Hotel Lights - Hotel Lights

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Album: Hotel Lights
Artist: Hotel Lights
Label: Bar/None Records
Rating: 8/10
MP3:You Come and Go
MP3:AM Slow Golden Hit

Being a member of a hugely successful band is a bit of a double edged sword. Darren Jessee was the drummer and back-up singer (the nice harmonies) for Ben Folds Five. Naturally, fans of the band are interested in the endeavors of the people in the band, but most assume any music will progress from that same sound.

Hotel Lights is Darren's new project (along with former Archers of Loaf drummer Mark Price, Roger Gupton - bass, vocals, and Chris Badger - keyboards, guitar), and the sound is nothing like the material the BFF produced. These songs are sad, beautiful acoustic and piano numbers, paired with atmospheric keyboards and subtle drum machines beats. They aren't fun songs with bouncy piano riffs, and I for one couldn't be happier about that.

Pop music makes depression and heartache sounds fantastic and Hotel Light's debut self-titled album is no exception. The majority of the record is a slowed down, emotional journey. Whereas a lot of singers rely on a simple riff, a good voice, and the power of lyrics, Hotel Lights seem to out equal weight into each part of each song. The opening track, You Come and Go, is a perfect example – balancing a piano, the delicate use of a high hat, an acoustic guitar and Darren's vocals – of this style of composition. A.M. Slow Golden Hit combines so many basic elements (handclaps, drum machine beat, acoustic guitar and some keyboard effects) but the end result is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

That being said, the band also uses upbeat numbers to change the feel of the record well. More rocking tracks like What You Meant, I am a Train and the new-wavish Marvelous Truth are pseudo-danceable and very enjoyable, but the slowed down numbers are the standouts for me.

It's hard not to get caught up in the lyrics that highlight the sparse arrangement of Miles Behind Me. "All this water under the bridge, everything comes sneaking back and we didn't talk after that. Nobody saw you fall, miles behind me." The song adds the perfect combination of instrumentation (like the mallets on the cymbals) without putting so much into the song that it becomes muddled. Motionless follows the same formula, this time adding some lovely slide guitar to help cement the feeling of being lost.

My favorite track is the beautiful Stumblin' Home Winter Blues. The lyrics are the perfect combination of sadness and optimism that happens to the best of us after a long night of drinking as we walk towards the hotel lights that shine in the distance.

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