Having spent a few years hamming it up as the breakdancing, sexalicious R&B god Har Mar Superstar, Sean Tillman returns to his indie alter ego Sean Na-Na on 2007's Family Trees. And as the title of the first track ("We've Been Here Before") might imply, it seems like we have been here before. This is another helping of hot-and-ready power pop in the same vein as the first two Sean Na-Na albums, all bright and bouncy college rock guitar riffs and punchy drums. And Tillman still uses his cartoony palette of power pop chords to serve as the outlandish backdrop for his acerbic stories. Like the previous Sean Na-Na releases, Family Trees introduces a wide array of messed up, depressed, underemployed, and generally unsettled characters; but no matter how many folks are thrown into the mix, the focus is ultimately on Tillman. Family Trees raises questions about parenthood ("Fold, Hit, or Stand"), self-image ("Photo Booth"), and settling down ("Help Me Up the Hill"), and in this way the album is very much a story about getting older. It's the testimony of an aging rocker trying to make his way through a tangle of societal pressures that encourage one to settle down, have a kid, and maybe even give up being a performer. But if, as the cover art implies, Tillman has one foot in the grave, it sounds like he isn't going down without a fight. "It's human nature," Tillman says, "but I'm not ready to be tied down." Family Trees is a complicated examination of mortality, delivered with a jesterly smirk -- both an embrace and a middle-finger salute.
AllMusic Review by Margaret Reges