The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There (Tiny Engines, 2014)

via The Hotelier.

“Open the curtains./Singing birds tell me, ‘Tear the buildings down.’/You felt blessed to receive their pleasant sound”

It is a beautiful thing when you know, right from the opening line of an album, that the experience you are about to embark on is going to be life-changing. And that’s exactly what happens on the first few seconds of “An Introduction to the Album”, the aptly titled opening track for Home, Like Noplace is There, the sophomore effort of Worcester, MA band The Hotelier (fka The Hotel Year). An album that stands head-and-shoulders above many counterparts in the emo revival, Home is a new classic that can easily sit next to …Is a Real Boy, and The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.

The entire opening of “An Introduction to The Album” runs like a seamless thread, with every chordal return to the tonic making way for a lyrical continuation. Almost like free-association, or stream-of-consciousness. It feels incredibly authentic, and iconic. The band sounded somewhat derivative yet entirely energetic and engaging on 2011 debut It Never Goes Out, but I have to say that Home, Like Noplace Is There is a game changer of a record. There is some fitting musical and lyrical interplay on “An Introduction to the Album” (unless I’m reading too much into something). After the lead singer says, “I recoil at every new beginning,” the song prophetically returns to the tonic chord, and the opening chord progression. The tone quickly shifts to desperate, sounding like a guttural cry for help (“So if I call, should I beg?”).

This is a near-perfect record that successfully beckons in the “emo revival”. Now, I never really got emo growing up. Sure, as someone who grew up in suburban New Jersey, emo music seemed to be a rite of passage, a way of coping with life in adolescence. It was so ingrained in teenage culture, that it should have really held an important place in mine. But apart from a handful of bands (Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, Bright Eyes, Sparta, Brand New), I didn’t really see the point. The hair was too long (and too straight), every song sounded the same, and after a while every band began to sound more like caricatures of each other over time. Between whiny vocals and cookie-cutter breakdowns, nothing really stood out. As a musician and a human being though (who has some life experience under his belt, but still figuring things out in his early twenties), I’ve always been drawn to sadness. I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I believe the closest I can get is to state that it is in my blood. So it’s especially fitting that, timed with my college graduation and subsequently leaving the first post-graduate job I had, Home, Like Noplace Is There was to become my soundtrack during this frustrating time.

The guitar lines and parts feel razor-sharp, cutting back into your mind, all the way to your middle and high school memories (especially those on “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, and “Among the Wildflowers”). It has a way of making you nostalgic, but a little more pained than wistful (note: this is a good thing — it means the record is opening you up and making you feel real things). At the same time, much of the lyrical themes here deal with death, depression, suicide, coming of age, and self discovery. One of the most affecting numbers (and really, it’s difficult to pick just one) is “Your Deep Rest”, a heartbreaking, dismal number about someone who succumbed to the throes of depression. Between lines like “And I found the notes you left behind/Little hints and helpless cries/Desperate wishing to be over”, and “They diagnosed you born that way/They say it runs in your family,” it is a devastating parable for a generation that’s still suffering from this despicable disease. In an age where many different teens are still turning to suicide as a permanent answer to pain, “Your Deep Rest”, along with the rest of this record, helps to start a conversation we all seriously need to have. When depression really gets the best of us, we do ourselves in. How we get the best of depression is by art, by music, by creating. Depression blocks creation. Creation trumps depression. At least, that’s how I see it. And, like the changing, overlapping call-and response-vocals on “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, depression isn’t a single actor. It doesn’t affect just one victim, it affects millions. It’s a reminder than you’re not alone in this. An entire genre has been based around this idea, embracing all of the sad kids in it.

What fascinates me most about Home, Like Noplace is There is how it is simultaneously comforting and haunting. Closing number “Dendron” communicates this immediately, as a meditation on loss amidst growing up. Citing friends passed, and a return to a home that wasn’t there, the album closes with the powerful line, “‘Tell me again, that it’s all in my head.'” It is a sad thing to hear when others trivialize internal sorrow and suffering, when in fact depression is a very real thing. Much like the album cover, this is a recording distressed in sadness, and it’s one that everyone needs to hear.

Key Tracks: “An Introduction to the Album”, “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, “In Framing”, “Your Deep Rest”, “Among the Wildflowers”, “Life in Drag”, “Dendron”

Where to Go from Here: Touche Amore – Is Survived By, La Dispute – Rooms of the House, Title Fight – Floral Green

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