Amy Hill, a St Andrews fourth year, worked in partnership with Cameron Newell to produce her debut album, Getting Ready for a Swim, which is an undeniably intimate piece. She was clearly inspired by the seasons as she uses them to frame her stream-of-consciousness-style meditations on change through ruminations on nature.
One, undoubtedly, gets goose flesh spread on the skin as Hill’s vocal takes reflect the necessary distance between the listener and the abject honesty of the lyrics which are bound by the stillness of the instrumentation. Vocal synapses between chorus and verse are filled by pure-of-heart violin lines and restrained guitar strums accompany. Hill’s lyrics read like a promise of sincerity with lines such as, “you used to say I didn’t judge you// but I’m afraid I do”. The Scottish genealogy of the record is passed on to Ivor Cutler, whose raw voice rings out over “Interlude”, assuring us: “I was just trying to bring a little life into their lives, and they just thought I was a nut.” It is refreshing to hear that Hill’s intentions behind making sound – making music – are not self-indulgent or aesthetically motivated, but rather about the simple act of emoting, of reifying beauty out of the microscopic images her lyrics obsess over.
Hill’s creative partnership with Cameron Newell reminds you of those two boys from Sebadoh doing their 4-track recordings, shifting foot to foot on a sticky college room floor in Seattle. The organic instrumentation never pushes too strongly: this acoustic box of toys sounds and reverberates gently, providing an enveloping catharsis particularly on the track “Violets in Snow!”, most of which was recorded in one take. The subtleties of Hill’s voice allow a rich palette of register and tone – both the instrument of her voice and the accompaniment interact in an intimate level that is truly beautiful.
Listening closely to any of these tracks reveals imperfections that blossom and enrich the listening experience. This record really does showcase the magic in the creative process as it is a living, breathing love letter to the art of songwriting itself. Hill tells us in her title that she is preparing us for a swim and by the end of “Crows Fly”, as promised, we find ourselves refreshed, cool, and calm. This record finds beauty in simplicity and raw emotion – it only includes what it needs to be complete, all the while sounding totally, resolutely, human.