No One Knows What Happens Next
[Reading this after the fact, I have a new respect for livebloggers. I’ve corrected sentences that made no sense, without changing the intent in any way. Boy was this a mess.]
I’m writing this post while listening to Hallelujah the Hills No One Knows What Happens Next. That’s right, I’m liveblogging an album.
I don’t know what I’m going to say about it. I’ll just press “play” now. I’ve been listening to it for weeks, since getting it in the mail as part of a Kickstarter effort. I’ve been friends with Hallelujah’s singer/guitarist Ryan Walsh since 1998, and though I wouldn’t say it of most friends, I’m also an unabashed fan. I typically send him an email with my thoughts on an album, but I’ll just post it this time. What the hell.
Pick up any Hallelujah the Hills… wait.
Oh, there’s that lyric from “Get Me In a Room” that I’ve had in my head:
I told you before about my run-in with hymns
Collectively stoned in the Sunday dawn
But I came to see
Would welcome an enemy
If it arrived in the form of a song
So arrive in a song
(boldface mine. He didn’t sing it in boldface. Come on, now.) This is great stuff.
Pick up any Hallelujah the Hill album. I recommend any of the three. You know those albums you listen to every once in awhile and you hear something new, or realize some lyrical connection that you never caught before? You know those albums where a song catches to some personal experience you had, and the song rips you open? They make the albums that rip you open sometimes. Part of it is the instrumentation, the inclusion of David Brentley and Brian Rutledge as cellist and trumpeter along with the guitar and bass and drums and sometimes keys you might expect to hear. There’s a warmth and a humanity in here, a sadness and a brightness at the same time…
Oh, here’s the song “Hungry Ghost Extraordinaire” and its opening lyrics: “I was born in the middle of a screaming match/ Cleaned up sent to live with the monks/ Raised up by Arabian wolves/ Grew up in the eye of the storm / A gentleman crossed with a fiend.” Followed by what becomes a refrain, Omar Little-like “Oh and I do say.”
Stop what you’re doing (reading this) and go to Spotify or YouTube and listen to their song “Classic Tapes.” I’ll even stop what I’m doing. I’m liveblogging something with a pause button. I’m breaking technological barriers here, busting brains, I know, but deal. Here, I’ll give you a shortcut. Listen to this:
You played it to the end, right? Ryan and I had a conversation one time, way back–and I’ve stolen his idea a bunch of times since–about how some art, some sounds, some movies, some ideas, just broadcast at waves that stimulate certain brains. How we’re just wired to get a tickle from a certain kind of thing, and we may not know where it’s going to come from. Ryan was talking about David Lynch, someone who broadcasts on a frequency we both tune in clearly. “Classic Tapes” is one of the clearest signals I’ve ever gotten. Start to finish, it floors me, but when that guitar comes in in the last minute, coming on the heels of the “I feel it…” duet, I don’t know what to say. I hope you’re tuned to the same frequency, because it’s something special.
OK, back to the new album. The title track. If that’s not a typewriter in the background, I’m hearing one, and it brings to mind this album Ryan made called Hierarchy of Hoaxes (I’m pausing again to listen to “Come Up For Air Swinging”, which you can hear there). He recorded it under the name Motel Candlewasters. One of my first thoughts when I heard this new album is how much it reminded me of some animating spirit of Hierarchy of Hoaxes, maybe more fully realized, lusher, more open and wiser. I dunno.
“Dead People’s Music” – oh man, the keys on this thing. I’m sure there’s fascinating information about this in the Kickstarter package upstairs, but I’m liveblogging here. Can’t be stopping for fact-finding. To revisit the last paragraph, it’s the keys that elevate this – there’s a group at work here. The mournful trumpet, at 4:20, there. That’s something. And the cymbals and the keys. Oh jeez.
The next song, the 7th track, is “People Breathe Into Other People.” It’s gorgeous and weird and simple and brilliant. Late in the song, there’s this moment of controlled chaos that reminds me of a new take on what I loved about “It’s All Been Downhill Since The Talkies Started To Sing” on Collective Psychosis Begone. Here, it’s more chaotic AND more controlled. Just a moment rather than a minute. Like if Sonic Youth had revisited “The Diamond Sea” in three minutes without losing the punch of the thing.
This whole album is so warm and gameless and open.
Coincidence: I didn’t think, or at least I think I didn’t think of the word “gameless” because of the song “The Game Changes Me.” I’ve been on a one man crusade against the cliche “game-changer.” I mentioned it to Ryan recently, and he said something like, “Uh, there’s a song on the new album called ‘The Game Changes Me.'” Don’t worry, fellow haters. Nothing to fear here. You can still mock middle managers declaring their process revisions as game-changing, and like this song. I won’t stop my campaign. Just listen to what’s going on in the middle of the third minute of this song. The music is breaking you, and the lyric is:
Are you averse to a transformation
Do you believe in the afterlife?
Hold me steady while I drink this deluge
Do you believe in the afterlife?
Someone, somewhere said something prophetic but no one thought to kick it through me
We’re about to get to the song that kicks my ass. It’s called “Hello, My Destroyer.”
I was gonna blog about it, but instead I just listened to it. My ass is kicked.
“Call Off Your Horses” is the last song. How’d we get here so fast? Once again, Brian Rutledge’s trumpet is critical.
I did the “Hello, My Destroyer” thing again. Just listened. A better blogger would’ve nailed this.
I’d end on a deeply meaningful note, but instead, I’m going to end with meaningful commerce: it’s a shit economy out there, and a no less shit economy for people trying to make their way in a music world in a time of intense transition. I want to live in a world where people can keep doing the thing that they’re awesome at. I think Hallelujah the Hills is awesome at this. If you’re one of my few blog readers, and you think the things coming out of my brain are worth your time, give some time to the things coming out of Ryan and Hallelujah the Hill’s shared brain. And if you like it, buy it here: http://hallelujahthehills.bandcamp.com/. This isn’t an Amazon affiliate thing, and it’s not a grudging favor for a friend: I only recommend what I love.