Hallelujah The Hills “I’m You” (Discrete Pageantry Records, 2019)

A Boston based band, Hallelujah The Hills have released several albums over the past decade while remaining resolutely under the radar here in the UK. ‘I’m You’ has the advantage of coming in the wake of bandleader Ryan Walsh’s acclaimed book, ‘Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968′, which tells of strange goings-on in Boston – weird hippie cults sprouting up while Van Morrison is on the lam from New York gangsters – stirring some interest in the band beyond their own backyard.

Probably best described as indie rock, the band are a grand mish-mash of punk, indie and folk with horns and viola added to the basic band set up, the strands held together by Walsh’s always intriguing lyrics. Think of Eef Barzley or even the late David Berman to have a sense of Walsh’s mindset on an album that ponders the question of identity in a personal sense but also in the types of music which define oneself. This reaches its epitome on the litany of genres mentioned on the title song. Lyrically, the album is a rabbit hole, the words begging to be repeatedly listened to in order to savour them while the band whips up some excellent moments, especially in the sonic explosiveness of ‘I Went Through Hell (But Now I’m Back From Hell)’.

The pounding ‘My Name Sounds Sinister’ sets the scene perfectly as it whips itself into a frenzy before the excellently titled ‘Folk Music Is Insane’ weaves its woozy way invoking the bible of old weird Americana folk, The Harry Smith Anthology. ‘Running Hot With Fate’ flirts with a radio-friendly beat and snappy chorus while ‘People Keep Dying And No One Can Stop It’ comes across as a rejoinder to Jim Carroll’s ‘People Who Died’ and shares a similar punk snarl. There’s some dark pastoral on ‘It Still Floors Me’ (with flautist John Payne who played on Morrison’s seminal ‘Astral Weeks’ lured into the mix) and ‘Born To Blow’ is an excellent deflation of a character, opening with a great line, “You’d think I’d be a doctor by now with all the self-medicating”. Meanwhile, for a truly epic piece of solipsism, the lengthy title song can’t be beaten.

Strives to achieve an epic quality and just about manages it.
8/10

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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