Pop That Goes Crunch!

Best EPs of 2016

We kick off our year-end “best of” lists with a discussion of the finest EPs we’ve heard over the past year.

The nature of an “EP” is subject to interpretation these days. However, for our present purposes, if it has between three and eight songs, its an EP. We will be discussing the finest LPs of the year in the coming days, and will conclude the year-end festivities by a look at distinguished works that do not quite fit either category — non-LP singles, multi-artist compilations, tributes, and the like. Call that one “odds and ends.”

Enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.

 

2.  Cliff Hillis — Love Not WarHillis is one of the finest contemporary American songwriters. This seven-song EP is everything we have come to expect from him: richly detailed slices of life and love set amid instantly compelling hooks and instrumentation. Sample and buy here.

Power Pop News Blog

Cliff Hillis – Love Not War

Cliff Hillis – Love Not War

With his Love Not War EP, Cliff Hillis gives power pop fans one of the best power pop records of the year so far. Sure, it’s an EP of only 7 songs, but virtually every one is a gem.

The title track gets things off to a great start with its battlefield analogies, bouncy rhythm and bridge with ornately placed horns. “The Buddha’s Belly” is a superb bit of honky-tonk and lyrically apropos for today’s mindset.

cliff hillis love not war

The pace slows with “Don’t Drown The Wind” but things pick right back up with the best track on the disc, the incredibly catchy, start to finish hook entitled “Boy Downtown”. This tune will become ingrained in your psyche. “Boy Downtown” is power pop boiled down to its most basic essence. It’s just one monster hook. Hillis wrote the track, sang it and played all the instruments.

“Suicide Doors” and “Mayor of Midnight” are also winners. Start to finish, there is not a better collection of pop songs so far this year than Cliff Hillis’ Love Not War. If this is any indication of an LP to come, power pop fans are in for a real treat.

Pick this one up at Tall Boy Records.

Reading Eagle

 

| Cliff Hillis

Cliff Hillis' show at the Steel City Coffehouse celebrates new EP

Wednesday April 6, 2016 12:01 AM

His music is inspired by the past, but not stuck in it.

Singer-songwriter Cliff Hillis and his wife, Beth Lennon, moved to Phoenixville 10 years ago from his native Delaware, lured by the town's old-timey charm and haunts like the Colonial Theatre and Vale Rio Diner.

They're old souls, for sure: he the performer of retro rock 'n' roll with his band the Forward Thinkers, and she the author of an online blog called Retro Roadmap, which pinpoints vintage places to go and things to do across the country.

 True to his band's name, Hillis' music may be inspired by the past but is not stuck in it.

On Friday night, he and six of his finest musician friends will pack the stage at Steel City Coffeehouse, a 100-seat BYOB establishment on the main drag in his adopted hometown, for a Vinyl 45 Release Party.

"It's going to be a big ol' thing," Hillis said. "Hopefully we'll have a full house."

The show will celebrate the March 18 release of his self-produced EP "Love Not War," which hearkens back to the melodic, harmony-filled sounds he discovered as a child.

The title track - Side A of the red 7-inch that attendees can take home for $10, which includes a digital download card for the entire seven-song EP - is a perfect example.

"It's sort of like a '70s throwback," Hillis said, "but trying to float between modern and the retro thing, because I'm a big fan of '60s and '70s Beatles and Beach Boys and all that kind of pop stuff."

He released the song in advance of the EP back in November, and it has garnered airplay on WXPN in Philadelphia as well as SiriusXM's The Loft, a satellite station that mirrors XPN's adult contemporary, indie-rock sensibility.

"They gave the song a good few plays, which was pretty cool," Hillis said.

"The Buddha's Belly," a rockabilly number that's the B side to the 45, is beginning to make headway of its own on Triple A (Adult Album Alternative) radio. Hillis enlisted the help of friend Mike Molnar, guitarist for the Austin, Texas, band the Bellfuries, to give the tune its twang.

"It's the first song I've ever really written with that kind of a flair," Hillis said. "I was channeling Dave Edmunds and NRBQ."

The lyrics stem from a prompt given by a songwriting group Hillis participates in, helped along by Lennon, who earned a songwriting credit - her first.

"Long story short, my wife made a joke, because I said something about scratching the Buddha's back, and she actually said, 'Everybody wants to rub the Buddha's belly, but nobody wants to scratch the Buddha's back,' which I thought was pretty funny," Hillis said. "So then I was like, 'OK, there's my song.' "

Hillis works out of his home studio, called the Hacienda, where he records local singer-songwriters like J.D. Malone, Joe Miralles, Nik Everett and Billy Penn Burger, and is well-connected regionally and beyond from time spent with the Philadelphia supergroup In the Pocket, fronted by David Ousikkinen of Hooters fame; Scandal, fronted by Patty Smyth; the power pop band Starbelly; and the Caulfields, Power Trip and IKE, all projects of John Faye, who will open Friday's show.

Hillis is justifiably enthused about his band, his latest EP and his life in general in Phoenixville.

"The town seems like it's blowing up, hopefully in the best way," he said. "It's definitely an exciting time to be in this area."

If You Go
Event: Cliff Hillis Vinyl 45 Release Party, with guest John Faye.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: Steel City Coffeehouse, 203 Bridge St., Phoenixville.
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 day of show, $19 for advance reserved, $26 for advance reserved and entree. There’s a $5 per person fee for BYOB.
Phone: 610-933-4043.
Web: www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com.

By the way: The EP “Love Not War” is available digitally at cliffhillis.com, iTunes.com and other online music retailers.

Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or dbotch@readingeagle.com

SweetSweetMusic Blog

Passport Cliff Hillis

 

LNW-thumb.jpg

What was the biggest fun during the making of “love not war”?

For me it was to actually play drums on a couple of my own songs. I’m a terrible drummer but love to play, and thanks to the magic of the studio and editing I was able to play drums on two songs (Mayor Of Midnight, A Boy Downtown). “A Boy Downtown” is actually the first song I’ve ever sang & played all the instruments on. I have to say, it was also fun being able to get all the various amazing musician friends on there. Without their talents it wouldn’t be the same. One particular memory was getting Dan Bern, who I wrote “Too Many Songs” with, to record the harmony vocal in the dressing room of the Tin Angel in Philadelphia before a gig we played together there with my mobile setup.

If we want to know you, which song do we have to listen to? And why?

I’d say the title track “Love Not War”. It’s as much a relationship song as it is political, but in these crazy times of violence and uncertainly I think choosing love over war is something more people should strive for.

