2017 has not been kind. Many of us woke up to find ourselves in a dystopian world where the phrase “The President just sent out another tweet“ causes a visceral reaction and where a North Korean missile attack is a very real possibility. Yikes.
This ‘new world’ has not escaped Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor. Hallelujah Anyhow is an acknowledgement of our current society and the feelings it evokes. Yet despite the album’s recognition of these darker times, it never once strays into the darkness itself. It would be easy for a record broaching these topics to fall into that trap. I mean, how many albums this year have already done that? Hallelujah Anyhow is not angry. It is not even directly political. Instead, the album acknowledges the darkness while standing firmly in the light. I’d even go so far as to say that the album feels – bear with me – groovy. And that is not a word I use lightly. In fact, that’s a word I hardly use at all.
It’s hard to name a standout track from some an exceptional record. Each track finds light and empowerment in the darkness. And isn’t that what we all need? On “Jenny of the Roses,” Taylor sings, “’I’ve never been / Afraid of the darkness / It’s just a different kind of light.’ / Were you trying to tell me something?”. The answer to that question: YES. The next track – not-so-sneakily titled “Lost Out in the Darkness” – repeats that message: “It’s a strange, sweet kind of light / To be lost out in the darkness of the border.”
“Harder Rain” speaks directly to those who feel overcome by despair and tells them to, essentially, get over it. But like, in a loving, supportive way, saying, “If it’s up to me / A little love would go a long way.” Ditto.
Hallelujah Anyhow gets a little (okay, or maybe a lot) folksy, adds a hint of Bob Dylan, and throws in come blues for good measure. The key ingredient of the record, however, is a whole lotta hope. The album is not one of protest but rather resilience. And that is why Hiss Golden Messenger (and specifically Hallelujah Anyhow) will stand the test of time. MC Taylor is not to try to spark an anarchic revolution. As he sings in “John the Gun,“ “In this deeply gone world, babe / I’m singing / Singing my song.”
In turbulent times, you need a voice of reason. So thank God we have Hallelujah Anyhow.
Jenny of the Roses
Domino (Time Will Tell)