Empathy, often confused with sympathy, requires a little more push, surrendering yourself and embodying other people. On the follow up to Slight Of’s 2017 album Life Like, songwriter Jim Hill brought new depth to his music by looking outward, learning more about himself in the process and creating his most ambitious work to date. The appropriately titled sophomore album Other People is an exploration of different perspectives, an anthology of friends and strangers who helped him make sense of an ever-changing world.

Hailing from Rochester, New York, Hill sought to explore the sounds of his past with vintage keyboards, organs, and shimmering guitar licks. “I was listening to a lot of classic rock throughout the process of making this record,” Hill recalls, “stuff that was on the radio when I was forming my first memories.” The songs on Other People paint sonic landscapes of post-industrial cities, townie bars, and the working class. Tracks like “Sage”, “Americana” and “Sweet Caroline” utilize hypnotic harmonies that invoke comfort and familiarity while exploring the difficult space between patriotism and the dark realities of suburbia.

Other People kicks off with energetic synth-driven track “The Sims” — an ode to suburbia reminiscent of 80s pop and The Cars (“When we would shut ourselves in / All night just playing the Sims / The time we’ve wasted on a world / That doesn’t even exist”) From there, the title track follows to display the band’s knack for making the old sound new and epitomizes the graceful fusion of pop and classic rock elements that define the album.

In 2014 Hill left upstate New York to settle in Brooklyn. From there, Hill immersed himself in the DIY community, playing shows and spending time at now-defunct venues Silent Barn and Shea Stadium. The classic influences of his youth began to naturally intertwine with the sounds of his contemporaries. Hill spent years touring the US with Slight Of and other notable bands he joined (Trace Mountains, Painted Zeros, Bethlehem Steel). “On tour, you inevitably find yourself in some pretty strange situations with people you would never meet otherwise.” Hill remembers. “My bandmates started to recognize this pattern where I would attract all of these people who wanted to tell me their life story. There was a guy who cornered me at a house show in Illinois who had just gotten out of prison, a man at a bar in Omaha who told me he was possessed by a ghost, and an ex-Marine who threatened to kill me. We eventually had to come up with a code word so I could signal them to get me out of uncomfortable situations. I started to imagine larger stories for these people as a way to make sense of the pain they were trying to express to me.”

Moments like these incited a transition for Hill as an artist, shifting his focus outward for inspiration, and eventually leaving room for collaboration on his songs. After writing and recording 2017 album Life Like in isolation, Slight Of developed into a more familial and collaborative project. “It was really important to me that my bandmates be more involved with the arrangement and vocal textures of this album.” Hill says. Recorded in friend’s homes, practice spaces and studios in New York, Hill imagines Other People as “a study of American rock styles.” What’s a study without its subjects? It’s the friends, artists, strangers, places, and other people that give it all meaning.

Other People is out on August 28.

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IMAGES: To download, click above. Credit to Adam Kolodny.