Over the past few years, the Hotelier (previously spelled “The Hotel Year”) has morphed from an impressive no-bullshit pop punk band into seemingly the biggest band of the “emo revival.” Home, Like No Place Is There was a record that connected with fans all over the world for its brutal honesty and relatability dealing with heavy subject matters. Records like it come around once or twice every ten years or so. This said, Goodness was one of the most anticipated punk-anything records of 2016, and while it might not break ground sonically or lyrically for fans the way their last record did, it doesn’t mean they weren’t pushing their boundaries or combatting people’s expectations.
Christian Holden, the voice behind The Hotelier, loves to challenge the status quo and people’s’ notions of what are acceptable and unacceptable. The same attitude that went into putting a group of naked elderly people onto the album cover also went into certain musical choices on the album. A good example can be found at the very beginning of the record, where there’s an unexpected spoken word track (“N 43° 59’ 39.927” W 71° 23’ 45.27””).
Goodness is a quality record in the fact that each song seems to be thoughtfully written and catchy. “Goodness Pt. 2”, the song’s second track, opens the record by layering instrument after instrument one by one thus creating anticipation in the listener until everything crashes in toward the middle. “Piano Player”, one of the more uptempo songs on the record, holds its own for five and a half minutes, something unheard of for a more punk rock sounding song. “Soft Animal”, possibly the best song on the record, appears at a time when the record needs a kick in energy. On top of it all, it can’t be stated how much feeling Holden obviously put into the lyrics and subject matter on this album.
When listeners hear “I’m freezing” repeated through the chorus of “Fear of Good”, they will actually see the singer shivering, coatless in a snowy town. “Opening Mail for My Grandmother” which begins with “your grip on my forearm/insert the wrong name” paints a sad picture of one’s grandparent slipping away to the end of their life and observing them as their body and brain deteriorate over time. In “Soft Animal,” when the words “Make me feel alive/make me feel like I don’t have to die/make me believe that there’s a God sometimes,” there’s no doubt that Holden actually has felt that sense of longing for purpose. However, while Holden has stated in interviews that Goodness is more or less a positive record (“Taoist love record” they say), the way the lyrics were written in conjunction with the actual instrumentals make that hard to pick up on.
Here’s the thing: each song on this record is good. But the great thing about this band’s previous records were that they were journeys in themselves. The first songs left listeners feeling different than the last songs did. Goodness on the other hand has the problem of keeping listeners in one place or frame of mind. The last song feels like the first. Unfortunately, this makes for kind of an overly melancholy record. It’s not one of those things where they made the same album twice, because this album is definitely different and a departure from their previous work, but no song in this collection particularly sticks out from the rest, whereas with Home, or even with INGO, almost every song was uniquely individual in the emotions they evoked or the way they evoked them.
Goodness gets a 3.5/5. That said, The Hotelier are still one of the best bands in the game right now and I hope they’re around for years and years to come. This record was simply where they’re at now – I’m excited to see where they go in the future.
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