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James Tillman - Modern Desires EP

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Brooklyn-based alt R&B artist, James Tillman shares his sophomore album, Modern Desires, out now. American Songwriter, who debuted the album yesterday with an exclusive stream, says, "Garnering comparisons to Marvin Gaye and Nick Drake... Tillman introduces the listener to a wide range of musical expressions and time periods, he hits hard with ’70s inspired Brazilian and Latin-infused funk, ’90s hip-hop, and modern lyricism that is both thought provoking but also full of energy that can be its own mood."

On the record as a whole, Tillman says, "Modern Desires. We are anxious about the future. Anxious about the past. Sometimes we just lose control. Discipline and surrender are in order, but must be tempered. We lay awake thinking of love, late into twilight. We sleep walk on days when rest eludes us. There are highs and there are lows. We want what we want. What does it look like to see someone remember? What do I Desire? What do I need? simple questions connect us all. Feel present, be love. 

Modern Desires is conceptually about torch songs that encapsulate moods and realities of adult life. There is a tone of sensuality and romance, but also of longing, change, and introspection. The music cycles through feelings that I believe connect us all. Musically speaking, the work is inspired by sounds that have come before but focused on progression of those ideas. Funk and soul influences similar to Silk Noise Reflex can be heard throughout. I sought inspirations from the offerings of British artists like Sade and Phil Collins. Their songs skillfully portray moods and render the mundane with iconic precision. 

I got to record this album over at Red Bull Studios with my friend Evan Sutton. I also had the honor of working with Richie Marrero, a band leader and percussionist who worked on amazing records with artists like Angela Bofil and Hector Lavoe in the 70s and 80s. It was great to collaborate with friends on the songwriting—something of a first for me. I worked on 5am with composer and producer Oliver Lewin, and collaborated with a young engineer and producer named Gabriel Pearson on Night Fire. Lose Control was a collaboration with producer Matt Rivera out of Chicago. Jeremy Lubsey over at Vlado did the master, and Beau Sorenson was back again to mix the record, making it feel like a true family affair."

In a track-by-track deep dive for American Songwriter, Tillman gets into the heart of each song. Here's what he shared:

"Night Fire – The OG Xbox version of 007: Nightfire is one of my favorite video games of all-time. It also feels like a significant mile marker of my adolescent years. I remember my teenage self wanting to be like the James Bond Character: strong, intelligent, and loved by the ladies.  The track abstracts that bit of nostalgia, describing a desire for romance. Moody tropes about love with a backbeat that aims to hypnotize/ take time out of the context. Sound is dark and moody with a touch of playfulness

Things to Say – This song is about the desire to be heard without misunderstanding, but also accepting the possibility of being misunderstood. The vocals are purposefully distorted here to further tease out this idea. This is the first time we here the percussive musings of Ricardo Marrero, setting the tone for more. Richie is a bandleader and percussionist who worked on amazing records with artists like Angela Bofil and Hector Lavoe in the 70s and 80s. He graciously shared his wisdom and stories, bringing new life and understanding to the music heard here. The sound is pensive and futuristic, made to spark introspection.

Stream below:

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