Tim Foljahn is a Michigan-born, New York-based singer-songwriter/guitarist who has more than likely played on one of your favorite records.
Some highlights from the tip of his iceberg-sized resume: He was the guitarist on the first two Cat Power records. He toured with and worked on the final Townes Van Zandt recordings. He lent his guitar skills to Half Japanese as well as the Boredoms. He played on the fantastic Thurston Moore solo record Psychic Hearts.
All the while, Foljahn released a series of his own brooding and lovely song cycles and experimental recordings under the moniker Two Dollar Guitar. With Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums and a revolving cast of band and tour mates, including Smokey Hormel, Chris Brokaw and Christina Rosenvinge, the group released six albums on Shelley’s Smells Like Records label.
Songs For An Age Of Extinction is Foljahn's first "song-based" record since Two Dollar Guitar's The Wear and Tear of Fear from 2006 and his first release for Kiam Records. The wait has been long, but worth it.
The seven songs on Songs For An Age Of Extinction are long and languid—the shortest is over four minutes and the longest is over ten. But even marathon tracks like “The Dust of Exploded Stars” never wander aimlessly: Foljahn knows just where the songs are headed and you just have to have the trust and patience to follow him there.
On the album's third track "Faded", Foljahn sings the question, "How do I leave what's gone?" His voice is searching but also somehow sounds comfortable in its sense of unease. It's a defining, poignant moment on a record full of them.
"We really are in an age of extinction," Foljahn said. "Species disappearing in droves - that as a fact and as a metaphor. It's not the end of the world. Time, space, beliefs, people, relationships come and go and other stuff comes in. It's a little corny but it is kind of cycle of life type stuff and how the universe interacts with us."
The sound of the record is typically awash in Foljahn's distinct, lush guitar playing and deep, rich vocal melodies, but also features a new element: piano.
"There are always songs kicking around but I think what made me think I had a record going were the songs I started writing on piano," Foljahn said. "That seemed like a new direction worth exploring. I love the full resonance of the Wurlitzer. Like guitar, it functions so well by itself, can do chords and melody lines. But I think the real reason I was drawn to the piano is that I have lost a lot of the primitiveness and crudeness in my guitar playing, and I think I really missed that sort of simplicity. I have that in spades on the keys. There is nothing subtle or fancy happening there."
Songs For An Age of Extinction was recorded by Foljahn at his home studio over the course of a year and mixed by Tom Beaujour at Nuthouse Recording in Hoboken. Foljahn plays everything on the record with two exceptions: Alexa Wilding plays piano and sings on "War Song" and Kirsten McCord plays cello on "Faded."
Beaujour was particularly impressed with Foljahn's recording skills: "When you get tracks that were recorded in an apartment with less than $500 worth of equipment that sound as good as Tim's did, your initial impulse is to fucking light all the pricey gear in the studio on fire and go fishing. Once that passes, you just want to make sure that you do the work justice and don't make anything worse than it was when it came in the door."