Over and over

Kye Alfred Hillig is seriously prolific. It could be argued that he might be a little too prolific, but I say get in while the getting is good.

Kye Alfred Hillig
Real Snow
The Buddhist

I remember hearing an interview with Matthew Sweet (this was a long time ago, obviously) where he recounted working with Julian Cope. "Don't you ever finish a song?" he recalled Cope asking him. Back in that post-Girlfriend heyday, this was a good question to ask. And it's also fair to say that if you took the 16 best songs from his four album stretch of greatness (Girlfriend, Altered Beast, 100% Fun and Blue Sky on Mars) you might well have the greatest pop album in history. You could also take the 16 worst songs from those albums and drive up sales of earplugs.

Ryan Adams and Prince are also members of the "probably too prolific for their own good" club, but one thing all of these guys have in common is that they've been successful. Hillig is cranking out album after album (these two are his 2014 output), but he's nowhere near as well-known.

Also, he is a folk singer. The production on Real Snow is slicker, but the songs retain their folk roots. Hillig also has that walking blues way of giving titles to his songs ("My Young Love Was As Blind As Ray Charles And Half As Cold As Heat", "The House Across The Street Feeds On Broken Families", "Ugly We Were Born"), so he embraces the folk side pretty completely.

Even so, Real Snow is a fully-produced effort that gives the impression that Hillig isn't just going electric; he's looking to go big. And as an ambitious pop-rock album, it's one of the better ones of the year. The anthems have solid hooks, and there is a wide array of sounds and musical ideas. The lyrics and lyrical construction are still folk, but Real Snow is definitely an attempt to build on Hillig's solid base.

The Buddhist is the more recent release, and it's a straight-up folk album. There's not much past Hillig and his guitar, a step back toward simplicity which may explain the album title. I prefer the more collaborative sound of Real Snow, but I give Hillig full props for making whatever album he wants to make when he wants to make it.

By my count, Hillig has now released four albums in the last three years. They all circle around the folk ideal, though The Buddhist is probably the "purest" folk album of the lot. I do think he could use a bit of an editor, but there's way more good stuff here than there is crap.

Best of all, though, Hillig is taking chances. There's no point in cranking out song after song if you're writing the same song over and over. Hillig is exploring the musical universe, and we get to hear his notes. I can definitely get behind that.

Jon Worley

return to A&A home page