Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: The Hillary Step “Note To Self”

Pop rock
Named after Edmund Hillary, the Hillary Step is a 40 foot, near vertical rock face on Mount Everest. What this has to do with the acoustic driven pop rock band I’m not sure. Maybe one of the members is a descendent of Edmund Hillary. Maybe they are enthusiastic mountain climbers. Maybe because the name “is just there”.

Whatever the case may be, Hillary Step put the rock in acoustic rock, along with plenty of melody and harmony. Think Rembrandts in mountain climbing gear reaching new heights. The Hillary Step is based on the fruitful partnership of Rob Schiffmann (guitar, vocals, songwriting and everything else) and Jon Rothstein (bass, vocals, songwriting), backed by a solid group of musicians in Ale de Vries (drums), Rachel Dart (vocals) and Eric March (keyboards). The full band brings vibrant life to the acoustic tunes the duo initially put together. The 13 songs found on their new album, “Note To Self” span topics related to longing, relationship issues, reaching peace with oneself, and the lucidity of quiet times. In their own words, their music is “1 part acoustic rock, 1 part singer-songwriter and 1 part straight-up Rock 'n Roll.”

“Tell Me You Love Me” gets things rolling. As if the peppy piano and sublime harmonies weren’t enough, there is a cool key change in the coda that takes things up a notch – consequently, this one is my favorite track on the album. But there are plenty of other gems throughout this collection that make “Note To Self” a consistently enjoy listen from beginning to end. Some additional highlights include the pleasant jangle pop of “All I’ve Got”, the harmony-laden “A Little Time” and “Sister Mercy”, a captivating storytelling tune with an engrossing melody. On the softer side, don’t miss the achingly gorgeous piano ballad “For The Moment” and the thoughtful seize-the-day message in “What Are We Waiting For?”. Showcasing the diversity of the musical styles this band can pull off include the funky rock of “Answers”, the awkward and haunting verses of “Doorways”, and the jazzy overtones of “Quietness of Love”. The CD ends with a simple yet charming acoustic piece called “Stars and Butterflies”.

So plaster a yellow sticky note to your forehead to run and check out The Hillary Step. Clearly a band that us older pop rockers are going to click with, but hopefully some younger recruits can meet us up on the mountain too. Recommended if you like The Rembrandts, Venice, or Sister Hazel.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13

The Hillary Stepofficial site.