A horrible hack

The Hotelier


Year Released: 2016
Format: LP
Label: Tiny Engines
Reviewed by Andrew Revis on Jul 4, 2016
Expectations are high. Following 2014's seminal 'Home, Like Noplace Is There', an album of anthems rather than mere songs, expectations are really fucking high. 'Home...' presented The Hotelier as a band with greater sophistication in their craft than so many of their contemporaries. They stand aside that whole 'emo revival' thing because - naming no names - so many of those bands are complete shite. Brand New and Title Fight are the only two comparable bands I can think of who could go toe-to-toe with the Hotelier in terms of ambition, invention and intelligence in their music.

At first glance 'Goodness' might appear a much denser album than its predecessor, but its ten tracks proper (discounting the three acoustic interludes) total only six more minutes than 'Home...''s nine. That backhanded 'more mature' label has been attached to this record from the moment a note was heard (maybe it's those acoustic interludes that did it), and yes, it is more mature. 'Home...' was uncannily consistent, nine solid gold hits, the last three as punchy as the first three - and the three in the middle for that matter. This isn't 'Home...Part 2', as much as we may have all willed it to be so. 'Goodness' is a different proposition, intriguing on its own merits. This is thoughtful and worthwhile songwriting. Christian Holden is the most literary of lyricists - there is not one wasted couplet in the whole album. He really is quite the wordsmith. Take this opening verse from Two Deliverances:

'The icons cluttering your bureau are eyeing me as I walk in, your guardians are present in here and I trust that they have always been hiding somewhere in your closet, collecting moisture from your face, your secret world speaks without words and I feel clumsy and cumbersome in this place.'

And that's the difference. Where 'Home...' reeked of guilt and regret, 'Goodness' feels altogether happier. Or at least more content; melancholy rather than self-pitying. The 'I don't know if I know love no more' refrain in lead track Piano Player is a bit less, um, severe, than something like 'I'm desperate here, a couple of steps from the edge / I can't seem to burn bright enough / I'm cold and I'm left alone / we're all alone' from the last album.

If 'Home...' was an elegy to lost friends and family, 'Goodness' is an elegy to nature and rebirth. Honestly, it's so relentlessly sylvan and pastoral it can all feel a bit much at times. Among the many and varied descriptions of the natural world, here's a top ten, for no reason at all:

1. 'I feel a sigh of wind..., a rolling fog that lets you hide'

2. 'the drone of the open air yawning, couldn't help me feel any less small'

3. 'the flora was drenched in the thaw, I was grasping to stay in the present'

4. 'I felt the shade, cool and grey / aurora spray, a horizon away'

5. 'feeling erodes / moving like wash against the limestone / leaving you cold'

6. 'fingers dropped like falling rain'

7. 'skin, caked with sap of pine'

8. 'I am feeling long cold winters'

9. 'I see the moon and the moon sees me / that's enough'

10. 'of birds that keep chirping, "I'm coming for you"'

...and it goes on and on and on. The number of mentions of nighttime verges on the absurd. Honestly, in every song there's a scene-setting centred in some way around 'in the night': 'a gleam of blue from a cold night's moon,' 'cloaked in the awning of night,' 'in this young night's sky there are pinhole lights,' 'the polar night just in sight,' 'shapeless hiss hanging over the mixes of midnight and twilight,' and so on and so forth. (There's definitely a drinking game in this somewhere.) Where that last album was all suicide and self-loathing; this one's all shedding skin, New England autumns, first spring sunrises, comfort in deep roots. It's emo-pop as imagined by Henry David Thoreau. Or maybe they just really like camping.

I don't mean to make it all sound like some Circle Of Life Hakuna Matata bullshit, it's just such a massive departure. Where 'Home...' was intense, urgent and cathartic, 'Goodness' is calmer, composed, more considered. But it is still very good! Piano Player, Settle The Scar and Soft Animal might not be as rapturous as The Scope Of All This Rebuilding, Your Deep Rest or Among The Wildflowers, but they are very accomplished emo-indie songs indeed. Granted, the final four tracks do feel somewhat deflated after what has come before, but if there is a finer song than Two Deliverances released this year, bring its head to me on a stick.

If anything 'Goodness' serves to underline just what a one off that last record was, and is - and, dare I say it, it perhaps even reveals it as a slightly adolescent emo love letter for the generation of millennials so disaffected by much (read: all) modern day emo music. Was it a million miles away from those Taking Back Sunday and Moneen records we used to listen to? (Answer: probably not.) But if 'Home, Like Noplace Is There' was this emo generation's 'Clarity', 'Goodness' is very much its 'Bleed American', a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit quieter, a bit less angry. They're still hippies, just a bit less lively. Getting old really isn't so bad, honest.

Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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