REVIEW: Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Terms of Surrender” Contemplates Existential and Mundane


Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest release, Terms of Surrender (Merge Records), finds M.C. Taylor contemplating both the existential and mundane challenges of day to day living. Produced by Taylor and Brad Cook, Terms of Surrender features guest appearances by Jenny Lewis, Josh Kaufman and Aaron Dessner of The National. The album was recorded at Dessner’s Long Pond studio in upstate New York, Sound City in Los Angeles, Haptown Studio in Nashville, and Overdub Lane in Durham, North Carolina. Rock, gospel, Americana, and folk flourishes all appear on this collection providing multiple points of entry for listeners and multiple points of departure for the performances captured here.

On Terms of Surrender, Taylor finds hope and deep resilience on the back of a particularly trying and tumultuous year personally. Taylor reaches beyond the personal as well, however, by finding universal communion over shared strife. In “I Need a Teacher” Taylor longs for wisdom and guidance through life trials. The video for the song points to the universal need for teachers and features video from the statewide North Carolina Association of Educators’ Day of Action demonstration. As Hiss Golden Messenger set out on tour behind Terms of Surrender, they walk the walk they talk – one dollar from every ticket sold on the headlining tour will go to Durham Public Schools Foundation to help foster community support for public schools, students, educators and families.

On “My Wing” Taylor harnesses the motivating force of fear, “all my wings deserve to fly,” he sings over a triumphant full band romp. Hollow stomp leads the listener into “Old Enough to Wonder Why (East Side – West Side)” while a haunting banjo accompanies soft vocals. “Come meet me on the east side, come meet me on the west side,” is a siren call seductive enough to wreck ships. “Happy Birthday Baby” takes a brighter turn as Taylor sings, “Happy Birthday Baby…you know me better than I know myself…when I’m far away babe, know that I love you and sing this little song.” “Katy (You Don’t Have to Be Good Yet)” is a bouncy rocker that evokes an easy country drive – windows down, radio up. The record closes with the title track, “these are my terms, terms of surrender”. Taylor’s fragile delivery and sincere vocal brings Terms of Surrender to a close. Hiss Golden Messenger’s Terms of Surrender is out of Merge Records September 20th. Catch Hiss Golden Messenger on tour in support of the record this fall.

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