The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?

I’d agree that the music industry has changed a lot. One thing the current situation has brought to me is the ability to record, release and promote a record on my own, and have a platform (mostly digital) for people anywhere in the world to hear it. The downside is of course that the streaming revenue for music is currently pretty terrible, so making a living playing & writing music is harder than ever.

Who is the best musician in the world nobody has heard of yet? And why will this change very soon?

I’m not sure if this will change very soon, but I’m a big fan of Walter Sear who people may know as a studio engineer/producer. He passed away a few years ago. One of the first things I listened to as a little kid was his “The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit” moog album. It was on the flipside of a cassette that my Uncle from Holland sent over. Took me many years to figure out who it actually was. Even though I’m mostly a guitar player that record inspired me greatly.

She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixt tape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

Wow, that is tough! But off the top of my head-

The La’s- There She Goes

Hans Rotenberry & Brad Jones- Back To Bristol

Kinks- Waterloo Sunset

Glen Campbell- Wichita Lineman

Wilco- Can’t Stand It

What’s up for the next couple of months?

I have a bunch of live shows in the area that I’ll be doing solo and with my band The Forward Thinkers to promote the new EP, and looking at a trip to California as well. Plus I’ll be putting out a 45 in April that will be available from my good friends at Tallboy Records (http://www.tallboyrecords.com).

 

 

Power Popaholic

Cliff Hillis and Dropkick

Cliff Hillis

Cliff Hillis “Love Not War” EP

Cliff is back! Another EP loaded with excellent songs. The catchy title track is finely crafted gem that works on several levels in the pristine production. The follow up “The Buddha’s Belly” has a little honky-tonk styling that just encourages spontaneous dancing. From there the styles shift from folk pop (“Don’t Drown The Wind”) to mid tempo power pop (“Mayor Of Midnight,”) each song a worthy gem that deserves repeat listens. Of course highly recommended, so pick it up!

Itunes

Aritst Connection Podcast

Episode 289 - Cliff Hillis

Today's guest is Philadelphia area singer/songwriter Cliff Hillis! His brand new EP "Love Not War" is being released today, and Cliff joined me to tell me all about it. I have been a fan of Cliff's music since seeing him open for Smash Palace last year and I'm happy to share his story with you on this special day. We had a great conversation about his early days, the musicians that he works with, our shared love of vinyl records, and our common influences from the late 70's and early 80's. Visit him at www.cliffhillis.com to stay current with his tour dates and learn more about him. Three of Cliff's songs are featured with this episode. Once you listen I'm sure you are going to want to buy the rest. If you reach out to Cliff, please let him know that you heard him here first. Enjoy!

If you are looking for an easy way to support this show that won't cost you anything extra, please click through this LINK whenever you shop at Amazon. It goes a long way in keeping the lights on around here. Thank you in advance!

We do not own any copyrights to the songs played on this episode. We have special permission by the artists themselves to play their music on the show for promotional purposes for the artists.

Pure Pop Radio review

Cliff Hillis Kicks Off Pure Pop Radio’s Week of New for You Delights

new pure pop radio logo medium size
We’ve got a lot of new music to report to you this week–we’ve added a ton of new songs and artists to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. To kick off our bounty of delights, we present Alan’s feature review of a fantastic EP from one of pop music’s greatest talents.

Cliff Hillis | Love Not War Artists like Cliff Hillis make my job easy by always delivering top-flight releases. Love Not War’s seven musical pearls constitute nothing less than the writing of the book on the pop EP as high art; every song is a dream construct, a marvel of melody and harmony.

cliff hillis with guitar

From the single-worthy, should-be-hitbound “A Boy Downtown” and “Suicide Doors,” a meeting of the minds that recalls the spirit and sound of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia,” to the pop-rocking, Dave Edmunds-meets-Paul Simon “Buddha’s Belly” and the pretty, shuffling “Don’t Drown the Wind,” which satisfies with an entrancing and beguiling wordless harmony section that will make you drop to your knees, Love Not War is another great, early 2016 release that will undoubtedly earn top marks from all concerned at year’s end.

As you might expect, and because it’s the right thing to do, we’ve added the entire lot of these songs to our playlist. So, in addition to the above-mentioned songs, we’re playing “Mayor of Midnight,” “Too Many Songs,” which ends with a lovely, orchestration that absolutely satisfies, and the title track, which has been in our rotation for awhile. Simply fanstastic through and through.

– Alan Haber

 

WXPN's "The Key"

Download “Love Not War” by Cliff Hillis

November 23rd, 2015 | 8:00AM | By 

 

Philly singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Cliff Hillis has released a new song, “Love Not War,” from a forthcoming EP out in February.

A mainstay of the Philly local music scene since his work with the John Faye Power Trip, Hillis has collaborated with various local musicians including John Lilly (The Hooters), Scot Sax, and Jake Snider. Joining Hillis on his EP are Patrick Berkery on drums, (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pernice Brothers, Wesley Stace), Jason Loughlin on guitar (Amos Lee, Rachel Yamagata), Greg Maragos on bass and keyboards, Shelley Weiss on violin and David Kershner on trumpet. Love And War is Hillis’s followup to the power popster’s 2014 release, Song Machine.

Hillis has several shows coming up including November 28th at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, and on December 5th at Tin Angel.

Below, download “Love Not War” for a limited time.

 

Pure Pop Radio review

WSTW Award Winner

7th Annual WSTW Hometown Heroes Award Winner:

  • Best Songwriter
  • Artist of The Year (co-award)
  • Best Video - Keep The Blue Skies
  • Best Collaboration - (w/ In The Pocket)

Audities: Best of 2012

Audities: Best of 2012

1 Redd Kross // Researching The Blues
2 The Db’s // Falling Off The Sky
3 Cliff Hillis // Dream Good

4 David Myhr // Soundshine
5 Nada Surf // The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
6 The Explorer’s Club // Grand Hotel
7 Shoes // Ignition
8 Chuck Prophet // Temple Beautiful
9 Brendan Benson // What Kind Of World
10 Aimee Mann // Charmer

"Best Of 2012" List

Top 125 Albums

23. Cliff Hillis-Dream Good (Tallboy)

The Pure Pop Pub

Some albums scratch the reptile part of my brain. Most of the time I can sit down and dissect the song writing, instrumentation, vocals and harmonies of a recording, teasing out exactly what I appreciate and what doesn't quite appeal to me, but sometimes all I can do is react instinctively. Its as if I've turned into caveman Rich who can only grunt and say "Sounds sound good."

