REVIEW: Hillspeak – Shapeshifter

hillspeakShapeshifter is the new EP released by Hillspeak, a five track short album brimming with great tunes to sink your musical teeth into.

The EP has an unmistakable indie folk sound radiating from it throughout every single track, with its arm breaking pacey tunes to the slowed down story telling moments. It’s an EP I feel would sound better live than on track…which can only be a good thing! The energy coming from the songs at times is already intense enough for blasting through small laptop speakers, so to hear these live I’m sure would be quite the show!

The EP kicks off with ‘Tread Lightly‘, a song well named, as it lures you into a soothing few moments of simplistic stripped back folk storytelling, before without warning blasting into what feels like something you would hear from Mumford and Sons, turning the song completely on its head, from the slow simplistic sounds we were greeted with to a fast paced farewell to the track.

Fool On Fire‘ kicks off right were ‘Tread Lightly‘ left us, with more of the frantic paced mandelion and drumming making sure feet keep tapping uncontrollably. It’s a song with real heart racing pace and energy. A real stand out moment comes when the song races towards its big finish that throws in a fiddle to compliment the already brilliant instrumental section, while somehow consequently raising the pace of the song to a Usain Bolt speed. A song to see performed live for sure!

One Less Travelled‘ allows for a break however from the EP’s relentless pace. It’s slowed down melodies however don’t take anything away from the song, if the band had already proved they can do fast, this song shows they aren’t afraid to slow things down for more intimate sounding tunes, a song with real backbone. The mandolin is a real highlight for me on this track, accompanied with a Glockenspiel to create at times real nostalgic sounding moments. A personal favourite of mine from the EP, and one I would advise anyone to listen too.


The EP’s title track is up next, throwing back the faster paced more energetic sounds familiar with this short album. ‘Shapeshifter’ is a real feel good track, again playing on the bands great indie folk sound to make a song that seems like it was just made for a road trip music video. An excellently composed song with a extremely catchy sounding chorus and a beat that plays throughout assured of getting anyone that listens to it addicted (I’m on my fifth time listening to it here as I write this…).

To end the EP comes ‘Still Comes The Night‘, a real lighters in the air kind of song, with its simplistic flow, brilliant as always mandolin, and strategically perfectly placed, highlighted guitar strums that ring out, taking with them a hand full of your heart strings, making you fall in love with the song. I feel any more words about the song would do it an injustice, so go listen to it rather than read the rest of this…seriously.

Ok…so for you that have kept reading, disobeying my last words, your rebellious screw you attitude will be rewarded with an overall summing up of this EP, this five track short album, this group of tunes, this addictive, brilliantly composed indie folk extravaganza…whatever you want to call it. It’s a collection of songs I could picture seeing being played across America from a band living out of the back of a van, stopping off at every bar from Austin to Boston, and playing to a crowd well versed in the sounds of folk music. Or being played by that same band, living out of that same van, playing to a crowd here in Belfast, maybe less attuned to the same folk music, but loving it none the less.  Niall Donnelly, GiggingNI.com