I discovered Marian Hill earlier summer while perusing the 2016 Gov. Ball lineup. I didn’t actually attend Gov. Ball this year (and never intended to), but found myself inspired to check out its offerings online if only to cure the staleness of my iTunes library. I craved a fresh, new sound that didn’t succumb to convention, and Marian Hill had just that. In their albums and EPs, each track follows a format where silky smooth vocals interplay with beats, aptly described by the New York Times as “spare electro-R&B.” With the help of vocal effects including echoes and pitch modulation, the line between the vocals and beat blur. The vocals become one with the instrumentation and adds a surrealism to their sound.
Emotionally, Marian Hill straddles two ends of a spectrum. Particularly on ACT ONE, their debut album, I heard moments of confidence but also vulnerability. I’d like to think that these two emotions being presented side by side implies that they are connected. I wonder if the person telling her man boy bye on “Good” could be the same as the one who questions whether she would be really be fine without her man during the very next track “Thinking.” If we suppose this is true I think it reflects how people are never wholly bold or insecure but with varying ratios a mix of the two. I know that at times I’ve felt equally attached to either end of that introvert-extrovert spectrum, particularly during my forays into the after-hours social scene I associate so strongly with Marian Hill’s aesthetics. After a night of partying or hanging out with my friends I generally feel one of two ways: exhilarated or defeated. In those post-party hours, Marian Hill is a supplement for both emotions commiserating with me when the social world seems too fraught to exist within and stroking my ego when I feel on top of the world.