More than a decade ago, indie rocker Sean Tillman was reborn as a campy R&B leg-humper keen on tickling your unmentionable zones with his freaky antics. Now Tillman has re-remade himself as a soulfully wronged but never spiteful lover, his vocals filtered for full retro effect, his effortless swoop drawing inspiration not just from Sam Cooke, but from white Cooke heirs like Rod Stewart.
“Please Don’t Make Me Hit You” accentuates that persona shift, as Har Mar resists a lover’s S&M demands (rhythmically indebted to Cooke’s “Cupid”) with a heartfelt “I’m not so into all that kinky stuff.” But it’s the opener, “Lady, You Shot Me,” with its pained virtuoso cry soaring over tricky Stax-via-Daptone horns and a sharp tempo shift, that justifies his newfound fascination with classic soul. And the jaunty “Restless Leg” suggests that Har Mar might fancy himself a haircut, a gym membership, and the right licensing deal away from becoming Bruno Mars. Stranger things have happened.