You haven’t heard anything like it before
Sometimes, you need to drop everything and work for the United States Postal Service. At least, that’s what Sean Tillmann did during the global pandemic. Tillmann, who, when he isn’t delivering packages, makes music under his stage name Har Mar Superstar, took 2020 by the horns and created his newest album, Roseville. While Har Mar Superstar is typically a one-man show, this album features the first true collaboration of the entire touring band.
Not only has the Minnesota-based musician been working on new music (and delivering mail in rain, hail, sleet or snow), but he’s also been working on himself. The album reflects Tillmann’s personal growth, from getting engaged to getting sober. It’s bright and colorful, marrying together indie rock, R&B and even a taste of show tunes. Above all else, it’s honest in the best possible way.
If people haven’t heard any Har Mar Superstar music prior to this album, they’ll definitely get to know who the man behind the music is from the very first song. “Solid Ghost” begins with deeply personal lyrics, written in a way that makes the listener feel as if they’re talking to a close friend. Tillmann reveals all of himself in this opening song with lyrics like, “Never tried to take my life, but I admit that I got close.” With these dark lyrics, one would think the melody would reflect that darkness, but instead, Tillmann gives listeners a happy little tune, complete with horns, bells and stellar vocals, not to mention the magnificent trumpet solo towards the middle. It’s the perfect amount of theatrical, as the listener can almost feel the performance of the song just by listening to it. Although the instrumental builds up and proves to be a great addition, the lyrics remain the superior part of the song. “Solid Ghost” ends with some of the most open-hearted lyrics on the album, clearly intended for someone special: “You came to me with the bravery of someone twice your size, when you wait so long for someone, you pray so long for someone, and suddenly your heart explodes.”
“Where We Began” reels the listener in with a synth beat and more amazing lyrics. Like Har Mar’s other songs, it packs a lot of personality in the instrumentals alone, but it’s the lyrics that hit you. Tillmann sings, “Oh we’re back to where we began, no place for such a fragile man, try to be the one who makes me understand.” And nothing goes better with poetic, honest lyrics like a funky horn beat. It’s one of the shortest songs on the album–a whirlwind of trumpets and synth–but do yourself a favor and put this song on repeat.
The record then jumps into “Another Century,” a smooth, jazzy number featuring Kam Franklin and Jackie Venson. Tillmann says that he was inspired by the ’70s for this album, and people can definitely tell with this song. It feels like the classic ’70s tune placed at the end of a romantic movie, playing as the characters stare out into the sunset. The vocals are sultry, raw and warm with an ending that leaves you wanting more. The next song, “Hello, Mr. Sandman,” takes a turn in the album, creating a melancholy tone. The instrumentals are still big, but less bouncy and more long winded. The trumpet wails in the background as Tillmann laments, “When I listened to the voices, I lost sight of mine. At first it was a choice, but it forced itself with time.”
Further into the album, people will find a nugget of pure joy in “Neon Aglow.” At this point, listeners will realize that Har Mar Superstar’s specialty is combining the wonderful vintage sound of horns with a fun synth beat to create a whole new experience. This song is an example of that. It’ll make people walk down the street with a funky pep in their step. Tillmann identifies himself as “the jerk” in the song, before revealing the “wildest time” he’s ever had in his life: “Mine was tripping balls when the car came alive.” It’s self-deprecating in a way that allows the listener to relate to the lyrics, even if they haven’t tripped balls inside a sentient car.
Following “Neon Aglow” is “Hearts Have Misspoken.” The synth beat of this song sounds like a piece of the ’80s come to life. It’s incredibly catchy, and listeners definitely find themselves singing along. The title alone should tell people that this song is transparent, and Tillmann’s lyrics once again reign supreme. The song discusses fighting for someone’s love and saving a relationship that is completely worth it: “Our hearts have misspoken, I’ll never let that happen again.”
The album ends with “You’re Not Alone,” creating a message of hope and inspiration. The song seems like a mantra for Tillmann, including the lyrics “But I know, yeah I know, I’m not alone.” With an intense string build-up at the end, this album closer is raw and real. The song references some “bad decisions” that Tillmann may have made in his past, but quickly reveals that he has come to terms with it, letting it all go.
The beauty of Roseville is that each song creates its own state of mind. Some songs are happy, some songs are sad and some songs are a deep sigh, wondering where to go next. Tillmann does a masterful job at writing beautifully poetic, honest lyrics without making it uncomfortable to listen to. There’s humor, there’s metaphor and there’s understanding. Even if people haven’t lived through the same experiences, by the end of the album they will have some type of understanding of the wonderful, wacky mind of Har Mar Superstar.