Sometimes, like a mysterious 4-pack of Budweiser left at your house after pre-drinks, great things just pop up out of nowhere. Everyone (well, mostly everyone) likes surprises, so it’s never really a bad thing, and if you don’t expect something, you’re likely to enjoy it all the more. To take a recent example from the pop world, Beyoncé’s eponymous album dropped in December, with no prior promotion, warning or press release. The music industry sat shocked at this seemingly disastrous yet incredibly successful tactic. In an age where we’re bombarded with advertising even years before release dates, Beyoncé proved that it’s about the music, and despite her stratospheric fame, gave hope to plenty of smaller bands that simply don’t have access to the big labels like Queen Bey does.
Enter The Hotelier. Originally The Hotel Year, this small time rock/punk group from Boston, Massachusetts has been making waves with their most recent LP titled ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ (Yoda would be proud). Released on independent label Tiny Engines with little fanfare, the album seemed like another standard release on the American alternative scene – likely to induce a summer’s worth of touring and keep the band members (just about) alive for another year or so. However, the wider music scene has started to take notice of an extremely sincere and honest album that has earned comparisons to Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Clarity’ and Grammy nominated band Death Cab For Cutie, gaining favourable reviews across the board and even an exclusive stream via Pitchfork.
Cathartic yet subtle in equal measure, ‘Home’ goes straight for the heart whilst keeping up the energy. Second track ‘The Scope Of All Of This Rebuilding’, for example, begins with lonely guitar chords; restfulness is achieved until, cued by the drums, the rest of the band crashes in, supporting vocalist Christian Holden’s declaration that “you’ve cut our ropes, left the umbilical”. The song is a heartfelt exploration of how, under intense pressure from all sides, we tend to hurt and abuse the ones that we love the most; the lyrical content is supported by a crunchy guitar tone and a big helping of passion. The Hotelier have a knack for combining subject matter with songwriting, which works to great effect.
More downtempo tracks include the near 6-minute ‘Among The Wildflowers’ sitting nicely in the middle of the album (although it’d work just as well at the end). With strumming acoustics and considerate vocals, the track is probably the lighter-waving moment of ‘Home’, and lines like “you find it tough to admit when you’re losing” are certain to break the composure of even the coolest, wall-leaning music fan at the back of the venue. Things don’t remain dreamy forever, though; the track picks up and raw shouted vocals bring some aggression later on, kicking things up a notch.
Perhaps the best track on the album, ‘Your Deep Rest’, starts with a faintly groovy, shuffle like feel. Likely the best option for a chart single, the song isn’t simply radio-friendly but features the album’s most chilling and unforgettable lyrics, “I called in sick from your funeral. The sight of your family made me feel responsible, and I found the notes you left behind”. No, not an overdramatic rant about a breakup, but brutal honesty about what was presumably a close friend taking their own life, and the consequences that it brings. Certainly not an upbeat summer anthem, but undoubtedly poignant, the track reminds us that music can be a vehicle for the most complex of situations and emotions, whilst remaining enjoyable and listenable.
The Hotelier have really pulled out all the stops with this release, and I predict (alongside many other reviewers) that the band are set to blow up, perhaps not to the heights of Foo Fighters or The Killers, but ‘Home’ is a bona-fide rock / alternative album that deserves recognition greater than the indie-niche that it’s currently residing in. If early reactions are anything to go by, that promised future looks bright.
Buy the album here.