“My Wing,” the third track on Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest album Terms of Surrender, hits the nail square on its silver head: “Play it. Play it weird. Play it nimble. Make it lasting.” The album’s slightly weird (in a good way). It’s nimble. And if music fans get their hands on it, it’ll be lasting, because it’s great.
The thing is, though, each listen brings a new interpretation of the ideas of M.C. Taylor, songwriter and bandleader for HGM. He’s got a way with words, and if there’s one thing abundantly clear, it’s that the abstract poeticism on display on Terms of Surrender is written for the everyman.
Where the album succeeds is melding the oft-melancholy lyrics with instrumentation that really brings the lyrical emotions to life. “Bright Direction (You’re a Dark Star Now”) speaks of those of us who feel like rudderless ships, adrift in life.
One of the stronger songs on the album is “Happy Birthday, Baby,” a track that’ll break the heart of any parent. Lyrically, Taylor seems to speak directly to his family, apologizing for being on the road and missing those precious life moments. The somber subject matter, though, is juxtaposed with an upbeat, almost Prince-like backbeat and melody, making a dour subject just a tad more palatable.
HGM covers as much musical ground Terms of Surrender as they do subject matter. “My Wing” is Tom Petty-esque Americana, “Whip” goes blues/rock with guttural electric guitar and harmonica, and the album-ending title track is dominated by piano.
Hiss Golden Messenger covers a lot of musical ground on Terms of Surrender, but somehow the variant styles come together in a seamless finished product. Taylor writes about real, relatable emotions, and that’s the goal of any artist.
Terms of Surrender is out on September 20, 2019 on Merge Records.