Cliff Hillis's Dream Good is a prime example of sounds that sound good.

It's my favorite album of the year, and I doubt seriously if anything will offer a serious challenge as the year winds down. It is also an album that I contributed to as a Kickstarter backer. I got my money's worth and then some.

The album begins brightly with the Matthew Sweet-ish "Keep The Blue Skies" and never really lets up from there, whether you're talking about the spritely "Sing it Once Again" or the Beatley "Talking Tree" or the thumping "Twin Sisters."

Special notice should be given to the two tracks co-written with pop icon Scot Sax, "Welcome to You" and, especially, the magnificent "When You're Listening," a driving power pop anthem for a new generation. These tunes are so good and so fully realized I cannot help but wish Hillis and Sax would get together to record an entire album of material. (And, yes, I'd back that Kickstarter as well. Just try to stop me.)

The album is so assured that even the material that could have been a misstep works perfectly. Take the agnostic talking to God song "What's Your Name." Really fine artists have bungled badly with such subject matter (Yeah, Andy Partridge, I'm looking at you!), but Hillis hits just the right note of pathos and humor to keep the song from descending into the depths of juvenilia.

So, do yourself a favor and buy this album. The reptile part of your brain will thank you.

Grade: A/A+

WXPN's The Key

Cool new video for Cliff Hillis’ song “Keep the Blue Skies”

Philly power pop singer/songwriter Cliff Hillis just released a new video for his song “Keep the Blue Skies” with the help of his wife, Beth Lennon.

The video is a compilation of home movie clips from abandoned film reels from the 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s that Lennon rescued from a trash bin. After converting the film to digital, Lennon edited the long-forgotten footage of this unknown family to go along with the opening track on her husband’s latest album, Dream Good.

The video depicts heartwarming images of children playing and family gatherings in a simpler time, without the Internet and smart phones. These images, combined with Hillis’ melodic voice and the song’s catchy tune, make for a unique and refreshing music video. “Keep the Blue Skies” will also be featured as today’s Philly Local Pick on WXPN’s midday show with Helen Leicht.

Weekender

ALBUM REVIEW: Hillis' new disc all Good€™



The album, named after a 1943 Woody Guthrie New Year’s Resolution, “Dream Good” sees Philadelphia-area musician Cliff Hillis painting an intelligent, pop-Zen masterstroke.

A veteran of notable Philly club-draws like Ike and Love Seed Mama Jump, Hillis specializes in daydreaming, melodic musings that rival traditions of power-pop purveyors like Fountains Of Wayne and Fastball. Think Tom Petty-infused heartland set to the lyricism of Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook or Big Star’s Alex Chilton. Throw in a little Jeff Tweedy, Wilco-tinged acoustic rattle, and you’re getting close to what Hillis is about.

Whether it’s the spacious Petty/Mellencamp jangle of “Keep The Blue Skies,” buzzing 1960’s garage-slop of “Ways and Means,” or the dynamically arranged Matthew Sweet-styled sing-along of “Welcome To You,” Hillis nails the stick-in-your-head bubblegum quotient with all he’s got – infectious to the point of dizziness.

Notable guests include The Rembrandt’s Danny Wilde, co-writing on Beatles-esque standout “Start Again,” and kindred Philly souls John Lilley and Dave Uosikkinen of The Hooters.

Hillis’ material defies you not to escape to a world of over-the-top sentimentality and good-time rock ‘n roll innocence – see the lazy, layered Wurlitzer spilling onto the audio canvas while our protagonist extols the virtues of nocturnal pretending in the title track for evidence.

Never at a loss for a melody, and wisely tempering his savory pop syrup with Nashvillian, roots-based medicine, Hillis lands one of the most enjoyable collections of hip, songwriter’s gold in recent memory. If you simply enjoy a good radio-friendly, roll-down-the-windows ditty – and who doesn’t – you’ll dig this.

Now This Rocks

It was a pretty lousy day, but lucky for me the new Cliff Hillis CD had arrived. Just seconds into the opening track, “Keep The Blue Skies”, I could feel my spirits lifting and my mind putting things back in proper perspective. The new record, “Dream Good” radiates cautious optimism and may be among Cliff’s most inspired works to date. “Keep The Blue Skies” has rapidly become my favorite Hillis song in his entire catalogue.

“Dream Good” takes its name from one of Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions from 1943 and sets the tone for the uplifting messages imbuing the dozen song set. Hillis recruited an exceptional team to contribute to the dream, including Scot Sax (Wanderlust), who co-wrote the snappy “When You’re Listening” and contemplative “Welcome To You”, and Danny Wilde (The Rembrandts), who co-wrote “Start Again” and also contributes bass, guitar, and vocals to the album. Philip Price of The Winterpills co-wrote the brilliant opener I raved about above. The record was mixed by noted pop producer Brad Jones (Marshall Crenshaw, Jill Sobule, Matthew Sweet).

Other highlights include the acoustic-based song of encouragement, “Sing It Once Again”, the feisty rocker “Twin Sisters”, and the mellow title track that reminds us to take our chances. There is also a song contemplating the nature of faith called “What’s Your Name” worth a spin or three. By now you should realize this record is the product of a seasoned musician who has mastered the art of songwriting in such a way that keeps his intelligent lyrics memorable. I know I say it with each new release, but this is my new favorite Cliff Hillis record.

If you enjoy Glen Phillips, David Mead, or The Rembrandts, be sure to get this one.

Rhett Miller

You know who's really good? Cliff Hillis. Rhett Miller

Absolute Powerpop

Cliff Hills-Dream Good.

About four years ago, I wrote that Cliff Hillis "is the golden mean of power pop - punchy enough to satisfy fans of Fountains of Wayne or Cheap Trick, but melodic enough to satisfy fans of Squeeze, Michael Carpenter and Paul McCartney". That was the last time Hillis released a solo disc, and now he's back with Dream Good which is just as good as The Long Now if not better.

Hillis has a preternatural gift for melody and the immediate hooks of "Keep the Blue Skies" threaten to make it your new favorite song after just one listen. "Sing it Once Again" is an acoustic-guitar based gem with handclaps, "Ways and Means" finds him rocking like his days in Ike, and the moody, melodic Beatlesque "Welcome to You" would have fit in snugly on the last Red Button album. Just take about 35-40 minutes and listen below - it's easily one of the year's best.

