Eleven albums in as many years suggest MC Taylor has no issues with writers’ block, that he must be in a constant state of productivity. Yet Terms of Surrender arrived not through clarity, but what Taylor has called a “fog of depression” – he wrote the songs, he said, as therapy, creating “a last will and testament”. That might lead you to suspect Terms of Surrender of being unlistenably bleak, but as often as not, Taylor is searching for hope rather than wallowing in despair. On Happy Birthday, Baby, he’s singing to his daughter, and managing not to be painfully mawkish, even when offering up a rhyme he wants her to repeat when he’s far away on the road; he follows that with the road itself, on Down at the Uptown, where the quotidian events of the touring musician – “Someone’s in the bathroom sleeping off a bad one” – make him realise “it was a real live world and I want to live in it”.
No one’s listening to Hiss Golden Messenger in hope of hearing Taylor’s take on trap, but Terms of Surrender is a less folky record than he has usually made – I Am the Song, or Domino (Time Will Tell), from 2017’s Hallelujah Anyhow are the end of the HGM catalogue you’ll hear revisited on Terms of Surrender. It’s a fantastic sounding record, which doesn’t appear to be solely the result of the playing or the production (by Taylor and Brad Cook). The mixes – by American backroom stars Jon Low and Tucker Martine – are uniformly fantastic, with electric guitar foregrounded, but not so much it swamps anything, and the folkier elements are incorporated in such a way that they don’t stop the record sounding contemporary. By the time the vaguely War on Drugs-ish Kary (You Don’t Have to Be Good Yet) comes around, you wonder if Terms of Surrender might not give Taylor his own breakthrough moment.