Careless Feedbag review of Heavy Joi –Elijah True
“Denise Dill’s newest release is a sparkling work of thought and labor. I don’t mean to minimize her earlier recordings, but they seem to hint at the possibility of further development. Heavy JOI is evidence of Dill’s growth as an artist. She has minimized some of the kitschy and sentimental folk elements that give her previous efforts a playful feel and redeployed her unconventional instrumentation in service of a more complete and mature batch of thirteen songs that gives this album both weight and levity, as the album title implies. Having dabbled in solo recordings of my own, I’m acutely aware of the extensive time and effort that goes into writing and assembling this kind of work.
“Catalyst” immediately establishes the tone for the rest of the record. It sets off with a single piano part that fades in, leaving the accents ambiguous and the listener without a definite reference for the beginning of the phrase. (I quickly made an incorrect assumption about where the “one” should be and was thrilled to discover my mistake when the drums came in a few bars later.) The song builds in a canon style, accumulating layers of accompanying instrumental lines, percussion and beautifully harmonized vocal rounds. Several songs on Heavy JOI build in this complex looped style, including “Marionette”. I happened upon a YouTube video of her performing a version this song which might lend some insight into Dill’s writing process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3QuXuLYtRY
One thing a listener might notice about Heavy JOI is the conspicuous reduction of vocal doubling compared to Dill’s other recordings. Instead, she opts to utilize layered vocal harmonies that enhance the melodies and make dynamic contributions to the songs. In many places, such as in the heart-breaking pentatonic ballad “Family Fold”, it’s her naked voice that compels an empathetic response and gives the song raw authenticity.
When she does employ doubling, it’s to good effect. In “Hard Hearing” her voice is hard-panned over a solemnly voiced acoustic guitar phrase. The subtle male vocal, barely audible during the chorus, helps create the perception of close proximity.
I won’t go into detail on all of the good things I have to say about each wonderful song on this record. I suppose one might feel obligated to call “JOI” the centerpiece of the record due to its meticulously composed structure and string arrangement. But I hear this entire record as a complete work, thoughtfully assembled and likely agonized and obsessed over for more than an insignificant period of time. I have recently heard Dill compared to Lady Lamb. I think she stands in stark contrast to the estranged local star. Dill’s lyrics and instrumentation are meaningful and complex. Each component is about substance not style. She broaches difficult and complicated emotional issues that adults experience but are rarely able to articulate in such a beautiful way. I doubt Denise Dill has received nearly as much goodwill as other lesser singer/songwriters, and she has certainly received less than she deserves.
For now, I’ll leave Heavy JOI on my list of records which require further inspection. I’ll plan to revisit it frequently and slowly digest all of its brilliant detail.”
Portland Pheonix review of Heavy Joi –Wax Tablet
“Quite tickled to see a new solo release from DENISE DILL, the multi-instrumentalist songwriter from Lewiston who also fronts the trio Pineries. On Heavy Joi, her first solo release in over three years, Dill’s songs are simple compositions of looping synths, guitar, and drum machines, led by a resounding, courageous voice. She’s no stranger to heavy themes — desire, gender, and departure figure prominently on this record —but Dill’s emotional stakes always seem way high without ever feeling ingratiating. She also just wrapped a soundtrack for Household, a film about four families outside the spectrum of normativity. Visit denisedill.bandcamp.com to hear a fine voice from the fringes of Maine folk music.”
Fan Review of Heavy Joi –Aliza Cord
“Denise has an innate musical talent that is multiplied by her heart, writing, and ability to be so open and honest and tell it straight up and tell illustratively”
Fan Review of Heavy Joi –Jaime McCleod
“My friend Denise Dill is not just a singer; she is a first class musical artist, and she has released what I think is her best effort yet […Heavy Joi]. It has been such a pleasure listening to her work mature over the years. You should give her new album a test listen on Bandcamp, and if you like it, throw her a few bones. Then dig in and check out the rest of her catalogue. She’s got a decade worth of phenomenal sounds.”