Power Popaholic

Cliff Hillis “Dream Good”


Cliff Hillis has done what many power pop artists do after over a decade of solid output, they seamlessly transition to adult contemporary pop. Starting out with the legendary Starbelly, then transitioning to John Faye Power Trip and IKE he drew heavily on the riffs and influences of Matthew Sweet. Once his solo career started with Be Seeing You on Not Lame Records, fans knew what to expect and Cliff has remained a popular artist ever since.

On Dream Good, Hillis continues to show his melodic skills are as sharp as ever on the opener “Keep The Blue Skies” and he still surrounds himself with top notch collaborators like Scot Sax (The Feel), Danny Wilde (The Rembrandts) and Brad Jones. And he hasn’t mellowed that much, as “Ways and Means” packs lots of power into those driving blues riffs. I love the creative “Talking Tree” with its contrasting blend of strings, bass guitar and staccato picked rhythm. The next several songs are along the Fountains of Wayne or Marshall Crenshaw vibe with “When You’re Listening” and “Welcome To You.” More gems include the brilliant “Twin Sisters” and the low key “Just The Same.” Like Mike Viola, Hillis makes each story so compelling you need to listen. Each tune has a refreshing melody line and polished delivery (without filler to be found) that puts this album near my top ten list for 2012.

Phoenixville Dish

While listening to Dream Good, the new album by Phoenixville-based singer songwriter Cliff Hillis, one word comes to mind.

Sessionable.

The twelve tunes on this album are light and refreshing, energetic pop songs with subtle hints of Costello, Lofgren, Wilco and the sweet finish of Crenshaw. It’s an album you can play repeatedly on a summer night while hanging on the porch with friends.

My favorite song on the album is “Ways and Means,” which packs the most power to the pop. “Sing It Once Again” is a lovely song about the search for meaning and how we find it in those brief unexpected moments. Every song on the album is enjoyable. This is an easy album to place on the iPod and hit shuffle.

 

Dream Good is Hillis’ third album on TallBoy Records. Hillis wrote two tunes with Scot Sax (“Welcome to You” and “When You’re Listening”); “Start Again” was co-written with The Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde (who also contributes bass, guitar and vocals to the album); and “Keep the Blue Skies” was co-written with Philip Price of The Winterpills, who also adds vocals.

Cliff Hillis writes songs, sings, plays guitar, bass and keyboards. He’s an in-demand studio musician who has recorded, produced or mixed many artists, and also performs at times with the popular Philadelphia-area bands Ike, Love Seed Mama Jump and the In the Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia project.

Hillis’ two previous albums, Better Living Through Compression, and The Long Now, garnered praise from USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Absolute Powerpop, Amplifier, Goldmine and many more. His original songs have been featured in several TV shows and films.

TEDx PXV Host

The organizing committee playfully labeled the 2011 conference MindBlender, reflecting their interest in exploring how the brain and the mind work via the arts, science and technology; and how a lively mixture of ideas and people can lead to inspiration and innovation.

Prior Accolades

Cliff Hillis should be a major star. There, I said it … and his latest release, The Long Now (Tallboy Records), proves it. It’s a stylish, thoughtful, consistently excellent collection of catchy pop tunes that never fails to engage. A few tunes written with the Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde (“She Sees” and “Northern Lights”) are top-shelf, but there’s really nothing here less than very good, as Hillis is a supremely talented craftsman whose way with a hook is undeniable throughout. Not flashy, not life-changing — just great. John Borack - Goldmine Magazine (Jul 2, 2009)



If there is such a thing as an impeccable power pop pedigree, Cliff Hillis comes as close to anyone I can think of to possessing it.
After solid stints with pop royalty Starbelly and the John Faye Power Trip, Hillis launched his solo career with a pair of aces, 2001’s Be Seeing You and 2004’s Better Living Through Compression. The Long Now, Hillis’ latest release on Anna Borg’s Tallboy Records label, completes his solo trifecta. The Long Now is, in many ways, the perfect pop record: its songs are expertly constructed, melding wickedly clever lyrics with inescapable pop melodies.
Hillis, unlike anybody this side of Bay area rocker Chris von Sneidern, possesses the pluperfect pop voice—he can sing sweet and intimate, as on “She Sees” or “Ought to Know,” or can reach back and belt out a rocker, as on “Northern Lights,” or “Faded Star.” Most impressively, he makes it all seem effortless. And if you’re going to ask for a little help from your friends, it surely doesn’t hurt if your Rolodex contains the numbers of Danny Wilde, Willie Wisely, and Kyf Brewer—all of whom co-wrote tracks on The Long Now—or former Hooter Eric Bazilian, who contributes a scorching guitar solo to “All for the Sake.” Kudos, as well, to jack-of-all-trades Ritchie Rubini, who, in a addition to coproducing the disc, contributes drums, percussion, piano, and synth throughout, and co-wrote “Like an Island,” to boot. But it’s Hillis who truly shines on The Long Now—it’s difficult to confine his considerable talents to a 4-1/2” diameter slab of aluminum. Rick Schadelbauer - Amplifier Magazine (Jan 12, 2009)



Some people are so full of talent that it almost seems unfair. Cliff Hillis has such a monopoly on talent: a consistently wonderful songwriter, tasteful guitarist, and smooth vocalist. "The Long Now", named after an intriguing Foundation of the same name, is Cliff's third solo release. Prior to his trio of solo records, he built his musical muscle with one of my favorite power pop bands, IKE/John Faye Power Trip.

"The Long Now" finds Cliff more serious and matured; this can be detected in the subject matter covered by the lyrics and what some would call a more "seasoned" musical feel. The tunes just ease right into the ears and the melodies impress gently on the brain. Like other records by Cliff, "The Long Now" charms quickly, with Cliff's soothing voice more hypnotic than ever. The release has a more laid back feel with a lot of mid-tempo and breezy numbers, but there are some kick ass rockers too, like "Northern Lights" and the smoldering closer, "Faded Star".

The CD features an outstanding collection of collaborators that are no strangers to pop rock. One of my songwriting heroes, Danny Wilde, co-wrote "Northern Lights" and "She Sees", both of which would have fit nicely on The Rembrandts' "Untitled" release. Kyf Brewer (Ravyns, Company of Wolves) does his thing on "All For The Sake" and "Shake Me Down". Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) joins in to solo on "All For The Sake", and Cliff's old Caulfields colleague, Ritchie Rubini is a heavy contributor.

