Benjamin Francis Leftwich – “Tilikum” (Singles Going Steady)

Benjamin Francis Leftwich's "Tilikum" is a heart-on-sleeve folk ballad that creates a deeply nuanced and dimensionalized emotional portrait.

Pryor Stroud: Structured around a cascading acoustic guitar melody that sounds like rain pattering on a window, Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s “Tilikum” is a heart-on-sleeve folk ballad that creates a deeply nuanced and dimensionalized emotional portrait through only a few musical components. “Be my rose / Growing in the cold / Be my light in the window at home,” Leftwich sings, and the hurt in his voice accumulates with each word, making it easy to envision him as the outcasted lover his lyric paints: guitar-in-hand, shivering, waiting out in the dark for someone to take him by the lips and lead him inside. [9/10]

Chris Ingalls: Dark, gloomy folk from across the pond. This is the sound of someone who grew up listening to a lot of Elliott Smith, and that kind of introspective acoustic influence greatly informs this song, in addition to Ryan Adams (in some of his darker moments). The guitar and brushed drumming give the song great depth. Even when eerie, subdued electric guitar creeps in, it’s never too much. Leftwich gives us just a peek, and that’s really all we need. [8/10]

Emmanuel Elone: You can add “Tilikum” to the growing list of Benjamin Francis Leftwich songs that are nothing more than carbon copies of one another. From the sappy lyrics and reverb-drenched vocals to the overly basic guitar arpeggio, percussion, and strings, “Tilikum” might as well be any other song off of his last album, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm. With this song, Leftwich is trying to mine for gold in the same area, and the results are as one would expect. Until he can reach out and incorporate other musical ideas into his work, all he will deliver to his audience is one cheesy acoustic ballad after another, and “Tilikum” is the simply the latest proof of that. [4/10]

Chad Miller: Sounds a lot like Sufjan Stevens to me. So naturally it’s really pretty. Unfortunately, the lyrics really aren’t that interesting, featuring lots of overdone imagery and symbolism. It’s kind of hard to take the song as seriously as it wants to be taken in this regard. [6/10]

Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s new album After the Rain releases August 9th via Vagrant Records.

SCORE: 6.75