I’m just a sucker for brilliant musicians with a striking vision and a penchant for exquisitely sampling voices and noises. Who isn’t, though? Adam Hill manages to be that and beyond, the very reason I’m writing these words with uncontainable excitement.
Two Hands, Tulips is Adam Hill’s third studio album, in which his musical proficiency shines through. The opening track, “Sarabande I”, immediately draws you inside his soundscape. Speeches from “a late night television star, a (late) technocratic business mogul, an internationally renowned concert pianist, an astrophysicist, and the (former) president of an Ivy League university” are sampled alongside Baroque-inspired upright bass and relaxed percussion— the track concludes with an announcement of “please welcome Adam Hill!” And there it is. His music just sat right down at your table and tipped his hat to you. It begins.
You already know his songs are going to be special. What you expect of traditional folk music is surely there: gentle but clear vocal over acoustic guitar, and some blues influence. But there is so much more than that. The songwriting is hands-down brilliant, his lyrics filled with sensitivity and humour. Distant strings colour the songs like holograms. Sound of typewriter keys being hit, a ringing phone unanswered, bird chirps, and much more “found sounds” fill the songs and create backgrounds. Some songs make you smile, some songs make you wistful. It’s like going through a box of old and new photographs.
The album’s structure is no less brilliant, hinting at Adam Hill’s experience as a composer of symphonies and suites. The tracks “For Me and My Gal” and “I Shall Not Be Moved” offer short breaks within the album, comprised of more speech samples and simple instrumental melodies. In “Sarabande II”, the Baroque-like upright bass returns, serving as a poignant ending to the album. His use of such recurring motifs makes the album seem like some sort of a rondo. If you thought folk music was simple, think again.
The craft in Two Hands, Tulips is ingenious; it is at once creative and accessible. You almost feel like you know Adam Hill, as if you’re bantering with him in a warm room with whiskey, boots, and roses. Lots of roses. “French films make me miss you, but it’s not ‘cause you like French films; it’s just because I’m up all night,” sings Adam Hill in his sweet fourth track “French Films”. I could stay up all night with this album.