Sit-n-Spin Records, 2005
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/21/2006
When last we visited the boys of Hotel Lights, they had self-released their quietly magnificent self-titled 2004 debut disc. Two years have passed, and there's news, all of it good. First, there's this tasty little hors d'oeuvre of an EP on North Carolina's own indie label Sit-n-Spin Records, and then there's the pick-up and reissuance of Hotel Lights by indie darlings Bar/None Records (The Sharp Things, Petra Haden, Freedy Johnston, The Mendoza Line, etc.). HL can also now be found on iTunes.
As lights go on all over and this EP's opener "Let Me Be The One" comes into focus, we find the band's chief songwriter, Ben Folds Five drummer-turned-doe-eyed-frontman Darren Jessee, crooning gently over the rich bed of soft intriguing noise laid down by bandmates Chris Badger (keyboards), Roger Gupton (bass), Miguel Urbiztondo (drums) and Alan Weatherhead (guitar). Co-produced by Weatherhead and the band, Goodnightgoodmorning is another intriguing compendium of downbeat murmurings that mix acoustic guitar, otherworldly synth textures and minimalist, precise electric guitar, bass and drums. Defying all attempts at labeling, it's gently hypnotic, richly resonant, and subtly subversive.
As for individual tracks, "Let Me Be The One" hums with soft urgency; "Talking To Lisa" shimmers with disappointment and synth effects; and "Happy And Glad" manages to be bitter and uplifting and clever all at once ("You said everyone's a chord, and I was C major"). Closer "Another Year" adds strings and various retro effects, approaching the tunefulness (and quirkiness) of an Abbey-Road era McCartney piano ballad.
The juxtaposition of Jesse's world-weary vocals and acoustic strums with Badger's quirky, surrealistic synth blips, bleeps and washes once again impresses with the emotional character and shadings it conveys. Hotel Lights' music is all about atmosphere, and they've figured out how to keep it fresh and interesting, a little Peter Gabriel one minute, a little Bright Eyes the next.
As a whole, these six tunes don't so much expand the HL sound as crystallize it. Gauzy, oblique, keening and moving, Goodnightgoodmorning will surely keep your appetite up until the next HL full-length.
[Visit Hotel Lights online at www.hotellights.net]