Shutter 16 Magazine review of Heavy Joi and East Coast Tour 2013
Denise Dill, another songbird from the northern regions of the US, we are in for a back-to-back fest of catharsis. Touring to promote the April 5th release of her new album, Heavy Joi, the woman has a hypnotizing voice and an apparent knowledge of multiple instruments: guitar, uke, piano, sax to name a few. Her songs stream consciousness away from the present to another, peaceful yet contemplative place. With a nearly southern folk feel, Denise’s music makes you want to lay in an open field and ponder life, the good and the bad. Her alto voice and sighing metaphorical lyrics dance above her tracks that scream, “peaceful journey.” I could not ask for a better tour companion for Greg McKillop and to witness both of these spectacular artists in the intimate setting of a house show will be a gift in itself.
Fan Review of Heartbeat Balloon –Margaret Belton
Whether the vehicle of the song is guitar, uke, banjo, sax, or piano, Dill’s songwriting is “[…] so strong you can taste it. It is sweet, spicy, savory, organic, homegrown, lots of twists, sometimes complex, sometimes so simple, and oh so very delicious! Their albums makes you want to sit in a rocking chair on a front porch in the fall while eating peach salsa, or wander out deep in the woods without knowing were you’ll end up,” says artist and friend Margaret Belton of San Franscisco, CA.
Sunny Times for Denise Dill , by Jimmy Rae, The Bloomington Alternative, July 19, 2006
Singer-songwriter, Denise Dill, recently sat down with me to discuss her music, her life, her interests and her views on select issues. Denise, being a nature lover, was in her element at Bryan Park in Bloomington, IN. It was a perfect, sunny day with a slight wind blowing through the park and through the many trees surrounding us. With plenty of green space around, Denise and her dog, Shade, felt right at home.
Denise started writing songs at 15 to impress a crush and went on to study piano and songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She is described as an earthy-folk singer with a queer twist who is always reinventing her music, according to www.dillbillymusic.com. Her songs are personal, political, poetic and all her songs always have a nature metaphor, according to Denise. Since impressing a crush and Berklee College of Music, Denise has gone on to record four albums, one being a compilation CD in 2005. She is working on a new album, “Heartbeat Balloon” that will hopefully be out in September. The new album definitely has an overall theme because she was getting heavily involved with the origin of words, the science of biomimicry and chemistry, according to Denise. She also took a permaculture class in Paoli, in which the listener will find many themes from that in all her lyrics, Denise states. “Permaculture was a huge influence on me that still continues and it has redirected my life and my choices in ways I’m still learning to understand. I’d say it has become my root. The place I start from,” said Denise.
The place where Denise actually started from was in her hometown of Evansville. After dropping out of Berklee College of Music, she became disillusioned about music and the whole idea of the “music industry”, according to Denise. She then moved back home to Evansville and started a much more homegrown kind of music in a band called Orenda, said Denise. Problems would arise on the home front though, which would eventually lead Denise to Bloomington. “There was a lack of acceptance for queerness, for original music, and the people I was surrounded with seemed more interested in doing drugs and talking the talk rather than doing the action. At the time, I did not have much of a political consciousness, but my instincts just felt like I needed to find a community where all that could be nurtured,” said Denise. The band starting to fall apart and her girlfriend moving to Bloomington sealed the deal for Denise’s next move-Bloomington. Frustrated with music and feeling like she needed to find a new path in life, Denise felt IU was a great reason to come to Bloomington. “Little did I know that it would just lead me back to music,” she said.
Denise has played many spots in Bloomington such as: Second Story, Collins Coffeehouse, Encore Café, Willy Jo’s, Boxcar Books and Upland Brewery. Her favorite spot to play at in Bloomington is Boxcar Books because it’s such a rare and amazing place, according to Denise. She’s also had two live radio performances and interviews on WFHB’s 91.3 or 98.1-Blooming OUT. “This is a great town with great people,” said Denise.
