Micah P Hinson returns with a new album which he describes as a folk opera going from birth to love to death. He recorded it in Texas using ancient recording methods for that authentic feel. Despite that Quietus interview he still has plenty of fans out there who will lap these sparse and haunting songs up.
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Haughty Hinson and his big ideas. Let’s make a folk record, he says; let’s make a folk opera that spans existence from life to death, he says. Martyring himself as music’s answer to Richard Linklater (more ‘Boyhood’ than ‘School of Rock’), he ‘Presents the Holy Strangers’, a record documenting a whole lived family tree as it succumbs to and endures a time of war. It opens with its grandiosity in mind, with the lush, cosmic Americana of “The Temptation” sounding bolder and more expansive than anything previously haunting Hinson’s world.
Without its grand ambitions, this record can be largely enjoyed as a trembling folk work centered by Hinson’s firm, ambivalent voice. It has the feel of a deeply structured and serenely filmic work, but tracks like “The Great Void” also slot into Hinson’s usual aesthetic, their droning backdrops supplemented by melodic twang, brushed percussion and absent-minded storytelling. “Lover’s Lane” is a sparsely strummed piece, simple but bold, channeling the workmanlike faith of Johnny Cash. “Oh, Spaceman”, with its hissing setting and pronounced guitar pickings, puts the listener as close as possible to Hinson, his attempt at putting his listener inside his story’s house and making us of the family.
In songs like this, the context feels vague and impressive, while at others Hinson seems to break the fourth wall and impress himself onto the story: after a Resina-like string groan on the record’s title track he pushes into “Micah Book One”, a spoken word treatise over melancholic keys and ghostly vocal coos. The emotional melodies dance around Hinson’s listless devotional murmurs, which suggest the future tragedies facing his characters without ever really laying them out. It’s a mysterious record that curves its deep ambitions with Hinson’s calm, often lethargic approach.
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