has gained a new abundance.
Produced again by Tom Beaujour, bolstered and abetted by an intuitive, empathic passel of musician pals pulled from Foljahn’s past endeavors, the new record more or less doubles the quantities that have heretofore made up the ‘Foljahn equation’, i.e. subtly experimental guitar textures upholstered by an aching almost bluesy singer/songwriter sensibility. It’s that latter element, greatly enabled here by both the innate charm of those chosen to participate and the new-to-this-album string arrangements courtesy former Two Dollar Guitar teammate Jeremy Wilms (and realized by Megan Gould and Danton Boller) that stands out. On I Dreamed A Dream, the artist has not only retained his core adventurism but enhanced it by virtue of embedding it inside a more deftly developed compositional touch, at which point the listener in me stops and utters to himself ‘It’s the songwriting, stupid.’
While suitably evident and maybe best exemplified by the gently rollicking “I Can’t Decide” that we’re proud and happy to debut today, what with its tripping buzzing guitar presence excelling at the persistent/understated dichotomy; its bridge of tonal resignation – “What’s a righteous guy to do?” laments the singer – that employs those strings to a most doleful effect indeed; and it closing out with an unholy, wholly unexpected but damned delightful descent into, well, noise, there’s nowhere on the record where one isn’t prone to noting the added depths and fullness that life has layered on to Foljahn’s musical psyche.
Be it the pizzicato’d sophistication of opener “Once,” swathed in a playful-yet-rueful swoon nudged into existence by a confluence of cello, violin, double bass and, ultimately, French horn, “Lowdown Days,” an acoustic blues ballad a la JJ Cale minus the shuffle but plus a sad sack buoyancy, the NEU!-ish thrum of of “Remember Me” that could well soundtrack a midnight joyride across a Texan autobahn, the late day heat haze shimmer of the Rosenvinge-tinged “Day is Done,” or clear to the noirish beat exoticism of album-ender “In My Dreams,” it’s seductive sheen unspooling at the speed of a slowly-sipped apertif, this album, in tone and inference, seems to speak of arrival and departure inside one long breath: arrival of an artistic voice at its most fully-realized (that voice, on here at least, confirming what many of us have long suspected, that consciousness itself is a dream), and farewell to the last vestiges of reflexively associating Tim Foljahn’s names with that of his collaborative projects. Yes, those above-noted albums set the ‘solo artist’ table but I Dream A Dream is the table.
Enjoy the video, pick up the album here.
* [not counting 2001’s pre-radar Obvious Urban Landscape that escaped our notice until a need to confirm Extinction‘s release date sent us to Discogs]