Top albums of 2011, #1: Spring Hill (2011), Chloe and Silas

[None of the Spring Hill songs are on YouTube or GrooveShark, so the image above links, in a new window, to a player that provides four of the eleven songs: Call Somebody, Tax Office Love Song, Worst House and Woman You Can Love.]

I wrote about Chloe and Silas after seeing them at the Forest Folk Club in August: “Their songs are insightful and distinctive, and their performances finely judged and very clear … They are a perfect combination — much more than the sum of their parts.”  Having listened to their album Spring Hill eighteen times in the last quarter of 2011, I can confirm everything I wrote then.

Consider, for example, the album opener Call Somebody.  In terms of its harmonic base, it’s one of the simplest songs on the album, with the guitar alternating between I and IV chords every couple of bars almost throughout.  But that very simplicity provides the perfect landscape to paint the singing onto: the song exists in a sonic world that is lonely, cool, isolated; and the vocal has a very different mood — warm, intimate, thoughtful. That’s especially so because Chloe’s and Silas’s voices weave so organically in and out of each other, a perfect depiction of the closeness that the song is about.  And so the music reflects the theme of the song: that in a cold, lonely world, warmth and companionship is there for the taking.  Call somebody.

So there you have it: Spring Hill, an album of crystal acoustic purity, of both careful meditations and joyful outbursts (as in One-Man Standing Ovation, one of the happiest songs I know).  A wonderful discovery, and my highlight of 2011.

[Buy the CD from amazon.com or CD from amazon.co.uk.  The CDs are ludicrously expensive for some reason, but you can also buy MP3s from amazon.com or MP3s from amazon.co.uk, and that makes more sense in this case.]

Next time: a summary and some reflections on my 2011 in music.

15 responses to “Top albums of 2011, #1: Spring Hill (2011), Chloe and Silas

  1. Pingback: Top albums of 2011, #2: Days of Open Hand (1990), Suzanne Vega | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  2. Pingback: Top albums of 2011: the final results | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  3. Bit of a late comment, but wandering in and listening to the stuff in the link, the lyrical structure and theme of Woman You Can Love rather reminds me of Bob Dylan’s All I Really Want To Do (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5tr3ovN7HI; not meaning to criticize or anything, if anyone built half a career on snagging ideas it was Bob – just thought it was interesting to point out).

  4. Excellent point, Marijn. I’m a bit surprised at myself for not having spotted that similarity myself, since I know the song All I Really Want To Do from the cover on World Party’s Private Revolution album.

    Mind you, I found the Dylan version pretty tough to listen to — as I always do with him. I can’t begin to understand how he is held in such reverence, or even respect. Can’t sing, can’t play guitar, can rhyme a little.

  5. Haha, I hear that a lot. I’m a big Bob fan though. His early folkie period isn’t where you should be looking to find his best work: his mid-60’s electric trilogy (particularly Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde) is where it’s at, those have some of the most fascinatingly abstract lyricism I’ve ever heard (reportedly a big inspiration to John Lennon’s psychedelic phase, influencing stuff like “I Am The Walrus”).

    His melodies and playing are very rudimentary though, and he’s got a voice to beat off the vultures (and yes, that version of All I Really Want To Do is VERY grating, I don’t like it much either). But his rawness is part of his appeal to me, and I actually think he’s often a very emotional singer. Just not what you’re gonna expect. But yeah, he ain’t for everyone.

  6. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve listened through Bringing it All Back Home four times, Blood on the Tracks eight times, The Times They Are A-Changing twice and Slow Train Coming maybe half a dozen times. So a decent selection of Dylan albums from most of his major periods, all given a real chance, and I have been waiting and waiting for the “Oooohhh … I get it” lightning to strike. It’s not happened, and after twenty opportunities I am beginning to despair that it ever will.

  7. Heh, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Times and Slow Train are sort of bunk but Blood and Bringing It All Back Home rate amongst his best stuff to me; if you’ve tried those and they simply don’t get to you then don’t strain yourself. If his music’s not your thing, then, well, it’s just not your thing (you can always enjoy the millions upon millions of Dylan covers other acts’ve put out over the years!).

  8. I have reluctantly come to the same conclusion you have — that I am just never going to like Dylan and I should give up trying. But I am reluctant to accept it for three reasons. First, a lot of people whose musical taste I otherwise share think he’s brilliant, and it’s easier to believe I’m missing it than that they are all hallucinating; second, his influence is so vast, seen most obviously in Dylan-impersonation songs like Paul Simon’s Simple Desultory Philippic and John Lennon’s You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away; and third, it took a long while before I could see what the point of Hendrix was, but then a moment came when it suddenly all swam into focus and then he was all I listened to for a year.

  9. Just got Spring Hill; I like it though it’s not absolutely my thing — I like my folk music a little more gritty. But if you like this you should also check out Martha Tilston (http://www.marthatilston.co.uk/music.html); they remind me a bit of her stuff.

  10. Thanks, JacobM, I will check it out.

    I hope (and think) that Spring Hill will grow on you. But we’ll see.

  11. Hey Mike, thanks for the really lovely feedback about Spring Hill. We had a cracker of a time recording and touring it around the UK. We’re were pretty happy about it being in the Rhythms Magazine top 5 albums of 2011 – but getting the #1 award from you (especially as part of a stellar shortllist as Suzane Vega, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Fairport Convention, and Joni Mitchell) is really something.

    Love your work.

    Silas.

  12. Thanks, Silas! I don’t track best gigs of the year but I can tell you that your and Chloe’s set would have won that category too, had I been keeping track.

    I missed the Rhythms Magazinbe top 5 — do you have URL?

  13. Hi Mike.
    I can’t find a link to the Rhythms Magazine top 5 online, but I’ve got a scan of the column: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7187/7064142869_8b6eacdc02_b_d.jpg

    Cheers,
    SP.

  14. Oops – if you just want to view the article, try this link instead:
    2012-01 Rhythms Magazine - top 10 releases of 2011

    SP.

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