Music

Hiss Golden Messenger: Hallelujah Anyhow

Photo: Andy Tennille (Merge)

As long as life carries on and darkness exists, the world needs messengers of hope. Hiss Golden Messenger deliver that here, making it relevant regardless of time and place.


Hiss Golden Messenger

Hallelujah Anyhow

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2017-09-22
Amazon
iTunes

“There’s one way in and there’s one way out / And we’re gonna have a good time,” Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor decided on “Biloxi” from last year’s Heart Like a Levee. The reality of hardship in life and death when it’s over is something Taylor has had a firm grasp of over his previous releases. It’s something he’s come to grips with and decided to “have a good time” in the face of it. And that attitude has carried him into 2017’s Hallelujah Anyhow. In his bio, Taylor wrote “Love is the only way out. I’ve never been afraid of the darkness; it’s just a different kind of light. And if some days that belief comes harder than others, hallelujah anyhow.” Sometimes that’s easier said than done -- to praise, to find reasons to be thankful in the face of dark times. But that’s why Taylor writes his music. It’s equal parts self-therapy in those times and encouragement to anyone that finds themselves in that dark place.

On Hallelujah Anyhow, Taylor shares the journey with many of his familiar friends like Megafaun’s Phil and Brad Cook, and even adds harmonies from the likes of Tift Merritt and John Paul White. The excellent talent on the album and production by Taylor and Brad Cook combine to make a very focused sound for Hiss Golden Messenger’s third Merge release. Still holding to the deep southern roots of Americana with occasional tinges of blues and gospel, Hallelujah takes a simpler approach than last year’s Heart Like a Levee. Where the former release had occasional departures into the eerie swampiness of “Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer” and “As the Crow Flies”, this album stays more in line with the Band and mid-‘70s Bob Dylan. The simpler approach allows for Taylor to deliver his hopeful music with intense clarity, albeit a little safely.

What tends to give Taylor’s voice more credibility than others who have tried to deliver albums of hope is that he doesn’t shy away from the darkness. He leads out “Gulfport You’ve Been on My Mind” with the mantra, “I’ve seen darker things than night / Yes, I’ve seen darker things than night / So give me the light.” On “Harder Rain”, he sympathetically speaks to self-harm or self-punishment, singing: “So you say you want it harder / Like more than you can take / And I know you want to suffer / I’ve been to that place.” He continues to share his own experience, “More pain won’t kill the pain / Hear me.”

Musically and lyrically, Hiss Golden Messenger allows room to express emotion. It meets listeners in a personal way, giving room to cry along with Phil Cook’s wailing harmonica solo on “Gulfport” and giving reason to dance and sway through life to the bouncing syncopation of “John the Gun”. Throughout, the balanced mood between bruised by hardship and beaming with life is beautifully struck, like when Taylor reassures, “Though I’m torn and tattered / I’ll abide / Baby, I swear I’ll abide.”

The musical methodology here is mostly a safe play, giving very little in the way of surprise or innovation in form or timbre. But the simplicity of delivery brings with it a gospel-like message of redemption and hope as the album concludes, “Step back, Jack, from the darkness / But while I’m here / I’m gonna sing just like a songbird.” As long as life carries on and the darkness exists, the world needs messengers of hope. Hiss Golden Messenger deliver that here on Hallelujah Anyhow, making it relevant regardless of time and place.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.