Nicholas Krgovich's 'This Spring' Is a Beautiful Tribute to Both Veda Hille and Himself

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 19, 2021

Tribute albums are normally reserved for the likes of, say, Leonard Cohen or David Bowie, but Nicholas Krgovich has subverted the form by covering 16 songs by fellow Vancouver singer-songwriter Veda Hille. A big fish in a small pond, Hille is well-known in the Vancouver arts community, but not much beyond that. If you frequent the Cultch and the East Van Panto, you almost certainly know her; if you're not sure what those things are, you might not.

Krgovich recorded This Spring: Songs by Veda Hille as a pandemic project last year, at a time when — like so many of us — he found himself with a lot of time on his hands and a sudden penchant for introspection. He was a huge Hille fan as a teenager, so re-immersing himself in her songs was a way to explore his own past.

While tribute albums tend to be an exercise in novelty, with artists putting their own unique spins on familiar material, the songs on This Spring are likely to be new to most listeners. And if you're familiar with Krgovich's work but not Hille's, you might never know these are covers, since the smooth new age textures and R&B emoting belong to the same sonic world as albums like "Ouch" or Philadelphia (by Shabason, Krgovich & Harris).

But even though it can be tough to make out Hille's theatrical, folk-cabaret imprint on these arrangements, her distinctive lyrics cut through. The haunting "Plants" sounds almost like a child's commentary on a horticultural textbook, with plainspoken lines like, "The daffodil is a wild flower / The dandelion is a weed / The bluebell is a pretty flower / The holly is a prickly tree / We once did grow wild as apples / Some people are poisoned more easily than others."

On "Burst/Neighbourhood Song," Krgovich mashes up two of Hille's songs from different eras, name-checking Vancouver's Pender Street and culminating in a gorgeous, detail-rich tour of the local community: "A junkie is a person your neighbourhood / k.d. lang is a person in your neighbourhood / And Benny and family are in the neighbourhood / And all the nuns are people in your neighbourhood / Public dreams are pockets in your neighbourhood / Someone stole my recycling box in the neighbourhood / So I stole somebody else's recycling box in the neighbourhood."

These curious lyrics stick out in a nagging, slightly jarring way — they are so frank and unadorned, not the kind of thoughts usually sung in a smooth, deep croon like Krgovich's. They give This Spring the feeling of an inner monologue, a sense of privacy that's broken beautifully when Hille herself sings the closing title track. It adds up to a beautiful tribute to an under-appreciated songwriter — but also a gorgeous celebration of Krgovich's own history, and the music that shaped his sound when he was still a teenager searching for a voice.
(Tin Angel)

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