Hillsboro's Self-Titled Debut Is a Sparking Live Wire Exclaim! Staff Picks
Published Sep 21, 2023It's not everyday that a band shows up in your inbox with a debut album that sounds so fully formed. I don't know what I was expecting when I pressed play on Victoria, BC-based Hillsboro's self-titled, but the breadth of opener "Exit Plan" was certainly not it. It's only lo-fi in the way of raw hems and edges, with the group's DIY vision spanning the length of the horizon.
What Hillsboro do is a little hard to describe. Sure, they're an alt-rock band with a '90s feel, but there's also a fiddle. The slightly unexpected instrument held down by Dexter Hodgins is a stirring through-line as Hillsboro's grungy emo pop toggles from the Strokes to Deftones to American Football and back again. It gives "Closer" (ironically not the closing track) its driving, anthemic feel as the gritty purity of founder Nima Walker's vocals reach for the light at the end of the tunnel or a simple touch, which might be one in the same.
Whereas a song like "Black Hill (MASSIVE)" feels as big as its title implies; an atmospheric, melancholic swing à la Modern Baseball dripping with a gothic reverb nodding to the Cure. "i don't care because you do" keeps that emo singalong going, but cranks up the tempo and piles on the distortion to propel itself to catharsis without ever losing its twisted sweetness, exemplified by the bridge that recalls more than one farm animal-related nursery rhyme.
This record feels like a live wire, ripe and radiating with energy, emotion and potential for more destruction — and the consequent freedom of release — to follow all that went into making it.