With each record they’ve released, The Hotelier’s sound seems to mature and progress in ways that both reflect their development as a band as they grow into their sound, but also as the zeitgeist of the scene at the time. Their debut record It Never Goes Out drew inspiration from (and slotted nicely into) the angsty-yet-optimistic pop-punk scene of the first half of the 2010s, whilst their sophomore record Home, Like No Place Is There brought the band to the attention of the emo revival that shortly followed, quickly becoming its cornerstone. Their latest release, Goodness, continues this trend, evolving their sound whilst staying true to their emo-punk roots, reflecting on what they’ve learnt about life and themselves since the release of Home, and creating something familiar yet new in a genre that’s easy to stagnate in.
Whilst Goodness situates the band comfortably within the emo genre, it rejects the melodrama and sensationalism that is often synonymous with said genre. Instead, Goodness offers catharsis, pushing towards healing after grappling with the dark and often depressing themes of Home. It recognises the value and importance of healing, as well as the difficulty to do so, reflected by the relentlessness and urgency of tracks like ‘Piano Player’ and ‘Sun’, made up of guitar riffs and vocal refrains that are perhaps dragging at times, but ultimately translate to a refusal to quit or give up.
There are a number of more complex ideas behind the writing of Goodness, with frontman Christian Holden exploring ideas relating to Taoism, transcendentalism, and his own activism and anarchistic politics. Ultimately, though, it has its foundations in stripping everything back, and rebuilding. The album’s front cover aims to portray this – in a sunny field in the middle of a forest, eight people (the majority of them elderly) stand together, completely and unapologetically nude. In the album’s trailer, the same group can be seen frolicking, laughing, and embracing the beauty of the nature surrounding them. It’s these ideas that underpin the record, and that Holden intends on communicating throughout the album.
Whilst this is perhaps more obvious in the album’s quieter moments, in its interludes and opening track, or through its punctuated use of silence and acapella vocals, they’re at their most powerful and poignant when the album reaches the apex of ‘Soft Animal’, in Holden’s pleas of “make me feel alive, make me believe that I don’t have to die”, or in the album’s closing track ‘End of Reel’, full of the emotion that the band are so well renowned for.
Whilst never quite reaching the heights of Home, Like NoPlace Is There, there is a feeling that this was never the intention for Goodness. To compare them would be unkind, and would do this album an injustice. There was perhaps a danger that any attempt to follow-up the success of Home would have failed. However, The Hotelier have proven once again why they are considered such an integral and esteemed part of fourth-wave emo, taking risks and maturing in a number of ways, and offering us an album that we perhaps didn’t realise we needed, until now.
[Hannah Burke – @hannahcburke_]