I grew up in a tiny rural town in North Carolina, nestled in the hollows of a blue mountain. Growing up, I fantasized about going away, about finding myself in a bustling city with new people and new ideas. I moved to Boston when I turned eighteen—and even though I was ready to go, when I stood at the edge of this change I was overcome with a strange and grateful grief. What does it mean to love a place, and still choose to leave it? What is home, anyway—and why do we hold on tightest when it’s finally time to go? Jason Sill explores these questions beautifully in his new song “Hometown.”
We ran through the parkway past midnight/Searching for nothing, who cares
“Hometown” is the opening track on Jason Sill’s September EP, titled Homesickness. The EP is both sweeping and intimate as the speaker leads us through the details of a Wisconsin city. “Hometown” is perhaps the most successful track on the album in capturing the voice of a traveler on the precipice. The speaker guides us through a series of narrative images, grounding us in a setting that is both hyper specific and achingly familiar. The speaker races his friends on the concrete, discovers that he yawns when he is nervous, and hesitates at familiar traffic lights. Sill’s affection for the setting is clear—and we can see the influence of Sill’s hometown as he sings tenderly of small and vital moments spent there.
We didn’t even notice the street lights cast shadows/ on sunburns and bug bites in the muggy air
Sill’s narrative lyric style lends itself nicely to the thematic ambition of the project. “Hometown” grapples with the idea of home as both a physical and emotional space—perhaps suggesting that “home” is not only a city but a state of mind, a time capsule that represents old connections, old dreams, and old fears. Sill’s vocals work here as a steady canvas for these lyrics and ideas to play upon. In the chorus, Sill’s voice soars over the soundscape in a higher register, creating a youthful effect that fits the nostalgic angle of the song.
The rumble of traffic felt distant, we’d crossed these streets often before/We lingered at every decision
“Hometown” is both a gracious and mournful song. The speaker lingers between two worlds, paralyzed by his own love. “I sing to this hometown heart aching,” he sings in the chorus. “Love you forever if only I could.” The second half of the line highlights both the speaker’s fierce loyalty to his home, and his resignation to the fact that he can’t stay there forever. The effect is wrenching—and dazzling.
The track tapers off after a musical interlude, punctuated by fuzzy sound effects and the sound of traffic. As such, the final section of the song is an exercise in movement. Listening to it, you’ll feel like you’re sitting in the car next to the Sill, driving away from a place you both love.