Hitting High Notes Like the Isley’s: Tolliver’s Sad Disco-Soul

Introducing Tolliver, the LA transplant with the seraphic falsetto.
By    August 20, 2015


A bad falsetto is the quickest route to an eye roll. Pharrell makes it work but deep down, everyone silently understands that he’s singing in a range that most men can hit after three drinks and pants pulled slightly too snug. A beautiful falsetto can stop you in your tracks and make the hairs on your body feel like bayonets. It almost sounds unholy, as though someone’s hitting notes that only animals with hyper-sensitive hearing should be able to hear. Wild Beasts, Anthony, and Shamir are three of the most adept at floating effortlessly. It’s probably time to add Tolliver to that category.

A Bulls devotee raised on the South Side of Chicago, Tolliver spent time in Minneapolis before transplanting to LA last year. At some point in the near past, he took up falsetto in the way of minor league catchers, who switch to the mound and are suddenly able to throw 97 miles per hour (word to Kenley Jansen). He’d formerly been the frontman of a garage soul group called Black Diet, but this feels like he emerged from some extraterrestrial disco where all they do is mourn. Elephant & Castle handles the beat, tripping over itself with phosphorescent keyboards, Serotonin-deficient-glow, and sulking drums. The entire effect is ideal for those who want to turn up but feel like something inside them has been turned off. It’s from his new Rave Deep EP that drops tomorrow. Invest in the right drugs, but be sure to get plenty of 5-HTP.

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