I first met M.C. Taylor—the craggy-voiced patriarch behind Hiss Golden Messenger, the country-rock ensemble he leads out of Durham, North Carolina—in the winter of 2012. There were things I thought I knew about him, narratives I’d brazenly culled from the HGM discography, then four records deep: here was a guy, I figured, who understood something about devastation, redemption. He was dressed in black jeans, a plaid shirt, black boots, and a worn denim jacket, and he spent a good part of that dinner yanking off his baseball cap, pressing his short blonde hair back and to the side, and then hooking the hat back on, tugging the brim lower, obscuring his blue eyes. Taylor can be a welcoming presence, generous and funny and deeply humane, but he is also a person who appreciates and requires certain solitudes. There was something about the way Taylor, a Californian, moved, how he leaned into a wall or exited a room with his shoulders bending slightly forward—not hunched, but reaching—that suggested to me an unknowable inner life, as if he were following a beacon others weren’t privy to. He would later describe his vibe as “a little bit standoffish” (and he was being self-effacing), but I immediately got the sense he didn’t abide much bullshit.
Back then I didn’t know what it was about Taylor’s music that made me feel so much less alone, why it proffered all that solace, why it felt like the perfect articulation of some deep, grown-up restlessness. I still don’t know what it is—not really. But the fact of it remains: he is, to my ears, one of the best songwriters working right now, significant even among the handful who know how to sing about life in a way that feels true to its tumult.
—Amanda Petrusich, 2014
Hiss Golden Messenger will release their fifth studio album Lateness of Dancers on September 9th in the US (September 15th worldwide). Today, Consequence of Sound premiered the single “Mahogany Dread,” "a slightly smoky jam that weaves together bits of twangy honky-tonk, earnest John Mellencamp, and spirited Tom Petty." Listen below!
This morning, the New York Times’ T Magazine premiered a live performance video for “Lucia,” the first song from the forthcoming Hiss Golden Messenger album, Lateness of Dancers. The video, filmed in Cornwall, England, was directed by video collective Before the Winter Fires, who captured a solo performance by Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor on 16mm film using a Beaulieu R16 camera. Check it out now!
The directors had this to say about the video:
For the past few years, we've been searching for authentic ways to capture folk and Americana performances to mirror that timeless quality within the music. Shooting on film—a beautiful medium rapidly dying out due to the rise of digital HD cameras—was something we’ve always wanted to explore. We approached Hiss Golden Messenger with the idea of shooting our first 16mm test, and Mike was really into the idea. We knew his music would work so well with the colors, grain, and raw imperfections that can only be captured on film. With just a couple of rolls per song, he had only two shots at nailing it, which creates this natural intensity on camera. We were really pleased to work with HGM and think the results turned out great.
Today, Google Play premiered a new documentary in the US about Merge Records. In candid, amusing interviews, Mac, Laura, Merge musicians, and friends of the label talk about its evolution and unwavering focus on its artists. Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket series of books (and sometime member of The Magnetic Fields), narrates the documentary.
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Also, music fans in the US are invited to download 25 free Merge tracks, including five new and exclusive recordings from Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, Telekinesis, Saint Rich, and Hiss Golden Messenger.
Visit Google Play now to watch the documentary and download the tracks (US only).