This is an artist who strives for the best and avoids filler on his records. In the spirit of pop wizards like Paul McCartney, Glenn Tilbrook, or Danny Wilde, Cliff Hillis continues to be inviting and accessible while expanding his horizons as an artist. It did not take long at all for "The Long Now" to now be a favorite of mine. Bill's Music Forum (Dec 15, 2008)



With so many artists out there and so many records to hear, and so little time in which to listen to it all, an artist who delivers consistently great music is worth his or her weight in gold. And in the power pop community, very few artists fit this bill as Cliff Hillis does. From his work in Starbelly (whose brilliant 2002 release Everyday and Then Some deserves a spot in the Top 20 power pop discs of the decade) and Ike to his high-quality solo work, Hillis is a known quantity, and his brand new solo disc The Long Now is another feather in his cap.

All of what I said above means that I'd buy his records sight unseen (or hearing unheard I guess), making the rest of this review superfluous for those familiar with his work, but for the uninitiated or those who have overlooked him, Hillis' sound is the golden mean of power pop - punchy enough to satisfy fans of Fountains of Wayne or Cheap Trick, but melodic enough to satisfy fans of Squeeze, Michael Carpenter and Paul McCartney. The rollicking, acoustic-based "She Sees" opens the track in "I've Just Seen a Face" territory, and it's followed by the brilliant "Never Understand", an electric guitar-heavy melodic gem that recalls his Starbelly days. By the time "Elevator" rolls around three tracks in, you're left to marvel at how effortless his sound seems as another near-perfect melody wafts through your speakers. And the rest of the album lives up to the standards - "Northern Lights" rocks with grace; "Follow You Anywhere" is more bright pop; "Like an Island" is positively majestic; and "All For The Sake" has a laid-back, country-rock-pop sound that reminds me of Carpenter and Bryan Estepa.

When the year-end list rolls around, there may be only be one digit in front of the period on this one, and make sure you pick it up through Not Lame or Kool Kat, where you get a bonus EP of 6 songs that include tribute tracks (including a cover of McCartney's "This One") and his contest-winning Chili's baby back ribs jingle. - Absolute Powerpop (Oct 22, 2008)



Cliff Hillis (formerly of Starbelly and IKE) pulls together his third solo record. After he left IKE, Hillis worked on some songs for movie soundtracks and even won last year's Chili's contest with his Beatles-style take on the eatery's "Baby Back Ribs" jingle. This new Hillis album has a more mellow spin here, with the pleasing tight melodies that sound like Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze) mixed with John Mayer. The smooth catchy opener "She Sees" shuffles along at a casual pace that switches to the guitar buzzing goodness of the great "Never Understand" with those great "ooh ooh" vocals in the chorus. The album boasts a cadre of pop experts including his band The Thinkers, as well as Eric Bazilian(The Hooters), Danny Wilde (The Rembrandts), and Willie Wisely. The song "Elevator" is another standout of awesome light pop melody and tempered beat that flows right into the chorus. "Northern Lights" echos back to earlier albums and flirts with a Posies-like sound with heavier guitar. The Beatlesque mid-tempo "Ought to know" is another great tune with an unusual synth break during the main banjo melody. Every song here is good, and even the ballads don't get too weepy. The songs delve into subjects about maturing relationships and marriage - without the usual gloom and doom you hear with other artists. This is a good solid album you are sure to enjoy. Aaron Kupferberg - Powerpopaholic (Oct 7, 2008)



Local singer-songwriter Cliff Hillis has been a familiar face in the regional music scene for years. Whether playing with power pop titans (Philadelphia’s IKE and Baltimore’s Starbelly), former local favorites (Tisra Til and Mystery Machine) or, more recently, assuming guitar duties with eternal party purveyors Love Seed Mama Jump, Hillis has done his part to put his native Rehoboth Beach on the rock ‘n’ roll map.

Now, Hillis is taking some time for himself.

This weekend, Hillis will release his third solo album, “The Long Now,” with a CD release party at the Dogfish Head brewpub in downtown Rehoboth Beach. He will be joined by his longtime backing band the Forward Thinkers (guitarist Ken Herbin, bassist Greg Maragos and drummer Ritchie Rubini).

On the new disc, Hillis is accompanied not only by the Thinkers, but also by a slew of his musician friends — Ian Walsh, Ed Shockley, Greg Schocket and Eric Bazilian (acclaimed guitarist for Philadelphia hometown heroes, The Hooters, for whom Hillis has recently worked as a guitar tech). Adding to the credits, there are also collaborations with Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts (responsible for the “Friends” theme song) and Willie Wisely.

While mellower in tone than his previous efforts, “The Long Now” finds Hillis reveling the power pop hooks and layered melodies that established his career and his following.

Before his CD release, we checked in with Hillis.

Q: What was it like having Eric Bazilian of the Hooters — one of your idols growing up — guest spot on the new disc?

A: It was great — although I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him recently and even was able to record some of the rhythm tracks for this new CD at his studio. He is a busy guy and his guitar solo on “All For The Sake” happened through the magic of the interweb. I actually e-mailed him an MP3 of the song and when he had time he put something down he e-mailed that back to me. I happened to love it, which was a relief, but I knew I would because Eric is such a great guitar player.

Q: There are a lot of other guests on the album — many of them musicians you’ve worked with before in some way or another. What’s it like collaborating with old friends as opposed to writing and recording with a regular lineup?

A: Hmm, well, it’s been so long since I’ve recorded with a regular lineup I’m not quite sure. Just kidding, but I have to say I’m thankful for having so many talented musician friends that I can call on. Plus, it’s cool to write a song and think, “I know who’d be perfect for this,” and then actually be able to get them to play on it. And with the songwriting, I made it a goal a year or two ago to do as much co-writing as I could with songwriters that I know and look up to. And some I didn’t really know until I pestered them, like Danny Wilde of the Rembrandts and Willie Wisely. Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s never been a bad thing. I think I’m pretty easy going personality-wise so I think that might be a plus when attempting to do co-writing. So far it’s been a great experience.

Q: You road-tested some of the songs on “Long Now” at solo shows before recording them. In the end, did that have any impact on the final versions of those tracks?

A: I’d say yes and no. Some songs it did affect the way I approached the recording. The fact that I got used to hearing a song with the rhythmic approach that’s necessary when playing solo acoustic probably came into play on some of them, but also on others I really just started putting down parts and seeing where it would go. Case in point would be the song “Ought To Know” that has not only a moogy-synth but also a banjo. It just felt right.

