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Timmy Vilgiate – Through Cardboard Walls EP
At this point, I think anyone who has read most of my reviews probably expects me to say this; I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while. I think it was the last Halloween show when Timmy gave me a free copy of this album provided I review it, so it’s been a while. Part of it is me just being me, part of it is me trying to formulate how I’m supposed to criticize someone I consider a friend, and big part of it is that Timmy’s music is just really weird. Of course I mean that in the most endearing way possible, but a lot like me reviewing Mobdividual‘s last album, this isn’t something I expect to break down easily, at least not to a point where my readers are going to understand it right away.
Basically Timmy and his music are very much representative of each other, anything he is now and has been for who knows how many years. Timmy is odd, thought provoking, charismatic, and it’s all wrapped up in this really friendly package. I think the best analyzation might be from our sound guy saying “Timmy is the worst person to have around this group of really crude guys because he’s just so sweet”; we’re all big fans. Though we all have reason to be.
Even though the first few albums he released were Lo-Fi to an extent that may have been too much; without seeing his band Cliff Letters live we may never have really heard the songs played in the way they were written. By the time Timmy started releasing solo work he had let go of that aesthetic, but the Lo-Fi argument can still be made in sound and texture. Though the aesthetic was gone, it was returned in favor of experimentation and indulgence. Too Much Time on Their Heads was, and still is, an incredibly ambitious release. It’s use of samples, electronics, and light instrumentation may have never worked for anyone else, but the eccentricity coming through this musician was really something to beat. Vigilante Justice was the next release, a stripped down acoustic effort that displayed good songwriting. Even after enjoying that album, Through Cardboard Walls really feels like the first true follow up to his first record.
So I’m going to admit what you may have already assumed from the three paragraph introduction, I’m giving you a little bit of filler. Mostly I’m doing this because I have a lot to say about Timmy, and only a 6 song EP to talk about. With Timmy starting to release new singles, I would encourage you to listen to all of his major releases in anticipation of “Little Canyons”, but for now I owe Timmy my thoughts on this EP.
It’s always been the case that Timmy’s music is about as personal as it gets. On this EP he indulges himself through sound even further than he has before. To an extent, it may even be to a fault. Lyrically he’s transparent and musically this is clearly what he wanted to make, but for most of this EP I don’t get the same concise feeling I’ve gotten from his songs before. Even if that’s the case, it starts with one of his best songs yet.
“That’s My Love” is composed of a grooving bass line, hand clap production and colorful synths. It’s the closest Timmy might ever get to a dance beat, and it stops just short of that, but it couldn’t be left at that either. For every accessible moment on one of these songs, there are layers that bring the weird. In front of a beat there’s what sounds like a flute, and a signature off kilter mandola, both pushing the melody around. Over all of this, Timmy is, for all purposes, rapping. It stays on this fine line between spoken word and developing a real flow; the only person I can really compare it to is Milo, an MC who is considered an anti rapper to many of his fans. I’m sure it will sound corny to a lot of people, but as usual Timmy is delivering captivating lyrics and he’s doing it really charismatically as well.
Unfortunately the issue with this EP does however become evident on the next song. “This Girl Is On Fire” is composed of entirely off-kilter and uncomfortable instrumentation. The mandolin is almost creepy and with Agito providing these really farty synthesizers it’s pretty messy too. I admire how challenging the song is, especially the instrumental itself, but this song is a bit of a mess. The title track has this quality as well but it comes across better because everything is more concise, at least it gets that way; by the end of the song I feel everything becomes a package.
Every song after that finds a place in between: In between the beginning and end of the title track, in between the first and second song, in between the creepy and experimental, and in between the accessible and experimental. I find myself enjoying a lot of what happens on each song, and being a little offput by what happens on each song as well. Most of the time I enjoy the lyrics and the rhythm Timmy delivers them with, it really sounds like he spent time working out his delivery before recording these songs. Though I also feel that a lot of the instrumentals become hard to work with because of how loose they can be and how uncomforting they can feel under his voice, which I’m convinced was done on purpose when the EP was done playing. It’s something I honestly admire. Part of me feels like I don’t like the songs, but another part of me is intrigued because I feel like I’m supposed be put on edge by them, and I am.
At the end of the day, Timmy is still making music that’s challenging to the ear. He makes music for people willing to analyze and break down what he’s doing, and as someone who’s breaking it down now, I respect this EP. There are times I respect it more than I like it, and vise versa, but for most of the runtime I’m going from one to the other. In concept these songs are challenging, in practice they are perplexing. I can’t end this review saying that I’ve enjoyed the listen, but I can’t say I disliked it either. Generally that would mean I think it’s average, but If I ever used that word to describe Timmy’s music I would be underestimating him. I’m really just in a constant state of questioning with these songs, and while it keeps me from completely enjoying them, it also keeps me from being able to dislike them too. There are many reasons I would recommend this, but if you’re the kind of person who wants to be challenged by artists then this is a must listen.
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the album in its entirety by clicking the artwork.
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