Brave the Storm
Last Year’s Man is the moniker for Eugene, OR-based producer and singer-songwriter, Tyler Fortier. The Northwesterner has had his music featured on major television and film outlets. He enjoys working with emerging artists such as Jeffrey Martin, Anna Tivel, Beth Wood, and Jeff Crosby. Fortier has been involved in over 40 projects as producer, mixing engineer, or session player- often all those roles. On Brave the Storm he plays an array of guitars and keyboards and involves 15 others in the credits, although all most of them play on select tracks. This is his debut under the moniker, a rustic folk sound every bit compatible with the environs of the Pacific Northwest.
His music is gentle, moody, and atmospheric. Textures and layers seem to be as important as the lyrics. Even Fortier’s vocals carry a hushed quality, forming part of the cushioning sound rather than rising above it. It’s like that of Iron & Wine or, as you’d guess, like the artists he has produced such as Anna Tivel, whose violin and harmony vocal are very much present (“ the violin sounded like insects flying around the room”) in the opening title track, already released as a single. “Brave the Storm,” with its lyrics about lovers in bed, braving the foreboding weather outside, also features multi-instrumentalist Lex Price (Neko Case, Rodney Crowell, Peter Bradley Adams) on tenor guitar, and Fortier’s longtime collaborator Milo Fultz on upright bass. “This was the second song I wrote for the album. I guess at the heart of it, it’s about living with your own demons and getting caught in a cycle of being your own worst enemy. I’m speaking to the protagonist throughout the song and trying to pull her through whatever it is she is going through. The lyrics are broad, but I think we all sometimes find ourselves “there” – the place where cliches are cliches for a reason,” says Fortier.
Tivel also appears on the haunting “My Own Ghost Town” along with another Fortier-produced artist, Jeffrey Martin, who adds his vocal with Tivel singing behind Fortier – “I was raised to borrow trouble…a king without a crown, looking for the key to my own ghost town. The album’s second single, “Wild, Wild Heart” takes the sound briefly away from the hushed folk as the prominent vocal is that of Christopher Porterfield of the Texas band Field Report. Fortier was impressed by their album Brake Light, Red Tide and kept hearing Porterfield’s voice in the melody. As it turns out his buddy in Nashville, Philippe Bronchtein (who played organ and pedal steel on the album), knew Porterfield, and connected them.
This is not an easy album to pin down but somehow it is comforting in its gentle tones and finessed touches of strummed acoustic guitar, unobtrusive keys, and those special dashes of violin and/or pedal steel in just the right places. It’s best enjoyed alone when the listener can focus on the many aspects of the album. There’s much to absorb. Take it all in.