Halfway through the album-opening title track of J. Tillman’s Year in the Kingdom, you know you’re in for something special. This eighth full-length from the singer/songwriter turned Fleet Foxes drummer purposely lacks the bells, whistles, and five-part harmonies that have put his band on the map-and we love him all the more for it. Against soft backing guitars, banjos, and dulcimer, Tillman spends most of Kingdom quietly lamenting life’s wrongs. But rather than take a turn for the depression-ridden worst, he finds a balance between pensive thinker and beautiful songwriter. Where “Crosswinds” layers eerie background noise with brushed drums and twangy guitar, “Marked in the Valley” is about as stripped down as they come. And on tracks like “Though I Have Wronged You,” the subject matter takes a backseat to delicate orchestration, deliberate claps, and one of the most beautiful vocal crescendos indie rock has seen of late.


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