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Music Review: Hotels – Where Hearts Go Broke

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Ever been to a drab hotel?  You know what I’m talking about – the kind of hotel that isn’t a rat’s nest, but has wallpaper that defines status quo.  The room has a table, a chair, a bed, and a bathroom, but is completely forgettable by the time you are back home in your own bed. 

The band Hotels makes a metaphor of just such a hotel on their album Where Hearts Go Broke.  It’s a forgettable, average adventure that isn’t altogether bad; it just isn’t something you’re going to remember once you’ve moved on to something better.

To put definition to such a claim, I’m calling as my first witness tremolo, reverb, and Casio keyboard.  All are heavily used on the album.  Under interrogation, all three seem completely outdated and thin. 

That’s not to say the sound on Where Hearts Go Broke isn’t layered; for all the layering, however, the sound doesn’t hold any weight.  If a good album is an uppercut to the jaw, Hearts is a glancing blow to the shoulder.

The vocals on Where Hearts Go Broke are adequate, but the dour complexion they wear throughout doesn’t stand out against the instrumentation.  Take the bass too: on several songs it’s featured prominently, but I’m scratching as to why. 

On “Flight of the Navigator,” one of the better tracks on the album overall, the bass line kicks off the track, but there’s nothing remarkable about it.  The bass is supposed to start a groove, but really, the groove doesn’t start until everything else chimes in on the track.

To Hotels’ credit, Where Hearts Go Broke isn’t hard to listen to.  It’s good background music.  I went running with it pulsing through my headphones the other day.  It kept pace.  I ran on.  It’s moody.  The vocals have a whispery, baritone quality reminiscent of shoegazer.  The drums are true and consistent, neither overly showy nor underdeveloped.

Where Hearts Go Broke is retro, but I’m fairly sure it’s not the good kind of retro.  Fans of bygone music scenes may appreciate the album.  There are flashes of Pink Floyd, 80’s synth, My Bloody Valentine.  Hotels, however, fails to transport those sounds into the twenty-first century.  For fans of the here and the now, year 2009, the album will merit a pass.

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About Luke Johnson

  • Sandy G

    I got turned on to this band through KEXP and I really enjoy them. I also did some research to learn more about them and found lots of favorable reviews. Yours is the only negative one out there. I’m not a music blogger but I know what I like and I think they’re a great up and coming band. Definitely one to watch. But that’s just me.

  • fwd send redo

    sandy g is totes right. this ‘blogger’ is completely mental!

  • Don

    He must be deaf! This band rocks! Its fresh, electric and reminds me of cruzin down some cool shoreline road with the top down. Hotels, do waste your time with this idiot! You have an original sound and we like it!