What does it sound like?:
Sometimes you just root for a band, one that you feel just needs to up their game by 10% to become what they are capable of. Hiss Golden Messenger have been making fine records for a while now, [Their previous album ‘Heart Like A Levee’ was a great record] but on this new album it all comes together in a way they haven’t quite managed before. Previous efforts have showed quality in abundance, M.C. Taylor is a terrific songwriter, his songs infused with imagery, much of it religious, his words are not exactly uplifting, yet somehow manage to make you sing along [and I’m not a believer in God]. This new collection has many mentions of darkness, [7 out of 10 tracks by my count] but it’s the light that triumphs here – just. Opener ‘Jenny of The Roses’ swaggers along, it’s everything you want from a first track, familiar yet somehow different, catchy and full of confidence, hinting at great things, raising expectations. This and ’Lost Out In The Darkness’ are a great 1-2 starter to the album – You know how somedays you wake up and just feel like the best version of yourself? – you strut, you’re more interested in others than yourself, men want to be you, women want to be with you [or vice versa for the ladies] – you’re you + 30% – that’s what these songs feel like, they do exactly what you want them to do, go just where you hoped they would and as a fan I found it exhilarating.
There’s a strong Van Morrison vibe to a number of tracks, ‘Domino [Time Will Tell]’ being the most obvious, in name and feel, but it’s a Van that the Man himself would kill for these days, ‘Caledonia My Love’ begins with a piano motif straight outta ‘Poetic Champions Compose’;
Rolling piano, subdued horns, amplified harmonica and a ‘Virgo fool’ continue the Morrison influence and combine to make ‘Gulfport You’ve Been On My Mind’ the perfect opener to side two.
But it’s track four, ‘Harder Rain’ that’s the highlight for me, another song that echoes ’70’s Van musically, and again lyrically in the middle eight, [or is it the bridge?] a plea from one to another –
‘Little star of the County Down – hear me
If it feels like you’re nowhere now – hear me
More pain won’t kill the pain – hear me
I’ll end with a quote from the Pitchfork review “Hiss Golden Messenger’s bittersweet, new LP is full of fluttery soul-grooves, borrowing from various regional folk and blues traditions. It speaks to what it means to be a compassionate citizen today.”
What does it all *mean*?
That Hiss… have finally made the leap from very good to great. If this genre floats your boat then this is one you should surely check out [and the wonderful back catalogue too]
Goes well with…
Autumn nights and motorway drives – I’ve tried both and it works
Might suit people who like…
Classic songwriting, Van Morrison, The Band, Darkness and light and the eternal struggle – hope in spite of ourselves