Album Reviews

Hiss Golden Messenger – Poor Moon

Chase Sewell / April 19, 2012

Score: 6.5/10
Tompkins Square/Paradise of Bachelors
Hiss Golden Messenger

Tread carefully: there be deep waters ahead. ‘Mystic Country’ is an apt description for this front porch soul that straddles the fault line between Americana and folk. The approach isn’t a total departure from traditional country, but with song titles like “Jesus Shot Me in the Head” you can expect progressive and unorthodox twang.

Hermes grabs a banjo and a kick drum, and incarnates as Hiss Golden Messenger. The message:  “I had a vision. I had a place near the sun, but I burned everyone with my vision.” Pushing the emotive quality of country music, Poor Moon stretches an otherwise trite, down-home feel to include darker–even apocalyptic–imagery. True to its name, Poor Moon is a distillation of the night. The album cover itself embodies the poetic art style known as Ex Libris (Latin for “from the books”).

Speaking of his ubiquity, Jesus said we can even find him under a stone, so biblical synesthesia may be an appropriate diagnosis here. Melodrama and eschatological theory aside, the lyrics aren’t overbearing and are parsed well with the musical arrangement, garnering an instrumental fiddle tune as a mid-way hiatus. One of the Cosmic Cowboy tricks, from prose to sound, is illuminating the profundity in the simplicity. Melodically then, the tracks feel quiet spacious and, at points, minimalist (the antithesis being overdone lap steel guitar tracks clawing at your eardrums.) Such an airy effect avoids the messy, try-hard approach and helps add extra focus to M.C. Taylor’s downright beautiful lyrics.

In terms of improvement, the recording can be lackluster in areas, rendering the instrument tracks slightly dry, and the vocals occasionally bouncing with an excess of reverb and delay in some of the tracks. The false start on “Drummer Down” and the dog barking for the closure on the same track, for example, is kitsch–so there is a risk of predictability. Save for that, the recording preserves a personable and genuine vibe, and doesn’t sacrifice feeling for soundboard sophistication (which are a dime a dozen and arguably the death of the country spirit), and it should be noted rather impressively that the whole project was recorded in a week. Still, there’s a grinding suspicion that this music may be best experienced live and raw, tucked away somewhere in a dank local pub, clanking whiskey glasses underneath an old Bukowski poster that hangs where a clock used to be.

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