Nova Scotia’s Hillsburn saw a busy 2016. They shot into the spotlight with their immensely popular album In The Battle Years. The band rose to prominence with their heartfelt anthems, toured across the country, and even won the Canadian Folk Music Award for “New/Emerging Artist of the Year”. Lately the band has been teasing fans with the promise of a new album, and today they’re officially delivering on that, or at least their first new single. Take a listen to ‘Low Light’.
In The Battles Year was a sock-knocking debut. Full of strings and mandolins that would sweep you up in a slow build, it never disappointed to find those peaks. It felt like it was a true Maritime album in the way that it kept just its toes rooted in Celtic music, digging back into now and then for the right amount of boot-stomping, but aspired to more.
Apparently that wasn’t punk enough for Hillsburn. As the band tells it, they’ve had an intense year of busy schedules, personal struggles, and a strained relationship with their record label that ultimately made for a difficult departure. The addition of Clare Macdonald to the band also signalled a major shift in direction. Macdonald was just all about the drums, and now there’s these electric guitars, and talk of synthesizers.
It’s not quite a fugue state. The band has gone back to the drawing board, but ‘Low Light’ is still identifiably Hillsburn. They’ve taken the direction of adopting the rest of the hats previously warn by their label, with Paul Aarntzen who was already the band’s songwriter, graphic designer, photographer, and videographer now also filling the role of engineer.
“We knew we wanted to approach things differently this time around,” Aarntzen says. “In every sense.”
They’ve shaken things up, and modernized their sound a bit, seeking a forward progression in pop and rock. The song itself covers the themes of finding that independent strength, and pursuing it with a sense of urgency. The band even ominously warn us that: “Put simply, our time is short. A band’s window is narrow.”
Now while the city sleeps,
Kiss me in the street, my love.
I’m learning to be fearless.
Our time, we’ve got to take it serious.
‘Cause I don’t want to waste my life
Bleeding for the phantom year
When money up and saves us
And everything is painless.
“We all want this really badly,” says Rosanna Burrill. “We’re going to keep fighting for it.”
The as-yet-to-be-named album is not expected to be released until May.