Review: Tyler Sullivan – This Man

Tyler Sullivan makes the kind of lo-fi bedroom pop which Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Deerhunter should take a certain amount of credit for. Like those acts, Illinois resident Sullivan has successfully summoned up that aura of ghosts performing in dank basements with low-budget equipment, although the same amount of commercial success may not be so forthcoming.

Tyler Sullivan Album Cover

That’s not to say the music here isn’t any good. ‘This Man’ has a lot of qualities but it will challenge and possibly creep out the majority of listeners too much. The songs here generally consist of reverb-heavy guitars with added feedback, abstract electronica and Sullivan’s own voice which is a cracked-up, evil instrument in itself; if you can imagine a more sinister, insectoid version of Howard Devoto then you wouldn’t be far off. No surprise then, that images of horror are brought to the mind on regular occasions.

‘Rt. 148’ strikes a chill with its bluesy, echo-laden guitar crescendos and suggestions of murder (“I broke your neck” he utters at one point). On the flipside, though, strip away the effects on ‘Freedom & Freewill’ and you could visualise Sullivan as a liberal 70’s singer/songwriter living alone in a mountain. Even if there are question marks about his singing, Sullivan’s arrangement and production skills are pretty decent. ‘Backpack’ is a cover of a song by Andrew Jackson Jihad with Sullivan conjuring up a church-style atmosphere here with his inventive interpretation. Meanwhile, ‘Don’t Get Down Man’ resembles the more sombre comedowns of Spiritualized’s songbook and ‘We Grew A Lot’ possibly sums up the whole experience in a nutshell; striking an uneasy balance between Sullivan’s jarring vocals and the mix’s “out there” eeriness but the end result is undeniably compelling.

In conclusion, then, ‘This Man’ walks on a deadly, spindly tightrope between dream pop and nightmare pop. However, if you can get past the voice there are twisted, lonely, captivating songs here which are capable of haunting you long after the music stops.

Web Sites:
Bandcamp Stream for Tyler Sullivan – This Man
Tyler Sullivan Tumblr

Further Listening:
Deerhunter, Howard Devoto, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

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