Q: The new album reveals a slightly darker, mellower side of your songwriting, as opposed to the straight-up power pop from your earlier career. Was there a conscious decision to go in that direction or is that more or less how the songs organically came about?

A: Well I’m sure getting older has something to do with it, but I also have had some emotional growing-up and some heavy life experiences in the last few years, so I think all of the above had a strong influence on me. And, to be honest, I’ve always had a leaning toward the melancholy, but maybe since there aren’t as many Beach Boys-y harmonies it lets the serious side become a little more evident.

Q: I understand this was pretty much a DIY album, recorded by yourself at home (far from a first for you). What have you found are some of the pros and cons of taking that route?

A: Well, the modern world with everyone having a home computer studio (Garageband, Pro Tools, etc.) is great in that it allows more people to get their music out, but the one problem I would say is that now everyone thinks they’re a studio engineer. I feel lucky to have built a pretty respectable home studio over the years, and that combined with the experience of recording a lot of other bands has allowed me to pull off making what I consider to be a recording that can hopefully stand against other ones that have had a considerably larger recording budget. The downside would be cranking up an amp at all hours of the day in your house trying to get a good guitar track.

Q: You’re known around the area as the King of Power Pop. Where do you think power pop stands now as a genre and where do you see it headed?

A: Well, I always joke about the power pop leaning of my songs. Kind of like with food, I don’t really notice specifically that something has garlic in it, but I just think it makes it taste really good. I’m the same way with the “Beatles-y” sound. I’ll hear a song on the radio (well, these days more likely an iPod commercial) that has a good melody and some nice harmonies and my head will turn. I think there was a possibility of power pop music to really become mainstream again, but these days I think it’s very much of a niche thing and is actually quite indie in it’s own right. Not sure where music in general is headed at this point!

Q: You’ve had your songs featured in several TV shows and movies (Brooke Shields film “After Sex”; Jennifer Lopez film “Enough”; “Party of Five”; Roswell”; “All My Children”). What is like hearing your work used in those contexts?

A: It’s pretty cool, actually. Last fall I was in a store in the mall and a familiar song came on the piped-in music. It took me 15-20 seconds to realize that it was my version of a Paul McCartney song that I had recorded for a tribute CD. It was pretty surreal actually. I’m very much hoping I can get some more song placements in movies and TV with this CD — that is about the only way indie artists can make a living these days unless they tour like crazy.

Q: Quick — what albums can’t you live without?

A: Beatles “Revolver,” American Music Club “Mercury,” Kinks “Village Green Preservation Society,” Wilco “Summerteeth”

Q: What’s next for Cliff Hillis?

A: World domination! And if not that, I’d like to keep recording and playing shows and continue to make a living at it.
Katie Wais - Delaware Beachcomber  (Oct 2, 2008)



PHOENIXVILLE — Cliff Hillis is finally making his music a priority. This Phoenixville singer/songwriter/guitarist had been performing with other artists such as his former band IKE, filling in with other bands including Love Seed Mama Jump and most recently performing with Mary Arden Collins, producing and recording other artists, and working as a guitar tech for the bands The Hooters and Scandal. It is easy to see why his own music took a back seat for awhile. And then he had a life-changing experience and his priorities began to change.

"A lot of it had to do with my parents passing away," said Hillis in an interview at Steel City Coffee House, where he will have a CD Release Party on Saturday night. "I realized I needed to make some goals for things I want to achieve in life before it got any later, and one of those (goals) was (to do more) songwriting. Another was to make the time to put out a new album."

Hillis admits "I've spread myself thin… just because of the different things that I do." In addition," he continues, "there was a year that I was basically trying to take care of (my parents) when they weren't well, and after they passed away I was laying low for awhile."

Now Hillis is back in a big way with The Long Now, which was released this week on Tallboy Records. The release - his first solo project in four years - signifies not only his return to focusing on his music but a change in direction.

"I used to describe my music as power pop, but these days I'd say its more melodic singer-songwriter, whatever that means," he laughs. The change in direction started with the songwriting process; the album features songwriting collaborations with 5 others on 7 of the 11 songs.

One of Hillis' collaborations is with his long-time friend Kyf Brewer. Brewer speaks highly of Hillis, not only as a songwriting partner but as a producer, engineer and instrumentalist.

"Cliff plays nicely with others," says Brewer. "He's easy to write with and the best part is that with a lot of the stuff we write together we can then lay down almost all of the instruments ourselves… We've had placements in a number of TV shows through my publisher."

In addition to writing songs together, Hillis also produced Brewer's album Bright Jewels (Ryf Records, 2003) and he engineered Bonny Prince Bailey (Ryf Records, 2008), the latest CD by Brewer's band Barleyjuice.

Hillis has also done recording and production for local artists Lotus Hill (A New Sun, 2008), Tim Butler (That's the Way You Want Me to Be, 2008) and has worked with Joe Miralles and Craig Bancoff. He receives high marks for the work he does in his home studio, The Hacienda.

The studio is "modest," says Hillis, "but I feel I can get really good results with it. I really do enjoy producing, engineering and mixing for other people," he continues, and says he'd like to balance producing for others and continue with his own work. This is great news for his many clients.

"I had actually wanted to work with Cliff for a very long time," said Butler. "I have been a fan of his music for years. I felt a real connection with his music and believed he could bring out all those qualities in my music. He did just that. He is a true pop genius. I really trusted him and his input. He knows just what things are supposed to sound like and makes it happen. I can't wait to work with him again."

Miralles adds: "Cliff was great to work with. Extremely professional in all respects. (He) has a great ear for production and is (an) all-around great musician as well."

Hillis has also been working as a guitar tech. One of his clients, Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, had nothing but great things to say about Hillis when he took the time for a phone interview while working in Nashville. The two met about a year-and-a-half ago when Bazilian needed a guitar tech and Hillis was recommended to him.

"I checked out his MySpace and immediately realized he was way overqualified to be teching for me," says Bazilian. Since then Bazilian has used Hillis for engineering work, and Bazilian played the guitar solo on "All For the Sake," which he said he was "absolutely honored and thrilled to do" for Hillis.

Now that The Long Now is done, Hillis has vowed to make his own music "a much higher priority." He said "I was just juggling stuff… it was kind of first come, first served. I get random calls just from all the things I've done over the years. I'll get called out of the blue. If I can swing it I'll do it but I've basically been carving out a lot more time for myself."

