Protest Hill

The City Echoes Our Hearts

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As System and Station's singer/songwriter, RFK Heise has quite a canon of compositions to his name, but not all of them were a snug fit for his band. Thus the creation of the alter ego Protest Hill, as a front for a solo set that strays far from the Station's mothership. The City Echoes Our Hearts' dreamy opening track, "All That You Need," makes that abundantly clear, just one of a clutch of musing, introspective numbers underlit by shadowed and misty atmospheres that swell and swirl up large on "Hopeful" and ebb down low on "Sleep Inside the Wake." Heise's lovely piano work is showcased on the yearning "Boy Meets Girl," his absolutely exquisite acoustic guitar highlights the sparkling instrumental "Bell's Song," and carefully shades the wistful "Sometimes." "Only the Lonely," in contrast, hints at a breezy summer afternoon, until it kicks up into indie territory halfway through. All these numbers are evocative, but "In the Light of the Moon" is positively haunting, and flecked with the blues. "Killer's Wit" is blues of a different shade, Southern fried, rock-ified, and towards the end, baggy-tied. In contrast, "Train" chugs across lonely, tumbleweed festooned plains, the rolling rhythm underpinning the finger-picked guitar above. The production gives all the numbers a rather sparse sound, even across the pomp and circumstance of the mini-epic "Matches," that somewhat undercuts the subtle interplay of instrumentation at the heart of most of the songs. A big name producer (think Steve Lillywhite) would have made this album majestic, thickened the atmospheres, and added depth to the sound, but perhaps its true beauty is to be found right here.

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