Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Folk, Pop
Listen to Samples
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A mesmerizing debut
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was initially reluctant to purchase this CD, since (a) one of the positive reviews appears to be from a relative (hide your name, for God's sake) (b) one positive review misspelled "literate," and (c) one negative review seems overly venomous and therefore might really be the result of a stolen girlfriend/parking place/cocktail. Nevertheless, because one of my trustworthy friends recommended it to me, with one disclaimer - that Hillman is much better live than on the CD - I bought it after trying futilely to download some tracks from Napster. Well, after listening to this CD, I would guess that he must be incredible live, because this is an impressive singing/songwriting debut. That's not to say that you'll be blown away immediately - Hillman's voice is not Jimmie Dale Gilmore's, although his nimble songwriting is reminiscent of Gilmore/Hancock. His somewhat hoarse voice, while it sometimes strains against some of the harsh words that his lyrics contain (e.g., "emperor" - hard to sing gracefully), is authentically appealing. I don't know that anyone but me will see this, but the pace of his voice and the manner in which he draws out syllables reminds me of Dean Wareham from Luna - which is not to say that Hillman's music is like Luna's. His melodies are by and large fairly simple, but very elegant and persistent. His lyrics are catchy, astute, and, upon repeated listening, insightful beyond mere cleverness, which is an achievement for someone in this generation. Someone else had told me that they liked every song except for "Little Things" - at first I agreed, but over time, it grew on me. The refrain "I bet you believe everything you hear/Don't believe everything/It's the cat scratch and the brown hair/It's the cotton shirt on your thinking chair/I don't want everything/Just the little things" and the music behind it are dazzling and lingering. The best song, in my opinion, is "Playing God," which I suppose is why Hillman and his producer chose to give this album such a potentially off-putting title. It has the most sophisticated and beautiful music of the album, as well as the most sublimely complex poetry. "List of Enemies" is particularly witty and infectious - its poppy tune contrasts with his sinister lyrics in a way I haven't seen so well done since Sublime. If you want to get a sense for this album quickly, then listen to "I Turn Slowly Around" and/or "Spitting Nails" - they are immediately accessible and will give you a sense for Hillman's talent and style. The only song I really don't like after repeated listenings is "Salem" - it's overblown and melodramatic. While I disagree with the negative reviewer that Hillman is a "Freedy Johnston wannabe," the comparison with Johnston is legitimate. They do have a similar sound and style, but I think Hillman shows more promise as a songwriter. Regarding his good looks, referred to by several reviewers, as well as those who have seen him in person, I think this is a liability for him as someone on the folk circuit. I think some jailhouse tatts or at least a few good songs about drinking accompanied by that universal signifier of melancholia, the harmonica, would give him the kind of hard-knocks credibility he'll need to reach the level of Townes Van Zandt or Steve Earle. I'm only giving this CD 4 of 5 stars, because I assume that he will improve and his next one will be even better, and so I'll need some way to give even higher accolades to this talented troubadour. I hate that word. Troubadour."
A unique voice has emerged
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found it strange that there were four reviews with five stars, and one with only one star. Why? I went ahead and purchased the CD to discover whether the majority or minority was correct. I have to say, in this particular case, majority rules. Hillman is a very adept songwriter who turns the bizarre egotism that strikes all of us into a realization of self. That's not to say there is a moral undertone to his songs. Merely, our psyches exist, and he records the whirling of its mechanics. These ruminations are accompanied by wonderful melodies that enchant the listener. I agree with most of you -- a definite five stars."
Liiterate, passionate and witty singer/songwriter
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hillman needs more than one listen. Ultimately you get hooked by the hooks. This is extremely listenable music that I think will stand the test of time. This is also NOT just a folk album, but intelligent music for the masses."