The Hotelier are shaking off their chagrin in stunning fashion with “Goodness”
“Goodness” sounds like vocalist/songwriter Christian Holden and the rest of the rock collective known as The Hotelier took a few tabs of LSD, went out to the woods and woke up as changed individuals. Their 2014 breakout “Home, Like No Place is There” was a blessing to fans of the emo genre they resided in apathetically. Anguish mixed perfectly with artistry to create an album that was distinctly emo, but inarguably fantastic. “Goodness” is an entirely different beast altogether, one that proves the band defies traditional classification and have reached the upper echelon of independent rock.
The album begins with a short spoken word poem performed by Holden. It sets the tone for the “Taoist love record” as the self-proclaimed anarchist described it to Stereogum. This will prove divisive, but you likely already know if you’re the type who will dig that sort of thing. The drums immediately kick in on the album’s first song “Goodness Pt. 2” (Pt. 1 was released as a promotional single but is unfortunately nowhere to be found on the final record). Holden utters “There’s a calm and immediate hushing.” This is no longer a proclamation of hurt, this is one of peace. This is “Goodness.” Each instrumental layer gradually crops for the first two minutes of the song until the whole band kicks in suddenly at the pinnacle of the album’s first grand crescendo of the evening.
Sam Frederick’s drum work is more pronounced than ever before and telegraphs the record’s momentum. The driving patterns propel the faster “Piano Player” and “You in This Light” forward, while the syncopated beats of “Two Deliverances” and “Sun” create a more upbeat indie rock feel. As a whole, the instrumentals are mixed very loudly over a vocalist who is known for their wordiness. The power resides as much Frederick’s beat on “Soft Animal” as Holden’s words while they sing “make me believe that there’s a God sometimes” in one of the most spine-tingling moments of the record. Don’t get me wrong, Holden’s lyrics are as imaginative and personal as ever, but the record is not about storytelling, it is about a feeling. A candid and endearing sense of joy and an appreciation for simply living, and living simply, shines through.
The power of Holden’s songwriting is most prominently on display during the (surprisingly frequent number of) songs where the drumming is absent entirely. Two of these are instrumental interludes which, similar to the spoken-word intro, will either work for you or they won’t. Personally they don’t detract from the record, but neither are on the level of “Welcome To Bangkok.” The best use of this effect is on perhaps the most unnervingly touching track “Opening Mail For My Grandmother.” The song dealing with Holden’s experience at his Grandmother’s nursing home bellows softly “your beautiful brightness, perpetually new. So old in your body, the youth’s in your mood,” an image which evokes the album art, but also the record’s overall theme of youth being a state of mind.
Despite a new sound and direction, almost every song on “Goodness” maintains The Hotelier’s excellent sense of ebb and flow. “Settle the Scar” is a song written during the creation of “Home” but it has been reworked to fit the sound of the record, some lyrics have been tweaked, and vocals have been added over the bridge. It doesn’t feel out of place one bit and still remains one of The Hotelier’s best songs to date. “Sun” may be the best unheard track (barring recent live shows). A six minute epic love song with a final minute that will knock any fan on their ass and is exactly the kind of momentum release the group excels at. “You in This Light” follows that up with hoarse harmonies reminiscent of “The Scope of All This Rebuilding.” A reminder that the band fans love is not gone, but has transcended to a new plane of oneness with the world. The lyrics run as deep and poetic, but in a parallel mind to “Home” and are sometimes difficult to decipher. But the sense of ambience, the structure, the emotion, it’s all still there just channeled through a different emotion.
The first time I listened to “Goodness” full-though I had to move myself from the basement to the sun of my parent’s backyard. It is an album that requires you to engage fully in this way. To experience it as more than just an auditory requirement. It does not share the cutting attention-grabbing force of “Home, Like No Place is There” but in its subtlety “Goodness” has more than enough longevity to be The Hotelier’s most accessible and enduring achievement.
Recommended Tracks: Two Deliverances, Soft Animal, Sun
Settle the Scar