Tag Archives: Hallelujah The Hills

New Hallelujah The Hills video: The Memory Tree

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “The Memory Tree”

"The Memory Tree" - Hallelujah The Hills [Official Video]

Directed by Ryan H. Walsh. From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

It’s been almost a year since Hallelujah The Hills released I’m You. And what a year it’s been, right? It’s hard to remember that the first couple months of 2020 were relatively normalish.

It’s hard to remember anything these days.

I know folks had big plans for their downtime during this pandemic when responsible people were encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. Personally, I didn’t accomplish anything. But the guys in Hallelujah the Hills have been super productive.

Not only did they write and record a brand new song in a single day last month, but Ryan Walsh has also been working on a stop-motion animation video for album closer, “The Memory Tree.”

In the video a lonely little ghost has been too scared to leave his house for a full year until he’s finally inspired to go out and answer his call to adventure. The storyline reflects the themes of the album; my favorite detail is when our hero is a watching a music video on his little tv and asks himself, “Whoa, are they singing…to…me?” Don’t freak out, but yes they are.

Can you make a memory?
Without chopping down the memory tree?

Memories, dreams, ghosts, hauntings. What is a ghost other than a vivid memory or a lucid dream?

Can you do anything interesting without risking your life? Maybe not this year.

In a few years what are we going to remember about 2020? Anything at all? Maybe that’s a good thing. If we’re alive and trying to remember something, I guess that means we made it through.

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Continue reading New Hallelujah The Hills video: The Memory Tree

New Hallelujah the Hills video: People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It)

Video: Hallelujah the Hills – “People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It)”

People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It) [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

I wish the songs I love would stop being so goddamn appropriate to our current situation but so it goes. Welcome to 2020. Pour yourself a stiff one.

Many years ago for our honeymoon my wife and I went to Italy and visited the Capuchin Crypt in Rome. It contains the artfully arranged bones of 3,700 dead monks. The idea, apparently, is to remind us of our mortality. My favorite section contains a clock made out of arm bones with an inscription that translates to: What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you soon shall be.

Yep. Might sound glib but it’s true. Give or take 50 or 60 years, which is just a meaningless blip in the universe, our time will come. Can you take this fact and artfully arrange it? Hallelujah the Hills does.

Ryan Walsh says, “It’s a heavy song from a heavy album, and people have been asking about or pointing to this particular song frequently as things are getting worse and worse with COVID-19 in the U.S.A. The truth is, this song is about the baseline human condition that we’re all gonna die. Sadly in this current situation, we actually could’ve stopped some of these deaths if we had an inkling of competent leadership in the country. But this song was always about confronting that terrifying aspect of life as a way of realizing how special every single day is. It’s really hard to do right now, so, personally, focusing on creative things, like making video art with your friends, is a decent way to try to stay sane.”

Staying sane is key. Don’t freak out.

We’re all gonna die. Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit.

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New Hallelujah The Hills video: It Still Floors Me

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “It Still Floors Me”

"It Still Floors Me" - Hallelujah The Hills [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

With its prominent flute and plucked viola, “It Still Floors Me” is a highlight of Hallelujah The Hills’ I’m You. Of all the tracks on the album, this is the one that most explicitly references frontman Ryan Walsh’s not-so-secret identity as an expert on Van Morrison’s 1968 classic Astral Weeks.

It doesn’t hurt that the guy playing the flute and soprano sax on “It Still Floors Me” is John Payne, the same guy who played those instruments on Astral Weeks. So the similarity in vibe is clearly intentional. There is a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cuts right through the heart of the work. *

That idea of “mystical awe” is the theme of Walsh’s song. What is it that still has the power to move us in this era of science, technology, and access to all of the world’s information? That question remains unanswered. “When you solve the mystery you become one yourself.” Is that why we makes gurus out of anybody who convinces us they know the way?

It’s astonishing to realize that even the most impressive art and literature and philosophy throughout history wasn’t beamed down to earth by gods but created by mere mortals like me and you. “Confused by classics, mistaken for miracles.” Who are these people who write The Illiad, or paint the Sistine Chapel, or come up with the guitar solo in “Louie Louie”? It seems miraculous, but it’s not. It’s entirely human. And that’s mind-boggling. Overwhelming, really.

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* Yeah, I confess I totally stole that line from Lester Bangs. You got me.

Continue reading New Hallelujah The Hills video: It Still Floors Me

New Hallelujah The Hills video: Running Hot With Fate

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “Running Hot With Fate”

"Running Hot With Fate" - Hallelujah The Hills [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Tyler Hollis Derryberry. From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

“I’m fine. But I’m not okay.” That’s pretty much how everybody I know is feeling these days. So it’s kind of comforting, I guess, to be reminded that we can get through it: “If you think you’re at your limit just remember what some folks survive.”

“Running Hot With Fate” recounts the abbreviated stories of ten characters (“The stories are all real, but the names have been changed,” Ryan Walsh tweeted. “Except for 2 of the names. 2 names have not been changed.”). These are Hemingway bet-worthy short shorts (“Alice wasn’t kidding when she said she saw a UFO / Elliot was ripping up his letters out in the snow”) that reveal that we’re all going through our own stuff.

The triumphant payoff comes in the bridge:

Can you carve a new world from some old clay?
I keep waking up surprised I get another day
Is this free will or is it destiny?
It doesn’t matter who the fuck’s in charge of me

The video features 27 Boston musicians (Tanya Donelly, Ezra Furman, Marissa Nadler, Mission of Burma’s Clint Conley, Galaxie 500’s Naomi Yang, et al.) doing Andy Warhol-style screen tests.

