Lateness of Dancers, Taylor’s Merge Records debut, is still searching, but it’s more comfortable with not having complete answers. Taylor’s search for Truth hasn’t come up empty. “Yes, I’m learning now,” he sings on the title track and later in a song for his daughter Ione (“Chapter & Verse”), he admits that all he has are songs and experience and sings, “Ain’t that enough?” in such a way that the answer — yes — is implied.
Before Taylor reaches this epiphany, Lateness of Dancers takes us through the struggles and resolution. “I’m A Raven (Shake Children)” laments growing up and turning into something you never wanted to be. “Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)” is a moving ballad where Taylor confronts and overcomes the fear of becoming our fathers. “I loved that man, but I’m not him,” he sings.
What sets Lateness of Dancers apart from Hiss Golden Messenger’s other records is the time Taylor spends taking his uncertainty and casting it aside for the joys he’s found. Take this verse from the perfect, revitalizing “Day O Day (A Love So Free)”:
I’m gonna put all my pain in a bottleThat song begins with Taylor’s son matter-of-factly saying the name of the song and Taylor is also joined by Alexandra Sauser-Monnig (Mountain Man) in a vocal duet during the chorus. Brad and Phil Cook (Megafaun) play bass and piano and Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver) plays drums.
And throw it all the way deep down into the East River
Then walk that way with my head up like the poet
With a rose in my jaw
Taylor has found happiness in his family, his friends and his community. It’s no surprise then that Lateness of Dancers ends with a reworked version of “Drum.” On Bad Debt, it sounded like Taylor was singing about an imaginary celebration, but here it’s an actual celebration full of group singing and bright fiddle.
Lateness of Dancers is free, uplifting and full of heart without forgetting about how difficult it can be to find the confidence to be happy. It’s the sound of Hiss Golden Messenger playing music for the front porch and friends, not solitude.
Lateness of Dancers is out now on Merge Records