words: Jordan Gorsuch
“Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be...” ― William Wordsworth
On the third album from Massachusetts rock band The Hotelier, bassist/vocalist Christian Holden channels William Wordsworth for a far-reaching, impressive, innovative, optimistic, and flawed meditation on acceptance and finding the goodness in the world. New England's endless fields and lush wilderness set the stage for the album as Holden evokes transcendentalism, which recognizes the inherent goodness of humanity and the natural world, while also highlighting individuality and the value of meditation. Wordsworth famously hated city-life and would retreat back to nature to find joy again. He felt that tranquility in nature was the only way to tap into his powerful emotions that urban living snuffed out over time. There is no direct causation for the despair that The Hotelier are running from, but the band seeks answers in similar places.
"Goodness Pt. 2" represents a tapestry of instruments, disparate guitar chords and woe some bass lines converge with drums after a disjointed beginning. These elements interlock to create a beautiful, rousing song that represents the band's new image. The troubled beginning signals the struggle that the band had to put behind themselves in order to unlock their new sound/identity. It's a battle to embrace the happiness, the light in our lives. On the last album, The Hotelier thought it as impossible to find this sunlight, but it turns out it's just really damn hard. "Piano Player" opens with an exhilarating rush, the drums and guitars are loud and bright as the bass guides them along before a fade into darkness and the rise of uncommonly low-key vocals from Holden. After the first verse, the mixing levels off and everything is sonically placed, as we hear the new mantra: "sustain." He encourages us and himself to break out of the oppression and comfort of the dark forces that keep us down. Once we do, it is paramount that we stay in that light. Sustain.
"I don't know if I know love no more." He keeps searching for happiness, even in his doubt.
"Two Deliverances" features some lovely guitar picking and the rhythm section is especially assured. Christian's vocals are the most like their previous record, delivering a catchy chorus and and a heartbreakingly memorable bridge. It's a moment of emotional relapse that shines through the cracks in the exterior of his new and assured outlook. The bridge is chock-full of questions, questions he will never get the answers to; questions that we will never get answers to. He leans back to his naturalism for comfort and answers but recognizes that he cannot just drop his past in favor of moving forward. People constantly adapt and evolve, but our past hangs over us like an oppressive fog. Distinctive bass lines and double guitar melodies drift together on the notable "Settle the Scar." Very purposeful sequencing allows the listener to hear Christian leaning on old habits and themes after his moment of self-doubt on "Two Deliverances." Powerful illustrations of comparing his relationship to wrong turns on a road, a shaky Venn Diagram, a dull picture book, and brick and mortar that can never repair, the collapsing walls of a failed relationship. "I am shaking off my chagrin, flaking snow, and dead skin that buried me in all my past mistakes." He is searching for Buddhism's fabled middle path.
"Opening Mail For My Grandmother" is a beautiful, soft, introspective centerpiece. It signals a transitional period for a band that is looking for new ways to write about the world and express tough feelings. This song and the album cover depict elderly beauty and power. Taking the time to breathe life into the people we turn into after our melodramatic youth, the people that are often overlooked and taken for granted. It's a powerful concept in the midst of a style of music that is chiefly focused on the heartbreak and discovery of youth.
"This isn't Home #2, this is a transition. You have to find a way out. You can't live in anguish your whole life," Holden concluded in a recent interview with Stereogum. He's right, this is not a continuation of the overwhelming tragedy found in the heightened emotional stakes of young experience. Goodness, more than anything, broadcasts that personal tragedies are going to hit us as we age, and with each hit, we'll be more ready for the next. Eventually, you're conditioned for the hardships of living, and then you get to move on. The Hotelier never gave their listeners an answer about what comes after the wreckage of their break-out album; however, they give us a sort of map to happiness, and the light shining at the end of our individual tunnels might appear brighter after spending some time with this musical offering.