From its title to the final song that shares its name, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan, the latest release from Hallelujah the Hills, is a literary compendium. With nods to Philip K. Dick, Holden Caulfield and Shakespeare, an interaction with Jonathan Lethem to usage of various literary devices associated with the author of the book from which this album’s title alludes, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan is a collection of tangential lyrical threads connected by stream-of-conscious lo-fi rock.
Despite it being a retrospective of sorts, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan is not a best-of affair. It’s akin to the selected works of Hallelujah the Hills. Said selections being previously released singles, b-sides, live tracks and assorted new songs recorded over the span of the band’s existence. Despite not being recorded as a proper album, recurring themes do carry throughout.
From the metafiction of “The Three Minute Mark” and “Some of Them We Lost” to the linguistic wordplay of “Wave Backwards To Massachusetts,” it’s hard not to associate these songs with marginalized characters during their formative years.
Our phones are wide open
You are the secretary of my security
And I’m the czar of whatever it takes
And darlin’ one of us, one of us
One of us is one of them
The insecurity of alienation is on full display in “Let it Wave”:
Now we’re on our own
Cutting coupons 10 dollars off
A crown and a throne
High horse novelties
We’ll pay full price cause it’s better
Than being alone
The cliques and peer pressure of high school haunt songs like “Amateurs”:
No more short cuts through the halls of the king
We’re coming out loud and clean
Making the most of the moves, oh
Amateurs! Amateurs! We wish you well, we wish you well
Whereas “Amateurs” is this group’s benediction, “The Girls Are Here” is the closing number at some misfit pep rally.
The girls are here
The rules have changed
To the streets, up the hill, over plains
Come on team
So I can feel Lost, harassed, and new
With the title song being the last track of the album it’s worth noting the looking back of the artists behind Hallelujah the Hills. Having undergone lineup changes during their existence, the solemn dirge of “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan” solidifies a pensive, self-reflective moment for the band as it plans to move on to the next chapter, letting bygones and their sepia-toned memories be just that.
Oscar Wilde once wrote: “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” It is my belief that age is not always a requirement to understanding the irony of the present. Perhaps it’s the outcasts who see such truth as it happens. This is music for cynics, adults who survived high school and its required reading who are now getting the last laugh. Hallelujah the Hills may have released the soundtrack for the high school reunion set.
Much like a good work of fiction, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan warrants return visits. I’m already picturing dog-eared copies of this album years from now.
Stream/purchase Portrait of the Artist as a Young Trashcan below.