Forrest Hill grew up in Detroit and eventually moved to Boston where co-founded the funk rock band Judy’s Tiny Head (JTH). A band which performed with the likes of Violent Femmes, Run DMC, Deborah Harry, Paul Young and Aimee Mann, and record with famed music producer Teddy Riley. After earning a PhD, Forrest resettled in Northern California and in 2016 released his first solo album “Rust”. The album received heavy airplay on college radio throughout the country and garnered TV licensing agreements. Forrest Hill has just released his brand new twelve song album entitled “ShadowLight” from which he plans to release several singles during 2018.
With this, his second full length solo album, Forrest Hill succeeds in meeting the requisite criteria of his most direct influences and has crafted an album sure to appeal to those enamored with the indie folk scene. It’s a bold, declarative statement that finds the Hill brimming with deserved confidence and assurance. From the outset, everything about “ShadowLight” feels expansive and more fully realized than “Rush”. Yet at the same time it sounds more intimate and personal.
Where “Rust” possessed a somewhat louder element of sameness in both its crunchier production and faster tempos, this recording finds Forrest Hill moving in a number of stylistic directions that, coupled with his lusher, more assured sound, lends an intellectual weightiness to the album that helps imbue it with greater resonance.
On “Everything Lost” Hill sings, “I’m stuck on the outside looking in,” as tales of love, loneliness, relationships and ennui permeate these 12 tracks, adhering to the playbook of American indie-folk tropes.
Having beefed up the production and fleshed out the instrumentation, the sound is substantial, incorporating a host of acoustic and electric instruments, all lovingly swathed in a shimmering sheen of reverb. The horns and organ on “Still Crazy Over You”, the plucked acoustic bass on “Cold Rain’s Coming”, the strumming acoustic guitar on “Like A Fire”, or the melancholy strings on “Birds Fly To Heaven”, are all extremely impactful on the ear. It’s all rather tightly structured as characters and imagery spring to life.
From a narrative standpoint, the album functions in a cinematic way, one that embodies a journey through experiences and emotions in search of something, and finding all variety of trials, tribulations and joys along the way.
There’s a great accessibility to these songs, a concentrated effort at broader appeal through stylistic variance, a strong focus on melodic hooks and rich arrangements, which can be heard on standouts like “Circle Of Life”, “The Great Divide” and “Real Thing”. The songs, while very different between, have an overall magical common denominator which seems to connect them closely.
“Let’s Fall Down” cuts back to a guitar and piano dominated soundscape, embellished with strings and warm vocal harmonies by the T Sisters. There are quite a few instances throughout this album when Forest Hills’ music subtly harks back to his Motown and Funk influences. “Free” is one of those soul-infused moments, driven by a jangling six-string and Hill’s far reaching vocals.
The electric piano pushes the mid-tempo groove of “Anything Can Happen”. Forrest Hill winds the album down with the slower rhythm and plea of making this world “One Better”. You will love every track on “ShadowLight”. The harmonies and beautiful melodic sounds just meld together perfectly and the album is produced to perfection.