Now Tim Foljahn’s name isn’t one that’s synonymous with popular culture but it’s one that some are definitely aware of. Well, me anyway. I first discovered Foljahn performing one afternoon at CBGB, where he strummed away on his guitar while Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley held the beat down as the maniacally driven Jad Fair of Half Japanese howled and hooted on the microphone. It was fun to watch and I later picked up a 7” of the band which they dubbed Mosquito. Since then he’s gone on to release albums as Two Dollar Guitar, once again with Steve Shelley on drums, and Das Damen’s bassist Dave Motamed. There’s history behind the music Foljahn has released although he’s remained on the fringes, releasing stellar albums like 2012’s Songs For An Age Of Extinction, 2014’s Dead River, and 2015’s Fucking Love Songs.
Foljahn returns with his newest and fourth full-length solo release, I Dreamed A Dream (Cart/Horse Records) and here we see a bit of a different side of the guitarist/singer showcasing much more eclecticism here. The release opens with “Once,” a surprisingly endearing number driven by strings and horns, as he draws on nostalgic images into his lyrics. The track sets us all up for the Foljahn in an unexpected way. “I Dreamed:” begins with strings but the song doesn’t revolve around them as it morphs into something more country-esque and listeners get more of a sense for the monotone delivery of his vocals. It leads directly into “Lowdown Day,” which follows the same path, as does “Ghost Ripper.” Foljahn changes things up on the driving “Remember Me.” Its rhythm and melody move seamlessly only to challenge listeners midway through with the inclusion of a string arrangement. It’s odd but fitting within the song structure.
There’s much more Foljahn has to offer up here, which includes the enthusiastic blues of “Wake Up!” which seems to just revolve around his voice and his guitar. The blues don’t need much except what he offers up here: guitars around a singular melodic ride and in-depth lyricism. We can all find excitement around the track and its groove. But for some reason, I’m unable to shake “Day Is Done” out of my head, which reminds me of Leonard Cohen for some reason. Like Cohen, Foljahn may not have the best voice but he uses it quite skillfully. The melody he plucks from his guitar here, accented by the string accompaniment, is beautiful, with backing vocal assistance from Christina Rosenvinge. This six-and-a-half-minute track just might be my favorite track on the album.
There’s more to be discovered on Foljahn’s I Dreamed a Dream, an album ripe with tracks that may leave you guessing time after time. One thing is certain though, Tim Foljahn digs deep within to give us all something quite meaningful, his first album in almost six years.
I think I was probably too quick to dismiss this new album and push it to the side. I’m referring to the self-titled (Polyvinyl) release by MAN ON MAN, comprised of Roddy Bottum (Faith No More, Imperial Teen) and Joey Holman. The music isn’t the only thing that holds the two together, sharing a bond of love and loss that brought the two closer together since the beginning of the quarantine in 2020.
The music is rhythm-heavy and soaked with distorted guitars but doesn’t always rely on it for every song, instead, treading through its melody by other means. “Stohner” is filled with a Shoegaze wall of guitar sensibility that surrounds the senses, along with heartfelt lyricism to draw listeners into its world. Bottum shared that the song was a way for the two “To shake off the dust of paranoia from the first stages of quarantine” all the while giving listeners something familiar. The band follows a similar path with “Daddy,” but allows for more changes, specifically in Bottum’s keyboard play balancing out Holman’s guitars. The harmonies the members provide are enticing and captivating at the same time.
MAN ON MAN takes a different approach with “It’s So Fun (To Be Gay),” giving the world a new kind of queer anthem as they repeat the title within the song itself, harmonizing with one another on this subtle track. Holman’s guitar works in unison with Bottum’s keys blending melodies around the steady drumbeat as the song takes on a life of its own. It’s pleasant & captivating and at times, even hypnotic. The track leads right into the janglier “Beach House,” which again is subtle in its delivery and sweet in melody with an array of harmonies. It slowly builds into something showcasing more diversity as washes of keyboards soak through. But it’s “1983” that’s attractive in a nostalgic manner although is firmly rooted in the present. The baritone vocal delivery here fascinates as the musicians really drive through the track. Its melody is simple but captivating and is filled with everything we may need and want; more harmonies, infectious melodies, and instruments that soothingly collide with one another. What more could we possibly need? There’s much more to the band as well as the second half of the album mainly shows a quieter and tender side. Songs like “Lover,” “Please Be Friends,” and the amazing piano-driven “Kamikaze” draws on the strength of MAN ON MAN’s songwriting. Beautiful songs that don’t rely on heaviness or distortion, just the melody and harmonies they do so well.
The band gives us different looks with its debut album while remaining cohesive and direct. We see the band for what it is; members that have spent a lot of time with one another, enough to be able to finish one another’s sentences and know where each is going musically. It’s not something that’s always easy to accomplish but with MAN ON MAN, there’s a symbiotic relationship here, and it shows with such a captivating release.