Indie pop powerhouse Hillsburn releases a brand new single, “Truths You Outrun.”
Built around a foundation of a deep synth bass line overlayed with saxophone and shimmering atmospherics, “Truths You Outrun” recounts a lonely season spent “trying to mute my fear,” before realizing it wasn’t possible.
The track, which follows the preview single “Room Across The Hall,” released last summer, acts as a tee-up to Hillburn’s forthcoming EP, Stories.
A culmination of growth and upheaval, movement and loss, the record is the sound of something new being forged at the moment. It is slated for release via LHM Records on Friday, March 10.
The constant change has, deliberately or not, been one of the driving forces of Halifax’s Hillsburn. From its early days as a harmony-heavy folk outfit to three albums spent evolving and expanding its full-band sound to its current iteration as an indie-pop four-piece, songcraft has been the steadfast centre of an often-shifting musical outlook. Its latest EP, Stories, is a culmination of growth and upheaval, movement and loss, the sound of something new being forged in the moment.
Paul Aarntzen, as the story now famously goes, had given up on music and was living a quiet solitary life in Hillsburn, NS, when in 2014 he suffered a health scare that pushed him back to the guitar. He began writing songs again, sharing them with people again, and found himself leading one of the hottest new bands in the country, making it to the Top 10 of CBC’s Searchlight competition on the band’s first single, “Farther In The Fire.” He was the guiding force through the band’s debut EP, and its subsequent full-lengths, In The Battle Years (2016), and The Wilder Beyond (2018). After writing and recording the songs that comprise Slipping Away—pandemic-delayed to 2021—Aarntzen decided he’d had enough of the industry grind and walked away from the band he started. (Is that title prophecy or coincidence? You’d have to ask him.)
So what happens when the songwriter—also the band’s guitar player, sound engineer, video director, and photographer, incidentally—is no longer at the centre? You start moving parts around. Rosanna Burrill, Hillsburn’s dynamic vocalist, and violinist, tossed her bow for a bass. Drummer Clare Macdonald learned to sing. Keyboard and soundscapist Jackson Fairfax-Perry added more effects to his already lavish pedal collection. And guitarist Clayton Burrill started writing songs.
The six tracks on Stories will certainly not scare off any existing Hillsburn fans—like Aarntzen, Burrill has a knack for scenes set in nature, universal observations that connect on an intimate level, masterworks of literature (in this case, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours), and highly shoutable refrains. On the opener, “Truths You Outrun,” he recounts a lonely season spent “trying to mute my fear,” before realizing it wasn’t possible: “When your eyes close, you’re gonna feel it burn.” “Room Across The Hall” is nostalgic for a relationship, starting quietly and gaining volume and propulsion, each section ending on a melancholy dream: “I know I’d find you dancing your head off, like you’re never gonna stop.” The horn-laden “I Knew The Times Weren’t Perfect (But The Drugs Aren’t Working)” is eminently danceable, though its buoyant mood and bridge straight out of “Be My Baby” actively belie the lyrics’ book-burning and hopelessness. The closer “Roslyn” is the only ballad on this otherwise upbeat collection—its tale of a time gone by, coupled with Clayton’s piano and Rosanna’s violin, makes its two-and-a-half minutes feel like the score to a short film.
The band supporting the words is, of course, the same—rooted in Macdonald’s tasteful, nuanced drumming; enhanced by Fairfax-Perry’s synths and horns; pulled to breathtaking peaks by Rosanna’s robust, emotive voice. Aarntzen, by the way, is still on the scene in a consultant role—he helped Clayton with the occasional lyric, was present at the Sonic Temple sessions to offer insight, and engineered the bulk of Stories in his home studio. The hallmarks of a Hillsburn song are heart and heights, and that doesn’t—it can’t—come from just one person.
Progress is inescapable, loss inevitable, growth unavoidable. But sometimes, when you lean into it all, you discover that—even if it made you sad, even if you fought it, even if you worried it might not work—you always had everything you needed.
Connect with Hillsburn:
I grew up in Alberta, but spent most of my life in British Columbia – I also spent a lot of my summers in Britain as I was lucky enough to have immigrant parents with the capital to go visit our relatives. The amount of time I spent overseas makes it hard for me to say I feel fully Canadian, but it does make me feel typically Canadian as so many of us have mixed parentage. My parents defined another divide in me as I feel inexorably pulled to both science and the art; my father being a doctor and my mother being a school teacher. I studied both in university and now work on making healthcare software during the day, then write/read/draw/paint/dance in my evenings. My global wanderings, my education, and the fact that my appetite for media could be described as ‘voracious’ means my frame of reference is pretty varied. It’s hard to say that I have a favourite music genre, rather I am always seeking sounds that convey a sense earnestness an honesty.
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