Tyler Hilton - Forget the Storm
Hooptie Tune Records, 2012
Hilton broke onto the scene in 2004, with the release of his sophomore album The Tracks Of..., a solid collection of mostly-acoustic pop songs that fit somewhere between Howie Day and John Mayer. It's an album I've always enjoyed, but not one I've ever loved, and as a result, not one I've revisited a lot over the years. Over the course of the last decade though, Hilton, thanks mostly to his role on One Tree Hill, tended to pop up and disappear every once in awhile, and I found myself increasingly interested in hearing another record from him. Quality singles saw the light of day every few years (including the gorgeous "You'll Ask For Me," a flawless piece of road-trip balladry that gets a nice, if somewhat unnecessary makeover here), but a full album follow up to The Tracks Of... never saw the light of day, and sometime around 2008, I was beginning to wonder if Hilton had hung up his guitar. Thankfully, he hadn't: 2009 and 2010 saw the release of a pair of EPs, and now, eight years down the line from the first time I heard him, Hilton finally drops his third full length.
|Hilton doing his best Elvis impersonation for 2005's Walk the Line.|
But when Hilton does play to his pop sensibilities, the result is only a tad less compelling. Take "Prince of Nothing Charming," a harmless piece of radio fluff that will function well as a single, but works even better in context, or "Jenny," another rather innocuous chorus-driven number that is good enough to not come across as filler material. The unapologetic pop sheen of many of Hilton's songs may turn some listeners off, as will the potentially maudlin textures of songs like "Can't Stop Now" or "Leave Him," but Hilton's delivery very often makes up for any clichés he chooses to indulge in. "Leave Him," a gorgeous bit of Elton John-meets-Jon McLaughlin piano balladry, is actually a perfect example of this, since Hilton's vocal delivery turns what could have been a derivative love song into a highlight. Similarly, the pop-country tinged "I Belong" is an exquisitely well written pop song that will very likely make its way onto my summer soundtrack, despite using lines and ideas that could have sounded tired in lesser hands. We've all heard it before: young love, sweeping declarations, big chorus, etc. But "I Belong" is the kind of pop song that takes you right back to the moments of your life where you felt that way: moments where you felt lighter than air, completely alive, and (quite possibly) immortal, and that's something that will always keep me coming back.
We all look to music for different things: for inspiration, for refuge, for musicianship, for lyrics that will make us think, or for a million other reasons that I don't have room to list, and all of those are very admirable qualities to strive for. But sometimes, all you need is a great pop song, a big chorus, and a committed performer to, in the blink of an eye, make you feel great, and Hilton has those in spades with Forget the Storm. It will be too mainstream for some, but for a guy like me, with a romantic mentality and a weakness for a killer hook, this record is just about perfect. Calling back immediately to my favorite pop singer/songwriter albums of last year (Matt Nathanson's Modern Love and Mat Kearney's Young Love), Forget the Storm is a optimistic life-soundtrack waiting to happen, and with summer just around the corner, that's exactly what I need right now. Welcome back, Tyler. Here's hoping you stick around this time.