Hillis intends to focus on marketing the CD and says he has booked a lot of shows with his band The Forward Thinkers. "I'm trying to play as many shows as I can," he says. And he adds "I feel like I've worked hard (on the CD) and I'm pretty confident with what I've got."

The CD is available through Hillis' Web site, the Tallboy Records Web site and locally at Creep Records in Phoenixville.

As for his future plans, Hillis says that one of his goals is "to not take so long between this CD and the next one as I did between the last CD and this one." He's already talking about his next recording project — "maybe a stripped-down EP," he says, that he'd like to release next year.

In addition he says he wants to "actively pursue getting my songs out there and hopefully use some of the connections I've built up over the years to get more songs placed in movies and TV. That (is) a huge goal. That'll be the next phase of what I'm trying to do."

As far as getting his music "out there" Hillis relays an interesting story.

"This past Christmas season my wife and I were shopping in the King of Prussia mall in (a) shoe store and they had the music pretty well cranked in there and this song comes on and it was my version of this Paul McCartney song that I did for a Paul McCartney tribute (Coming Up: An Indie Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney, Oglio Records, 2001). It was the song "This One" and it took me about 15 seconds before I realized. I said 'what is this? I totally know this song,' and then as soon as I heard my own voice I was halfway embarrassed but also pretty psyched. It was kind of surreal, actually… It's always exciting (hearing your music played). I'll never get tired of that."

This writer also had a Cliff Hillis mall experience recently. Hillis' song "So Much to Tell You" from his album Better Living Through Compression (Tallboy, 2004) was recently played at JC Penney, also in the King of Prussia mall. Though some artists might consider it cheesy to be mall music, Hillis is happy to have his songs played anywhere. It is likely they will be for years to come.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, which will focus on Cliff Hillis the songwriter.
Fern Brodkin - Phoenixville News  (Oct 15, 2008)

The Phoenix

Cliff Hillis has many roles — singer, instrumentalist, producer, engineer and even guitar tech — but he considers himself first and foremost to be a songwriter. He wrote his first song at age nine and began writing "seriously" at age 18 or 19.

"The first song I ever recorded (was) with a band I had with my brother called The Name… and after hearing what it sounded like as an actual recorded song I started thinking 'maybe I could really do something with music and songwriting.'"

With support and encouragement from his parents he began to hone his skills.

Since then Hillis has enjoyed success as a songwriter; his songs have been placed in movies and television shows, including "All My Children" and "Roswell." In 2007, he even won a contest, sponsored by Chili's, in which he wrote a newer, catchier Baby Back Ribs jingle. And he has won other songwriting awards as well. He has an uncanny knack for writing great hook-laden pop gems that stick in your head.

"Songwriting is definitely the thing I feel closest to," says Hillis. "Especially on the new CD (The Long Now, Tallboy Records) I really do feel like I was trying to say something and I actually said it."

But that doesn't mean songwriting always comes easy for him.

"I've become a little pickier in recent years," says Hillis. "Maybe I'm growing as a songwriter. It used to be where I would write a song and maybe not be 100 percent pleased with it but feel like 'oh, that's good' and be done with it. Whereas now I labor over it a little more."

He adds: "I think I used to feel in the past that if it took too much effort to write a song that maybe it wasn't there, but (now) I think that's not true. It's something I kind of learned over the last several years. If I have a chunk of a song that's valid it doesn't necessarily end when the inspiration is gone."

So Hillis decided to pursue doing more songwriting with others.

"A lot of it is I have all these pieces of songs and I'm too lazy to finish them. Or it's hard to get the inspiration (back) once it's gone. I'll have (parts) of songs and I think 'man, I could really do something with this' and I never end up finishing them."

Hillis continues: "It was a conscious thing trying to write with other people. I had ideas that I thought were valid but I didn't think I could actually finish (the songs) on my own… I'd been doing writing over the years with my friend Kyf Brewer and we definitely seem to click in a really good way," he says, "(but) I really had only tried writing with one or two other people…"

So Hillis began to actively seek other writers to collaborate with, and many of the fruits of those collaborations are on The Long Now.

"Rather than just be shy and say 'I wish I could write a song with that guy,' I will just throw it out there… the worst that can happen is that they say no!"

Cliff got his first opportunity to approach someone new a couple of years ago.

"I started chatting (with) Danny Wilde (of The Rembrandts). He was pretty friendly and I just threw (the idea) out there — 'hey, would you ever wanna write a song together?' I think he actually was a little surprised at first that I asked him because we didn't really know each other but he (responded) 'yeah, I co-write all the time.'"

Hillis continues: "I actually had a plan to be in California to do a gig… and (while I was there) I ended up going to his place. I had (parts of) three songs that I played for him. He liked them all, which was pretty cool."

Two of the songs that they co-wrote are on The Long Now.

It was a similar situation when approaching Willie Wisely, but Hillis says the actual songwriting process was different.

"With the song 'Good and Bad,'" a song that Hillis co-wrote with Wisely that is also on The Long Now, "it was interesting because we got the bulk of the song finished in the first songwriting session and then (we) tried to e-mail ideas back and forth a bit, but it seemed to work better for the two of us to be in the same room bouncing ideas directly off each other. So it wasn't until later that year when I was back in California that we were able to finish it properly," says Hillis.

Hillis says the songwriting process with Wilde was much different.

"It was a totally different songwriting experience but they were both really inspiring in their own ways. "Like with Danny Wilde it was quick-moving and working and coaxing whereas with Willie Wisely we just sat around strumming guitars for a long time, really throwing ideas back and forth."

Hillis' adaptability and easy-going nature makes him successful in dealing with others who have different styles and approaches.

Cliff's long-time friend and musical collaborator Ritchie Rubini confirms how easy it is to work with Hillis.

"Working with Cliff is always a real easy-going process. There's not a lot of second-guessing going on when we're working together," says Rubini, who is also the drummer in Hillis' band The Forward Thinkers. "As far songwriting goes, he'll have an idea and I'll add to it or vice versa." He adds: "Cliff's ideas are always very strong and melodically centered, so you could say we start off on the right foot."

Though Cliff is known for his catchy power pop, the songs on The Long Now signify a somewhat new direction in his songwriting.

"I think my music has gotten a little more serious since the last CD (Better Living Through Compression, Tallboy Records, 2004)," he says, "probably because I'm getting a bit older, but also because I have had some heavy life experiences in the last few years."

