Tim Foljahn has a unique and intense style that crosses genres. The Hoboken-based musician, painter and actor sings convincingly of love lost, loneliness and changing relationships in his solemn and hypnotic songs. His stellar new album I Dreamed a Dream will be released on May 7 by Cart/Horse Records.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Tom Beaujour, I Dreamed a Dream’s songs are memorable, with moody arrangements and provocative and thoughtful lyrics. Beaujour, who co-wrote the engaging new book “Nöthin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion,” also worked on Foljahn’s earlier releases, Fucking Love Songs (2015) and Songs for an Age of Extinction (2012). Foljahn’s press materials describe their working relationship as “something just short of telepathy.”
Foljahn’s rich voice is supported by Brian Kantor on drums, Megan Gould on violin and viola, Jeremy Wilms on bass, Christina Rosenvinge on vocals and Danton Boller on double bass. Kantor also contributed to Fucking Love Songs; Wilms and Rosenvinge played with Foljahn in the group Two Dollar Guitar.
“The core group are people I have worked with and admired for years, and it was just a natural thing,” he said about the musicians on the album.
“Once” is a spectacular song with punchy beats and dreamy violins that create a feel of a rock lullaby. If there were going to be a new season of “Mad Men,” I’d propose that this catchy song be used to capture the mood of the early ’70s. Foljahn croons his engaging opening lines in his velvety voice:
I once made love to the most-beautiful-of-all lonely women in the world
Like a dream it seemed so real and like a fire it burned
Like a storybook, the last pages torn
You never find out how it ends
Like a dream that dies waiting to be born
You know it may not come again
He ruminates about memories that seem so real and present in this song. When he sings farewell to his love, the well-crafted, gorgeous melody makes me feel his nostalgic sadness. His storytelling makes me curious and I want to know more.
Listen to the country-influenced “Lowdown Day” for affirming comfort when you are having a gloomy moment when “blues just fade to gray.” Foljahn confesses that “everything just breaks my heart” and wonders if he should cry, but instead sings that “I sit and I wait for the end of this lowdown day.” It is moving and direct, culminating in the recognition that a lover is gone and acknowledging that at the end of the relationship, “it’s time for you to go out of my life.”
Foljahn was inspired to write these songs about four years ago, when a relationship was ending. “I was examining what happened,” he said.
The songs “mostly started at a time when a relationship was closing out like a wave,” he said. “There had been some tumult and now there was this space to look at it from different angles as it found its way back into the fabric of the sea.”
In “Ghost Ripper,” he sings of an empty bed and emotional fatigue. The song features Foljahn’s edgy rock solos and Kantor and Wilms’ rhythms, creating a twisted, eerie sound.
“Remember Me” is a psychedelic rock song with a frenzied, exciting sound reminiscent of The Feelies. If Foljahn plays it live, I could see the dance floor filled.
“In My Dreams” is another haunting and poetic song with evocative dream references and an exciting storm of guitars and beats. Foljahn sings, “Your eyes are growing tired/The drum beats soft and low/And all your wild desires are further down below/Standing on a mountain of iron/Looking down on a sea of stone/It ain’t for want of trying that I ended up alone.”
Foljajn’s bluesy electric song “Wake Up” reminds me of nights when I have woken up from a nightmare, relieved to realize that none of it actually happened. He sings, “You held a book in your right hand/A book of love that had no end/I wanna crack that book again/I said, ‘Wake, up, motherfucker, wake up! wake up! That bitch is gone.’ ”
Foljahn was going through older material when he realized that his new album is very different from his prior releases. “It’s a little less fraught, less overworked, definitely seems more mature, very finished,” he said. “Less wordy, more direct in its approach. Seems like a whole new creature compared to my other albums. The songs seem boiled down to the necessities.”
Foljahn’s mother was a successful singer at a young age, “a promising musician with a free ride to Juilliard that she decided not to take,” he said. She seems to have passed on her voice in Foljahn’s songs.
After growing up in Michigan, he traveled around to Chicago; Northampton, Mass.; Albuquerque; and then New Orleans. He’s been playing since high school, but considers the ’80s the decade when things “really got going” for him.
“The Spastic Rhythm Tarts was the first sort of viable band that made a record and played out of town and stuff,” he said. “It was a noise punk outfit that was very good. I sort of drifted off and then started playing again in ’91 when I moved to Hoboken. I toured a fair bit in the ’90s with various bands. I got to see the world.”
After 1991, he never left Hoboken. I asked him about his connection with the Hoboken nightclub Maxwell’s. “It was still rolling in the ’90s,” he said. “I wasn’t there for the ‘coke on piano days,’ but I saw lots of bands there.”
Foljahn has played with Half Japanese, Cat Power, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, The Boredoms, Townes Van Zandt and many others and co-founded Two Dollar Guitar with Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. That band released five albums. In 2014, he self-produced an instrumental soundtrack for the movie “Dead River.”
Foljahn spent about three and a half years recording his album, while he also had a recurring role on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” in Joe Caputo’s bar band Sideboob. He said that acting was “initially terrifying but it got to be fun. It was very interesting seeing into the machine,” he said. He also appeared in “Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt” (2005).
When he’s not playing music, Foljahn is “logging hours with patients for my license.” He attended the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in New York about two years ago and has been seeing patients remotely during the pandemic.
His analytic skills find a home in his songwriting. “I think the art and the psychoanalysis inform each other,” he said. “They are not so different. There is a sense of watching something reveal itself or come into consciousness.”
He said the I Dreamed a Dream songs were written “while trying to process a complicated and charged time in my life. That’s pretty much always the way. The unconscious finds its way to consciousness through song, often, before it is representable in speech or thought.”
For information, visit timfoljahn.com.
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