Album Review: The Hotelier – Goodness

The Hotelier are an indie rock band from Massachusetts. Well established within both the emo revival movement and the DIY punk scene, they have a reputation for extremely powerful live performances, being ambitiously creative and for the raw honest quality of their lyrics and music.

Goodness is The Hotelier’s third recognised album and marks a third huge leap forward in terms of the band’s overall sound, songwriting and uniquely clever use of promotional material to espouse their aesthetic. Goodness discusses ageing and human frailty, interpersonal relationships, life and death along with all the various subtleties of these subjects that many lyricists try but fail to traverse so successfully.

From the punky noise of There is a Light (2011) to the emotive and devastating Home, Like Noplace is There (2014) The Hotelier have always written and talked frankly about universal feelings framed within the very specific time and location of modern American suburban life. Now with the mysterious, moving and strangely uplifting Goodness they seem to have retained their insightful and introspective lyricism while shifting their focus to the natural world outside of their city.

This shift permeates Goodness and is particularly present in its wonderful album cover, clearly visible within certain phrases and sections of the music itself and depicted quite literally in the album’s promo video. This short depicts a person walking through a heavily urbanised city before picking up a vibrant green potted plant from a street vendor, slowly making their way through the suburbs and moving out into the peaceful beauty of the woods. The video also features an acoustic, stripped down alternate recording of “Goodness” that is not available on the record itself.

Further links to the natural world are made via song titles on Goodness, three of which are co-ordinates to specific locations in the forests of New Hampshire. Some sections of the album also feature sound collages of birds singing and background field noise from similar areas, recorded not far from the band’s home of Massachusetts. Behind the probing and reflective lyrics that have so characterised The Hotelier thus far, the natural world is a new and welcome undercurrent that threads throughout this ambitious and noteworthy piece of song writing.

In terms of the music itself there are still plenty of hooks and a great deal of melody throughout Goodness but these qualities are positioned alongside some new stylistic choices, including the spoken word introductory track and more generally the increasingly abstract but overarching structure of the album. It does still sound very much like The Hotelier as we know and love them, but with plenty of fresh ideas to go with its underlying concept and newly ambitious aesthetic. Goodness is a peculiar, particular and intangible record; a truly unique offering from a continuously surprising band.

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Liam Pritchett

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