Bloomington is also a great place for Denise because of her love for nature. She enjoys Cedar Bluffs because she says nobody is usually there and the bluffs are a great place to write. She said Cedar Bluffs may be her and her dog’s favorite spot in Bloomington and she even wrote a lot of the songs for the first half of the new album there. “I was totally shocked to find a place that looks like it could be in California. It almost doesn’t fit,” she said. Her and her dog Shade also love Paynetown Trail, The Firetower, Lake Lemon, Griffy, Crooked Creek and the Dog Park. Nature holds a strong place in Denise’s heart and sometimes that is how other topics come about in her lyrics such as the political aspects of I-69.
Denise actually wrote a song about the newly-planned highway called “Chameleon”, expressing her feelings about the issue. “I suppose I-69 was very close to me because I could perceive how drastically it could alter the landscape around me. I fell in love with that landscape. Now, I live in the town which is most supportive to the highway because it will shave mere minutes off the drive to Indy,” she said. She hopes to find people that are aware of the degredation it will cause. While living in Bloomington, other political aspects that drew Denise’s attention were: transgender rights, queer rights, the living wage, affordable housing, classism and racism. When asked about political aspects in her lyrics, Denise said she doesn’t really set out to portray a political message in a song. She says many of her songs have political undertones, but that someone may have to listen a few times to get the message. “I think I write in a very photographic way, so the imagery invoked in many of the lyrics will draw to mind a picture that will probably portray a political idea,” said Denise. According to Denise, her songs are all about localism, technology, organics, discrimination, relationships, love and abuse-all the things you experience as a transgendered American citizen.
When asked about the bigger picture of politics, regarding George W. Bush and if she is for or against Bush and his administration, Denise plainly said, “Fuck no.” She did not vote for Bush and she feels he didn’t fairly win the election. She disagrees with his war and his excuses for occupying a country that does not want our presence. She also disagrees with his so-called “Marriage Amendment” that will place discrimination into the Constitution that originally fought against it. Denise feels there is nothing in the Bush administration that represents her, but she is sure that there are people in the world who are represented even less. “After all, I do have a bit of white privilege, but those who are invisible populations or of another color have disputes with Bush I have not yet painted in a song though I wish that I could. Have you ever had an instinct that causes your stomach to turn? I feel that when I think of Bush and his administration,” said Denise.
From nature to music to politics to Bush-Denise Dill packs everything into one self and then dishes them out into powerful songs. Denise just wrapped up a tour that brought her to Illinois, Maine, New York, Michigan, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland. She hopes to focus more on the Midwest for her next tour in September, promoting her new album, “Heartbeat Balloon”. In the mean time, Denise plans on working for her parents’ recycling company and on an organic farm in Evansville. Denise also has a love for farming and a love for the organic landscape of rural southern Indiana and hopes to find a farm to intern on, hopefully in Missoula, Montana. Missoula is where her mother’s side of the family originated from and that is mainly what draws Denise to the location. Maybe Denise is trying to find “herself” through the ways her ancestors lived in Missoula-just like she said before about permaculture: “The place I start from.”
*Notable Past Performances*
-toured with Lisa Sanders (2-time San Diego Acoustic Artist of the Year) and Irina Riukin (Outmusic Song of the Year, 2003).
-She has also performed with other recognized U.S. artists such as: Pamela Means, Hamell on Trial, Girlyman, Edie Carey, Anne Heaton, Andrea Bunch and Aerin Tedesco.
-Denise took her tour international when she performed at Ladyfest Ottawa.
-Also performed at National Women’s Music Festival and The Big Tado.
Denise IN SEASON, by Elizabeth Ross, Herald Times Newspaper, October 2005 Denise Dill, Denise Dill, by Robin Beck, Michiana’s Rainbow Gazette, July 2005 Pride Music Review, by Gregg Shapiro, Chicago Free Press, June 2005.
