Desert Island Hiss pt 2

(Part 1)

5. Sanctuary – from Quietly Blowing It (2021)
The latest Hiss record comes out in June, and this was the first single from it. Listen to the bass: it’s groovy. Perhaps this latest album is going to seem something of a response to these times. Personally, I haven’t found this year particularly hard but this song still feels like balm for the soul — whenever you need it.

Ragged people
Hard times
And the lightning strikes the poorhouse
The rich man cries like a crocodile

6. I Need a Teacher – from Terms of Surrender (2019)
This is from their most recent studio outing. This lead single has a harder, spikier sound than most of the other stuff, and it has a campaigning intent. I believe MC’s wife is a teacher, and it’s only when I think of the parlous situation of public (i.e. state) education in the US that I truly count my blessings that I’m a teacher in the UK, where things are nowhere near as bad, even if they could be better. Americans who can afford it go private (5.8 million students) while the vast majority (47 million) go to schools where the funding is so bad that there are white spaces on the timetable because the program was cut. And of course the arts are cut first.

Love me harder
Cry like a thunder
Kick the floorboards
Paint it a different color
Another year older
Debt slightly deeper
Paycheck smaller
Goddamn I need a teacher

7. Watching the Wires – single (2019)
A similarly harder-edged sound for this stand-alone single. A bit of slide guitar, a groove. Odd that it never showed up on Terms of Surrender, but part of the public service remit of this blog is to bring things like this to your attention. Like so many of MC’s songs, the lyrics are gnomic/enigmatic.

Oh, the running was murder
Baby, they were right
I drew a card that was full of swords
I never said I loved the light
So I did run like a river
Either that or blow my mind
Momma was afraid I would never grow old
I was afraid that I might

8. Happy Day (Sister My Sister) – from Heart Like a Levee (2016)
Finally, all the way back to 5 years and several albums ago — and this gentle gospel number. It’s a warm bath, a walk across sunny fields, freewheeling down a nice hill. It’s pottering around at home. And it’s kind of where I came in, because Tift Merrit is singing backing vocals on it (which is why I’ve chosen the studio version rather than one of the live performances). It was only because Tift Merritt mentioned working on this that I sought out HGM in the first place.

I was listening to an episode of the Sideways podcast the other day, and I was a bit bored with it because it was all about pop songwriting and collaboration. The thesis being that somehow collaboration was the secret sauce behind great pop music. Except it wasn’t. Great, I mean. It was fucking awful. And the only thing you really learned from the programme was that people have terrible taste. ‘Happy Day (Sister My Sister)’ has just over 2,300 views on the ‘Tube, and Matthew Syed is unlikely to record an episode of his podcast about MC’s singular vision any time soon. And I know this stuff is unpopular and unfashionable, and HGM will never fill the O2 – but that’s kind of the point for me. I honestly don’t know how people can listen to that five-songwriters-and-their-dogs on two continents junk and I’m sure most of them couldn’t sit through the five minutes of this without wanting to poke their ears out. But the difference is, I have good taste and they do not.

Sister, my sister
What should I do?
Should I wade in that river?
With so many people living just
Just above the waterline?

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