But at his CD Release Party at Steel City Coffee House on Saturday night, where he performed a lot of the new material from the CD for the first time, he got high marks from those in attendance.

Hillis says that he is continuing to write and that he will continue to pursue other co-writing opportunities. He hopes to put out another recording next year.

For more information about Cliff Hillis see www.cliffhillis.com.
Fern Brodkin (Oct 15, 2008)
 


A cooler sounding Chili's
Not too long ago I wrote about a Chili's MySpace contest that was searching for a new version of its "Baby Back Ribs" song. Well, musician Cliff Hillis has won, and I'm proud to say he's a Pop Candy reader! Hillis was the first person to alert me of the contest, and now he'll be flown to L.A. to meet with a record company and stay in a snazzy hotel. Congrats, Cliff, and I hope Chili's will be smart enough to stick your song in a commercial.
Whitney Matheson - USA Today online (Jan 9, 2007)
 


Hillis' Baby Back Ribs
Talking with Cliff Hillis, winner of the Chili's jingle-off
There's bound to be some backlash when a young whippersnapper comes along thinking he can improve on a classic, but even old heads should go for local singer-songwriter Cliff Hillis' remake of the Chili's jingle. You know the one. In Hillis' hands, it's more indie power-pop than it is Spicealicious, with groovy background vocals (chirping "baby back") and a catchy chord progression. The 50-second ditty won the top prize in a national Chili's jingle-off. (You can hear it at myspace.com/chilis.) We caught up with Hillis, formerly of the band IKE, to find out if he gets a lifetime supply of Reggae Sunsplash margaritas or what.

City Paper: What made you want to enter the contest?

Cliff Hillis: After hearing a version by the Old 97's — whom I love — I figured what the hell and recorded my own ELO/Queen-inspired take on it. I used the original lyrics: "I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs, etc."
CP: Will they use it in commercials?
CH: They haven't told me yet exactly where they will be using the jingle, but have mentioned possibly using it for a cell phone ringtone, plus as the winner I get a trip to L.A. all expenses paid and get to meet with an A&R person from New West Records.
CP: Name your favorite non-baby back ribs Chili's food item.
CH: I actually am a fan of Chili's fare. I'd have to say I especially dig the southwestern eggrolls and maybe the "Awesome Blossom" onion thing. Anything deep fried is good in my book.

Patrick Rapa - Philadelphia City Paper
(Jan 10, 2007)
 


Los Angeles Times
Kevin Bronson

Delaware Divine
If Cliff Hillis lived In L.A. he might have a posse -or at least a gig writing catchy jingles for movies or television. But Hillis lives in Delaware, where he makes earnest powerpop that is neither twee nor overblown- material that would fit snugly on a play-list with Squeeze, Teenage Fanclub and Jason Falkner.
Hillis' second album, "Better Living Through Compression," just released on L.A. indie label TallBoy Records features contributions from Mike Bitts and Steve Brown of the Innocence Mission.
"I recorded it on my own over the past couple of years and I couldn't be happier," says Hillis, 34, who makes a rare visit to L.A. tonight, performing at the Derby on a bill with the Eugene Edwards Band and Robbie Rist.
Kevin Bronson - L.A. Times (Jun 6, 2004)
 



Low budget, high hopes for album - Cliff Hillis stokes pop machinery

By RYAN CORMIER
Wilmington News Journal

When Cliff Hillis and his wife, Beth Lennon, met Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne last weekend in Dewey Beach, Lennon was ready.

She whipped out a copy of Hillis' new solo album, "Better Living Through Compression," and handed it to Schlesinger, a prince in the pop music world.

Later, when a Fountains fan asked Schlesinger if he has heard any good, new music lately, he put Hillis' CD to his ear and bopped his head around.

When Schlesinger eventually does pop the disc into a CD player, he certainly won't be the first to hear it.

The album, released in April, already has its first single, "So Much to Tell You," on WXPN (88.5 FM), the University of Pennsylvania station.

And Hillis is taking his tight, well-crafted pop across the country later this week. He'll play a gig Thursday at the The Derby, the legendary Los Angeles club, for a show sponsored by his record label, Tall Boy Records.

"We got a really good review from the Los Angeles Times last time we were out there, so maybe that can happen again with the new album," Hillis says.

He first played in Los Angeles at the International Pop Overthrow Festival in 1998, where he met his wife. Beth Lennon promotes Hillis and designs the art for his albums and advertisements.

The pair moved to Wilmington from Rehoboth Beach last year when Hillis got a job as an engineer at Target Studios in Elkton, Md.

But he says they were ready for the move anyway because they found themselves continually commuting to Wilmington and Philadelphia for shows.

The move, the marriage and Hillis' work with other bands accounted for his three-year break between solo albums.

In addition to his solo work, Hillis is the lead guitarist for Philadelphia-based IKE, a pop/rock band headed by John Faye, formally of The Caufields. He also is the guitarist for Philadelphia-based songwriter Brian Seymour.

It was during those three years that he had a "creative spurt," accounting for many of the songs on the new album.

In addition to the new tunes, one song, "Better Than Myself," is actually from his time with the power-pop trio Starbelly in the late '90s. It was re-recorded with his current band - the Forward Thinkers - and found its way onto the album.

A little slice of Delaware is also attached to the album through its title: "Better Living Through Compression." It's a play off an old DuPont advertising slogan: "Better Things for Better Living ... Through Chemistry," says Hillis, a graduate of Cape Henlopen High School.

Hillis has even seen some of his songs make it to Hollywood. His sweet sounds have landed his tunes on films and television, including 2000's "After Sex" starring Brooke Shields, 2002's "Enough" with Jennifer Lopez and the Oxygen network's "Good Girls Don't."

That kind of exposure can help an indie musician get a big break. When the Australian band Jet had their song "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" featured in an iPod commercial, it catapulting them from a band with buzz to a band with a legion of fans.

Without connections to media conglomerate Clear Channel or millions of dollars in promotion money, using television, movies and commercials to get your songs to the public can be key, Hillis says.

It also helps to have admirers in high places. That's why Hillis is hoping Schlesinger - part of the team behind the hit song "Stacey's Mom" - takes a listen to his disc sometime.

Besides his work with Fountains of Wayne, Schlesinger (an Academy Award nominee for "That Thing You Do") does a lot of producing in his New York studio.

"It would be a goal of mine for him to produce me someday," Hillis says.
Ryan Cormier - Wilmington News Journal (Jun 7, 2004)