Few artists have had a complete 180 from where they debuted and the subsequent sophomore project, but Kacy Hill has continued to grow into her own — even as she releases her third album, Simple, Sweet, and Smiling. And continuing the work she has done with Jim-E Stacks on Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again, Kacy continues her foray into focusing on the simple things. From melancholic-warm summer vibes to intricate percussion beats, form a smooth trajectory toward another album that proves to be better than its surface level. Instead of focusing on the synths and percussion, the pop overtones take Kacy’s new album, and us, on a car ride to the sunset as she splits focus between loving life and the complexities of her relationships.
If there is anything I’ve come to learn from Kacy Hill, it is that she keeps it literal and focused as the world spins around her calming and approachable demeanor. Simple, Sweet, and Smiling is that and more. As you hear Kacy sing and harmonize throughout the album, there is a sense of relaxation coming from her voice — seeming comfortable as the music encompasses Kacy’s feelings the past several years — some things that may have gotten glossed over on the last album.
In Kacy Hill’s interview with NYLON, she spoke about her journey and the creation of the album, singling out her first single, “Seasons Bloom,” as a light in the tunnel — it is a beautifully realized love song that doesn’t try to be complex. It layers a complex choral rhythm with a subtly whimsical vocal performance from Kacy — it leaves you in this juncture of fantasy as the production meets a quarter of the way through from the conjectures of the last album. Kacy does similarly in the opening song “I Couldn’t Wait.” Other times, Kacy is loosely pensive and using the time to reflect beyond happiness, or rather she levies a balance between the feelings deriving from the title — it may not seem positively reflexive, but it fills the circles that make her being whole.
“Walking At Midnight,” “The Stars,” and “Caterpillar” see Kacy Hill reflective and focusing on herself, despite how others perceive it; specifically in the former, as Kacy sings about these simple things that define her demeanor. In the former, she sings about the perception of walking at midnight through a simple purview. She sings: So I’m walking at midnight/Can’t tell what’s real or in my mind/And now I’m walking at midnight/Like an arrogant type — indicating that her mind gets flustered with these thoughts of the right now. Similarly, “Caterpillars” sees Kacy lamenting on the world around her — singing about never going to Tokyo but lacking the strength to grow out of her shell.
Kacy is slowly growing and trying to reiterate: Simple, Sweet, and Smiling. And in between these previously mentioned songs, Kacy opens up about her happiness with songs like “I Couldn’t Wait.” Opening with “I Couldn’t Wait,” she gives you an elegant piano ballad that relays happiness Kacy Hill gets from waking up in the morning next to her significant other. Similar to the opening song, Kacy’s unfiltered happiness comes in varying ways. The three previously mentioned songs break apart her inner mind and displaying an equilibrium that derives from her various feelings. It’s her dynamic approach to the vocal performance that the whimsy finds itself within you — it leaves you thinking about which songs hit the chord with you and which didn’t. Unfortunately, throughout the Simple, Sweet, and Smiling, Kacy and the production find a small opening in the window, letting the air in part of the middle slip out.
Despite my love of piano, the sound wears thin and opens the window, letting songs like “The Right Time” and “So Loud” seep out. They don’t make an immediate impact, almost leaving me making me feel disjointed or disheartened that these songs aren’t coming across with enough on the back end to like them beyond the parts broken apart, like Kacy’s writing on the former — it speaks about significant other’s poor timing when inflecting the words he wants to say to her. And “So Loud,” unfortunately, suffers from low vocal performances that become lost within the semi-bombastic production.
Simple, Sweet, and Smiling didn’t hit as potently as Is It Selfish if We Talk About Me Again, but it leaves enough to be desired — from the shift in parameter for the production to Kacy’s strong songwriting, there is enough to pick from to keep on rotation and keep your spirits semi-high as your Simple, Sweet, and Smiling with Kacy.