Published May 26, 2016Veda Hille's Love Waves is about love — the life-altering, at-times crazy-making love of a spouse and new mother. It's the Vancouver songwriter, pianist and theatre composer's 20th album, and it's a knockout. Since when was working through grown up shit so compelling, so unconventional, so fun?
Hille teamed up with co-producer John Collins of the New Pornographers (his JC/DC partner Dave Carswell also appears on it) along with longtime bandmates Ford Pier, Barry Mirochnick and Martin Walton, and guests Jesse Zubot and Peggy Lee (violin and cello, respectively) and Nick Krgovich, who did synths and arrangements.
Alone at the piano, Hille's lyrics are clever and sharp, witty and unrelentingly odd, ferreting uncomfortable truths out of found material from everyday life; her playing is playfully tumultuous, taking you on ride after ride. But backed by this synth-heavy band, Hille can be huge. At one point during "Charismatic M.F." (a song about her husband), Hille sings, "I am your Tyrannosaurus lady / I am mean but I am pretty." Everything about this record feels imaginative, rich, brightly coloured and huge; both ancient and brand new.
Love Waves opens with "Lover/Hater," a kind of mission statement: "I will carve a record out for you / out of a solid block of vinyl," Hille sings. "I will carve it like they used to, with a hammer and a chisel and a rifle." "Just as good as I can do," she adds, and succeeds.
Written while on a residency in Berlin, Love Waves can be both dense and spacious. On one of its most moving moments, "Burst," Hille tries to convey to her son what it's like getting older, "feeling things for years and years and years and years and years." She imagines they were the same age, setting off fireworks, and he asks, "The day I grow up — is that the day you die?" It's heartbreaking.
Yet, in a way, Hille's covers and adaptations are just as personal. She re-imagines Bowie's "Teenage Wildlife" as a kind of a dialogue between them (over some pretty cool retro sitar/guitar sounds and beats — thanks JC/DC); Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Sun Whose Rays" is appropriately grand and majestic, while her elongated cover of Brian Eno's "By This River" is electronic and baroque at the same time.
Love Waves is such an ambitious album ' it eddies briefly into German on "Eurydice," based on Rilke's poetry — yet it keeps its hand in pop culture, too. "Goodbye To Berlin" could be a New Pornographers song (Hille should be a guest member), while closer "Titanic" (another song about love and descent) has a heavy piano punk feel.
Somehow, I've gotten this far without mentioning that Hille's voice on Love Waves is wonderful, too. It confidently takes up space, but can pause to be hesitant and delicate when appropriate. And her melodies and words stick and stick with you. Make room for this one, cause it's gonna take it. (Independent)