Album Review – Hallowed “403 Miles Away”
Hallowed is the perfect example of where I’d like to see indie rock head; heart on sleeve realism in the face of these hyper-cataclysmic, changing times, they are a wave in the turbulent ocean of nu-culture that is slowly waking people up after 60 or so years of boomer-ism cheese entertainment having been the prime influence on our development (most of us were subliminally raised by our TVs and grew up believing a lot of bullshit didn’t we?)
The ever enigmatic Hallowed has been my biggest fascination of 2020. Having achieved some notable online reach with songs ranging from the memetic and counter-cultural, the sincere and intimate, and the very Catholic, Hallowed is the perfect example of where I’d like to see indie rock head; heart on sleeve realism in the face of these hyper-cataclysmic, changing times, they are a wave in the turbulent ocean of nu-culture that is slowly waking people up after 60 or so years of boomer-ism cheese entertainment having been the prime influence on our development (most of us were subliminally raised by our TVs and grew up believing a lot of bullshit didn’t we?). We could cover their Bill Gates invented the Coronavirus song, or talk about how their track Boom, Boom, Boom was one of our favorite straight up riffers of the year, but I was recently sent Hallowed’s Christmas album and was very struck to write about it. Maybe because it’s that warm and fuzzy, Jesus Christ time of year, but this EP really left a deep and heartfelt impression on me, and I hope it does the same for you:
As the first full song on the EP, “Where Are You” is stripped down in its arrangement and subject matter, a call for Christ and yearning for peace on earth. Phrased as a simple question, the chorus hook asks “where are you?” in harmony that resonates as a profound and laser-focused meditation, a prayer on what the Advent season and Christmas mean to so many who might be lost in a world overrun by sin. It’s an interesting juxtaposition on where we’ve come from the Christmas classics we still ritualistically listen to from the 50’s and 60s, up through the last gasp of meaningful folk indie Christmas covers of the 00s; the former laying on heavy with glossy orchestral type arrangements that are maybe a bit tongue in cheek, but beautiful and authentic in their antiquity and arguably best when they focus on the traditional Christmas (think Nat King Cole’s rendition of “O Holy Night” is there a better pop-Christmas song ever recorded??) while the latter, the Sufjan Stevens‘ this time of year, feel more personal and intimate in their instrumentation and intent, but as they age feel significantly more vapid and insincere, at the very least commercialized for commercialization’s sake. Hallowed and company find an impressive happy medium between these two, sincere about their love for Jesus while sonically accessible and appropriate for indie music in 2020, and written for no other reason than pure spirit. A fine start for a young artist striving for something different, not just in substance, but in essence.
Each track holds onto to something beautiful and atmospheric making this EP a cohesive and consistent listen; the reoccurring clarinet on the intro track and “My Heart Beats For you”, the opening line on “Happiness” (“happiness is subjective, love is not”) and its folk and finger tap guitar line.. and obviously the main feature throughout, the man and his woman romantic vocal interplay. It sets the narrative for a more conversational experience as the listener, leading to a more contemplative experience than if it was one dude singing at the sky for 10 minutes. Think of young love and the story of the babe in the manger as one in the same, a celebration of life. And while sometimes life can be somber (as this EP does get at times), those somber moments are there to better perceive the joy around us.
Hallowed is young and scrappy, and in another review I’m sure I could really get into how his music is a wedge in the face of the old guard “hipsterdom” and how that scrappiness, as it grows, improves, and develops over time, will be a piece of the puzzle that will redefine indie rock for the next decade and kill off whatever stupid bloated version we still have lingering around… but for now, I’ll keep my thoughts more subdued haha. I just want to enjoy the fact that one of my more favorite underground artists put their heart and spirit into a Christmas album that resonates more than most will this season.