There’s everyone from a performer who stood on stage the first night the Boston Tea Party opened in 1967, to young musicians just getting their start. In fact, the young boy who appears at the beginning of the video doesn’t have a band yet, but has plans to start one called Mollusk, or maybe Kursed. All participants were filmed in total silence for three minutes; they were asked to interact with the camera with their eyes, to have a conversation without words.

You can watch the original, uncut screen tests up on the video’s mini-site.

Director Tyler Hollis Derryberry says, “Maybe our friends are amazing actors, or really good at being emotionally raw on command, or maybe it’s just the Kuleshov-effect, but staring into another human being’s eyes while Ryan sings about searching for strength in other people’s stories turned out to be more moving than Ryan or I could have imagined.”

Yep.

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New Hallelujah The Hills video: Folk Music Is Insane

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “Folk Music Is Insane”

Folk Music Is Insane - Hallelujah The Hills [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

Well if my effusive album review didn’t inspire you to check out the new Hallelujah The Hills, then maybe this new video will do the trick.

Back in 1997, like a lot of music geeks, I was excited to pick up the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, which had originally been compiled from Smith’s collection of 78s from the 1920s and 30s and ultimately inspired the 1960s folk music revival. So, you know, pretty important in the history of rock and roll.

It was originally released at the height of McCarthyism, when the United States government was trying to root out immorality and subversion and unamerican activity from the lives of private citizens. The Anthology dispels the notion that people were any more moral back in the day. Nope, the “old, weird America” (as Greil Marcus refers to it) was just as f-ed up a hundred years ago as it is today with all the sex, murder, and corruption that you could imagine. The world hasn’t gone to hell; it’s always been hell.

Harry Smith was something of an alchemist. Marcus describes the Anthology as “an occult document disguised as an academic treatise on stylistic shifts within an archaic musicology.” Smith himself said, “I thought social changes would result.” Indeed, if you make the connections from the folk music revival to the civil right movement and environmental awareness, etc., you can see that Smith wasn’t wrong about that. Social changes did result.

Which is pretty insane.

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Album of the Year: Hallelujah the Hills – I’m You

Hallelujah the HillsI’m You, out November 15.

It’s inappropriate for critics to project their own shit onto a work of art. But for music fans? That’s what we do. It’s how an album can become so entangled with a specific time in your life. Certain songs get scratched into our souls, you know.

Ryan Walsh gets this. From the opening lines of the new album by Boston’s Hallelujah the Hills, Walsh acknowledges his willingness to conflate the relationship between performer and audience: “Hello, I am the singer singing this song / And if you think that might be you, well I guess you might not be wrong.” This theme is even more explicit in the title track: “I’m you / Don’t freak out / I’m you.”

That warning is not unwarranted. It can be really easy to let yourself slide into a wormhole of reading too much into something and convincing yourself that someone is singing directly to you. Do you remember the scene in Imagine where John Lennon talks to the homeless dude who is freaking out and believes that the songs were written about him? “It all fits,” the guy insists. John shoots down his theory but invites him in for tea. Don’t freak out.

That’s the key, right? We’re all interconnected but the question is, “How do you keep those banjo-murder-love songs from becoming your fate?” The overlap between the music you love and your own persona is slippery and can be scary. “We know the dangers of one person using another person as a muse,” Walsh sings. The danger is that you might no longer be able to “be sure that you’re you, I’m me, and not the other way around.”

If that sounds heavy, you’re right. It is. This is a serious album that offers a lot to think about. That’s not to suggest it’s a slog to listen to. It’s certainly not. In fact, there are quite a few lines that are laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite is: “I was first in line at the solipsistic sad guy seminar / But inside it just turned out to be another bar.” Another one that cracks me up is: “Sometimes I did drugs I found on the floor / Kept the search on point evermore.”

“Born To Blow It” employs a bunch of dad jokes (“You might think I was an astronaut the way I’ve been acting so spacey”) to address the role of privilege in self-sabotage: “I wasn’t born to blow it / I’m just my own great destroyer.”

But there are so many lines on this album that hit so close to home, it’s hard not to freak out. “I’m alone / And I can’t stop looking at my phone.” “Prepared pianos and tape loops and the rarest of b-sides have absolutely ruined my life.” “I’m fine / But I’m not okay.”

You know? What the fuck? Are you me? Am I you?

Sometimes it feels like the entire goddamn country is in the middle of an existential crisis and this is as good a soundtrack to this era as any.

Continue reading Album of the Year: Hallelujah the Hills – I’m You

Hallelujah The Hills – Blank Passports

MP3: Hallelujah The Hills – “Blank Passports”

The main guy in this band, Ryan Walsh, wrote two of my favorite songs from back in the MP3.com era: “Strictly Lousy” and “I’m So In Love It Hurts To Walk” by the Stairs. I’m pretty sure I was turned on to them by this piece in Neumu, and then sought out any freely available MP3s, which MP3.com hosted back then. That’s how we rolled in 2003.

Anyway, the Stairs broke up in 2005, and Walsh started Hallelujah The Hills who have a new album coming out on Misra Records on September 22. “Blank Passports” doesn’t sound anything like “Strictly Lousy” or “It Hurts To Walk,” but what it lacks in no-fi charm it makes up for in aggressive indie rock mooginess.

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