Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Hotel Lights

January 1, 2005

Band Name: Hotel Lights
Album Name: Hotel Lights
Best element: Relatable, beautiful music.
Genre: Pop/Mellow/Folk
Website: www.hotellights.net
Label name: n/a
Band e-mail: info@hotellights.net

When I received the debut album from Hotel Lights, Oklahoma was in an unusual weather pattern. When I say unusual, I mean unusual in the sense that it had been the same general mood and temperature for more than two days in a row. That weather pattern was dreary as it gets, too: I dubbed it Tulsa gone Seattle, because for two straight weeks, we fell victim to fog, rain, mist, gloom, and no sun.

I popped the album in my stereo on the second day of this morose weather, and I was greeted with equally forlorn soundscapes. The somber folk/pop that Hotel Lights play sounds like a rainy day- and that’s a really great thing in this case. For instance, the best track (and opener) “You Come and I Go” builds from a creaky vocal line and a simple guitar line by adding the most dejectedly beautiful piano line I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s so hopelessly pretty that I kept rewinding my CD to hear the 11-second clip. It’s mournful, it’s somber, it’s beautiful, and that’s the album in a nutshell. This isn’t a happy CD, but it is an amazing one.

“Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues” evokes Dylan at his poetic, most beautiful best- if Dylan sounded this good when he played a ballad, there would be no dispute as to Rolling Stone’s implied claims that he is the greatest artist ever. “The Mumbling Years” is simply majestic, as Darren Jesse purposefully muddles his way through an excellent piano/bass backdrop and creates a stunning contrast. The reminiscent “Small Town Shit” sounds like the closing scene of an emotional movie- sweeping, humble, and tear-jerking. Most of these tracks have some amazing quality of that nature- each has its own greatness involved.

In fact, the only places where this album falls short are the two attempts at rock. “I Am a Train” and “Marvelous Truth” come off simply as annoying instead of actual contributions to the album. I skip them nearly every time, because they just don’t offer much in the way of substance. “I Am a Train” is better than “Marvelous Truth”- but neither are very good when held up to such gems as “Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues”.

If you like mellow music, this is your album. I’ve listened to this album at least 50 times since I received it- and that’s a lot for anyone, especially a critic. I just cannot get enough of this album, and although it sets me in the doldrums sometimes, it’s a pleasant doldrums. It’s comforting to know someone else feels worn out and tired; it’s comforting to know that there is hope. Hotel Lights offers that in a strange sort of way- and I wouldn’t have it any way else.

-Stephen Carradini

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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