Hiss Golden Messenger – Terms of Surrender

Terms of Surrender is a major step forward for MC Taylor's Hiss Golden Messenger

Album Review by Alan O'Hare | 16 Sep 2019
  • Hiss Golden Messenger – Terms of Surrender
Album title: Terms of Surrender
Artist: Hiss Golden Messenger
Label: Merge
Release date: 20 Sep

The wide open groove and melody of I Need a Teacher sets Terms of Surrender, the latest album from Hiss Golden Messenger, on an immediate path to the middle of the road. 'Rock me, Daddy I'm still your kid / The ways to you are oh-so-very different / Beauty in the broken American moment', sings MC Taylor and we're under the sun on a highway of shuffling electric guitars and chiming organs.

It's beautiful and the mood stays the same as the breezy Bright Direction (You're a Dark Star Now) and the driving My Wing (think Simone Felice fronting The Heartbreakers) follow. In the past, Hiss Golden Messenger records have made you work hard to find gold in their hills, but the lights shine bright straight away here and the songs sound like the songwriter was having the most fun he's had in a long time when capturing this latest batch of pearls onto tape. We say tape, as the record sounds warm, full and flirty; the snares hit you, the bass bounces and harmonicas and organs are as bright as California stars.

Recorded at the New York studio of The National's Aaron Dessner, who also contributed to the album with Jenny Lewis and Josh Kaufman, Terms of Surrender sounds like an album that has broken free of any chains that might have kept its obvious charms hidden in the past. The mood changes with the likes of still lament (almost Prince-esque bare bones) Cat's Eye Blue and the raw country darkness of Down at the Uptown, but the insistent Katy (You Don't Have to Be Good Yet) and the swamp blues of Whip bring the tempos back up.

Terms of Surrender is an album about more than movement and the closing title track captures its mood better than anything else. Over rolling piano chords in a style recalling a ballad of plain Dylan, Taylor tells us his story: 'I was out driving / I'm gonna' take it on the chin'. The found sounds and instruments colouring in the background are there, but they just form blurry shapes in the rear view mirror. This is a major step forward.

Listen to: I Need a Teacher, Cat's Eye Blue, Terms of Surrender