The new Hiss Golden Messenger album has been released during a very interesting point of the bands history. As their sixth record on merge, Terms Of Surrender marks the 2-year follow up of Hallelujah Anyhow. But what gives the freshest tunes such weight and deeper connectivity is that front man Mike Taylor took an extra year to release Terms Of Surrender than the turnaround between Heart Like A Levee and Hallelujah Anyhow.
Beginning with a blast off, ‘I Need a Teacher’ hooks listeners with skyrocketing guitar riffs. With rocking, chill vibes, Jenny Lewis adds simple yet powerful harmonies on the chorus. ‘Bright Direction (You’re a Dark Star Now)’ follows with a more mellow but still upbeat energy. Mike’s formula for songwriting on this record is very consistent with previous styles that have hooked many indie folk rock fans.
‘My Wing’ presents louder rock energy and brings to mind a similar hook that appears in the chorus of ‘I Am the Song’ from Hallelujah Anyhow. A big highlight on this track is the staccato guitar riffs that pierce their way through the melody. ‘Cat’s Eye Blue’ showers your ears with a peaceful acoustic mood. This song may be the most breakthrough song on the record in terms of the writing style.
Having heard a few of these songs last fall at Music Hall of Williamsburg, I was excited to eventually hear the studio versions. ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’ was one of those songs and the studio version does not disappoint. With no flashy overproduction or face-melting guitar shredding, the song bumps with a funk rock groove.
Track eight ‘Katy’ steals the show as the best song on the album. The music slowly fades in in the beginning of the song, which is a smart production edit that keeps listeners excited about what’s coming. The song is easy to singalong with and the harmonies in the chorus are gorgeous.
‘Whip’ is another strong track that demonstrates the fierce rock energy of Hiss Golden Messenger. The dynamics on this track also are a big standout characteristic of the chemistry and tightness of the band.
The title track of the album is the most sincere and a perfect way to end the record. “These are my terms. Terms of surrender. It’s one thing to bend it my love and another to break it.” With simple yet profound lyrics and a simple cord progression, Mike is able to keep his fans intrigued without losing them to fancy instrumentation or studio production. Simplicity and emotion.
Mike Taylor’s formula for songwriting continues to let him shine in the indie folk spotlight.
Scott J. Herman