“Heartbeat Balloon has to be DENISE DILL’s best so far. You’ll hear a treasure chest of meaningful words arranged into melodies that rush your mind and please your heart. Heartbeat Balloon is a powerful current streaming into your mind to stay for days.” ~CDbaby customer/reviewer Anonymous
“Multi-layered and gorgeous, ‘Heartbeat Balloon’ leaves you breathless and spinning. Denise’s always intruiging guitar playing sets a compelling visual and emotional landscape for her raw and poetic lyrics. This album is both inspiring and heart-breaking. One rarely hears this caliber of truly original song-writing. Brava!” ~CDbaby friend/customer/reviewer Aliza Cord
“This is one of the most elegant and creative pieces that Denise Dill has released. Her artistic maturity – stylistically, vocally, and musically – is apparent from start to finish within this cd, which seems more like a lengthy single composition because each song complements the next. Weaving together personal ruminations, quirky lived experiences, and emotionally weighty subjects in such a humble but equally empowering manner sets Denise Dill’s latest album apart from many other singer-songwriters’ who grapple with similar issues. Her unique approach to lyrics and musical instruments coupled with her willingness to challenge herself and others is evident throughout these songs and is part of what makes it such an amazing and moving album.” CDbaby friend/customer/reviewer Stef Shuster
“Its amazing! Like always. I’ve never heard a song by Denise that I haven’t absolutely loved. It’s unique, and touches my heart. Keeps me always wanting more. Never stop doing what you do so well!” ~CDbaby friend/customer/reviewer Amanda Proctor
“The music is so strong you can taste it. It is sweet, spicy, savory, organic, homegrown, lots of twists, sometimes complex, sometimes so simple, and oh so very delicious! This album makes you want to sit in a rocking chair on a front pourch in the fall while eating peach salsa, or wander out deep in the woods without knowing were you’ll end up. When I heard this album, it brought me back to sweet home Bloomington IN were many memories of denise lie. Memories of campfires that turned into magical vibrant moments that made the world stop spinning to listen to her soulfull voice and honest lyrics. Denise has this perseption of life that you want to be part of. By listening to her music, you end up being part of it, and then life becomes that much sweeter. “~CDbaby friend/customer/reviewer Margaret Belton
“Denise Dill is the most original, brilliant, singer / song writer I’ve come across in a long time. You have to check this woman out!” ~ Lisa Sanders, singer / songwriter and two-time San Diego Music Awards
“Every now and then a musician manages to climb over my high wall of standards long enough to make me want to hear more only after twisting my head sideways like a hound dog a couple of times before I realize what’s hit me. Denise Dill got me up off my feet at the 30th National Women’s Music Festival and my feet were tired!” ~ Kara Barnard multi-instrumentalist.
“We think your voice is beautiful” ~ Church of Girl, online radio station.
“I love the writing style and the beauty of the songs! I particularly love the song Chameleon, but am partial to Unsaid as well. I know there are many songs on this CD, but it would be great if there were more! Amazing music!!” ~ CDbaby customer/review Becky Brown
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching some of this cd come together, as well as, touring with Denise. The response she receives from the audience and other musicians on the bill is something to see. Simply put, the light pours out of her. She is truly blessed with the ability to translate herself into something wonderful, mysterious and intangible. This CD is not exception… get it now!” ~ CDbaby customer/review, musician, and filmmaker Brick Briscoe
“I listened to this cd for the first time, and had to listen to it again .. and again … the lyrics seemed to describe everything I didnt even know I was feeling.” ~ CDbaby customer/reviewer Sarah Mossberger
“I would highly suggest this cd to anyone. I heard Denise for the first time about a year ago, and honestly I had just about given up on local musicians before I met her. Simply put, as a musician she is exceptional, and like her live performances, this cd is amazing.” ~ CDbaby customer/reviewer Alix Clarke
“This CD is amazing. Her style and lyrics are thought provoking and honest. She fills my heart up until i think it will explode. There should be more music out there like hers!!! She is amazing!” ~ CDbaby customer/reviewer Brittney Scott
“I love this CD and can’t stop listening to it! The lyrics are beautiful and really strike a chord.” ~ Cdbaby customer/reviewer Kristi Zoebel