Corey Kilgannon’s debut album The Hollow II is a haunting, emotionally heavy indie folk record full of life and light, warmth and movement.
When it comes to depth, Nashville singer/songwriter Corey Kilgannon is one in a million: His songs have just the right amount of warmth and humanity to send shivers down the spine. Independently released 10/20/2017, Kilgannon’s debut album The Hollow II is a haunting, emotionally heavy indie folk record full of life. Kilgannon’s reflections on the past and the present lead us through thoughts of our own paths, while his exploration of relationships between other and oneself pushes us closer to our own centers.
The Hollow II masterfully weaves electronic sounds together with raw piano and guitar, resulting in a lush, many-textured atmosphere that resonates with ambience and feeling. Starting with the instrumental “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, Yes?,” Kilgannon engulfs us in a poignant, powerful glaze of sound. The solemn words on this introduction read: “Love is getting your hands dirty? Love is bleeding all over each other? Love is sharing the same burdens?” The lyrics echo his debut EP The Hollow, tying in the past with the present as Kilgannon trudges ahead towards his future. His singing voice is full of pain as the beautiful track concludes: So begins our journey.
Throughout the record, Kilgannon is an open book. He expresses his insecurities with grace, presenting philosophical questions through the lens of a learned scholar – or at least, someone who has learned to live with his experiences, and to coexist with his regrets rather than let them weigh him down. Still, there lie many unanswered questions – thoughts about how today might look, if yesterday weren’t the same. Such brooding finds a home here, but it is never the centerpiece – just a vessel for further ponderance and expression.
While unmistakeably meant to be experienced as one masterpiece, The Hollow II is not without its own notable singles. “Montauk II” is a breathtakingly bittersweet ballad that deserves its own high praise for evocative melodies and stirring poetry. Similarly, “The Fighter” turns an apology into an overwhelming outpouring as Kilgannon’s close-miked vocals speak directly into our ears.
Mysical and moving, The Hollow II is anything but hollow. These eleven songs come from a special place full of darkness and light, where emotion meets action, meets pen and paper. Dive deeper into The Hollow II with Atwood Magazine as Corey Kilgannon provides an “admittedly brief track-by-track analysis,” hiw own personal take on his latest set of songs!
So now I’m sailing
Back toward the beach
A little lighter
With her not breathing
I lay the anchor
The emerald sea
behind her eyelids
Lays back on me
Someone’s gone missing
Beware the tide
Let’s go to Montauk
We’ll hitch a ride
Up to the lighthouse
To pass the time
Drinking and dancing
Lord, Getting high
– “Montauk II,” Corey Kilgannon
:: Inside The Hollow II ::
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, Yes?
On the day I felt the full gravity of how much had changed, I sat at the piano in my childhood home and improvised the main theme. I titled it immediately, and knew I didn’t want to write any lyrics. The speaking voice you hear is a poem of so much anger that I deleted it and burned the copy. Hopefully no one will ever hear it. The vocals in the bridge of the piece call to reference the chorus of 23 years, the closing song of my first EP The Hollow.
The Hollow II
This song is the burning realization that the pain I have always perceived as being external, was coming from my own mind and perception. The essential idea for peace in the midst of the troubles is to first acknowledge that the problem is within. For me, it is by far my most literal song, sort of a drunken/out of tempo slur to a former lover, begging for forgiveness.
In my early stages of pursuing music, it was incredibly easy to confuse people’s well-meaning advice with a lack of support. Honestly in some cases I do feel that I had to venture out on my own, perhaps making choices that didn’t make sense to my loved ones. It’s really a commentary on the void between dreamers, and people who think nothing can change. Admittedly, it is also an angsty stab at my hometown that is pretty nationally known for shitty crowd attendance/participation.
In high school, I released an album called Let Go. At a camp I worked at, I was given this sort of “word” to describe me, which was “Fighter”. This song is an admittance of my failure to live up to others and my own expectations of myself, but also a refutation of the idea that we are obligated to live up to said expectations. It ends with what I think is more of a question than an answer, wondering if my mistakes and deception are written into my bloodline.
The Crash on Saw Mill Parkway
The main melodic theme of this song was an original intro idea for 23 years. In the studio, I actually improvised the main electric guitar part, and at least to my recollection went straight into Narcotics and played that in its entirety. I remember the two producers (William Smith and Will Hess) wanting to redo it because of a tone issue, but I knew it was a special take. The poem that accompanies this instrumental evaluates a monumental car crash in my family history, and asks if the outcome had been different would we not have all been better off? We drove down the Saw Mill Parkway multiple times while making the record, so it had intense sentimental value.
I actually didn’t really write this song about drug abuse at all, it was more of the concept that every human endeavor (at least while deeply depressed) can seem to just be a place holder for something truer. The last verse (there is an acoustic version previously released) I wrote while recording in NYC. It is the acknowledgement of a very dark ending. Worth mentioning that Andy from Ledges vocals make this song, and my friendship with them has been essential to my journey as a human and a musician.
This is by far the oldest song on the album, and maybe the first song I wrote about the difficult time my family went through. When things crumble, lines are often drawn. This song evaluates a cosmic balance that begs one to not remain bitter and just understand that dark shit happens and there isn’t always an explanation. I don’t necessarily mean there is a literal God in heaven and devil in hell in the song, these are just probably the easiest ways for us to understand the hanging balance of things.
This is the only full song I wrote in NY while working on this record. Montauk holds pretty intense significance in my family, so the first rendition I did of this song was simply my attempt at writing a fictional story in a sacred place, as a way to take Montauk of the emotional pedestal I put it on. I accidentally stumbled into a trilogy of what is a pretty dark metaphor, a man who moves woman to woman and literally kills them as he leaves to seek the next adventure. (IT’S A METAPHOR I’M A VERY MELLOW DUDE JUST SELF CONSUMING AND BAD AT LOVE). In Montauk III, the narrator finally does find peace, but when that is taken away, feels he has no option left. See my side project Radiant Phaedrus for clarification on Montauk III.
This song is so emotionally dense for me that I’d rather stick to one factoid. We recorded an acapella version of this originally for the album, but in the last week of tracking I decided it didn’t hold up to the others sonically. We set up to do a pass of me playing it acoustic and vocal, which I did and then stepped out for a cigarette. When I stepped out my sister called (I always answer assuming the worst unfortunately) and I found out my Grandfather has passed. The song is about another love passing, and I found that timing to be too poignant to want to do another take, so that first is the one you hear on the album. Worth noting that Alexandre Lunardelli composed the strings for that in a matter of hours before the strings session because we decided so last minute, he is a genius and we owe so much of the record to him.
One of my best friends Tom Ebner wrote the accompanying poem for this instrumental. He sent it to me a few years ago, and hit me like a ton of bricks. At the time I was trying to learn to compose, and asked if he would mind if I wrote something to the words. Never imagined it would be on an album, but the poem was so intense for me that I felt it belonged. The instrumentals are intended to give the listener a chance to either read the poem, or simply reflect on whatever is happening in their own mind.
“Y” (One More Pill)
I don’t really know how to explain this song. It still doesn’t even feel like a “song” to me as much as some kind of experimental piece of sonic art, as it’s pretty structure-less. I asked instagram followers to send voice memos of how music had helped them in the past to get through times of darkness, which is the voices you hear in the breaks. For me, making The Hollow II is likely the reason I am still here. The original concept was to dig into a poem my Mom wrote as a child about suicide, and try to imagine the darkness that is possible to pass on. I am thankful to still be here, and hope this record makes those that think they are alone in their grief feel understood. I’m living proof that we can survive intense loss.
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photo © 2017