Review Summary: "And it reverberates throughout my vertebrae..."
With 2010 winding to a close, Philadelphia emo collective Hightide Hotel released their first full length CD, Nothing Was Missing, Except Me
. Though twinkly and upbeat on the surface, the album showcased a group of heartbroken kids just a little too caught up in their seemingly insurmountable self-doubt and personal shortcomings. With the release, the melancholy trio had arguably created the finest end-product that their potential would then allow, harnessing a certain glistering yet edgy front that garnered the group a small but eager fanbase. This sense of eagerness amongst their listeners, however, was perhaps not exploited enough by Hightide Hotel, as a second full length entitled Secret Somethings: Volume 2
was dropped only four short months after the first LP. Though SS:V2
does demonstrate a band tinkering with some new sounds and ideas whilst retaining the charm that made them so likable in the first place, it ultimately stands as a release whose enjoyability is just a little too dampened by the shadow of its predecessor.
Hightide Hotel's refurbished sound is immediately obvious right from the record's introductory track, where, although the woefully self-aware songwriting remains, the captivating nature of their debut has been replaced with an even more dejected outlook than before that perhaps causes each song to drag on just a little longer than intended. For as the woebegone lyrics of "staring at the ceiling, do you know this feeling?
fade out, one would hope to hear the band launch into another one of their frenetic, fast-paced musical escapades that were all too common on Nothing…
. However, to a somewhat unfortunate degree, this burst never really comes, as the band essentially sticks to the same formula found on the first two tracks. Hightide Hotel seems to have all but squelched Ben Schmidt on SS:V2
, whose frantic drumming set both the pace and the bar pretty high on their debut. Adding to this minor shortcoming is the constant over-saturation of just about everything with reverberation, another change made by the band that seems, if nothing else, unwarranted and unnecessary. Though the extensive use of reverb does add an interesting new layer that allows a track like "My Bed" to take on such a likable and oddly sanguine edge, its over-utilization eventually makes causes the effect to feel a little unwelcome, even on a record barely eclipsing 24 minutes in length. Where their debut had listeners feeling intensely sympathetic towards the group, this release has me wondering just how long the hopelessness associated with heartbreak really needs to last. Why does frontman Dave Sampson seem so content with never being content?
Now, this isn't to say that everything found on Secret Somethings: Volume 2
is plain forgettable. Ignoring about their previous release for a minute, there are quite a few things to enjoy about the new record. For one, the impeccably mournful and self-reflective songwriting is there, equipped with such hooks as "The staggering way that we managed to stagger away/ from all of that still half intact still astounds me to this day.
" On top of this, Sampson's vocals have taken on a more consistently doleful approach, further backing the integrity of his constantly down-in-the-dumps lyricism. Even the lingering feeling of disjointedness that exists in a lack of transition between such tracks as "Ultimatum" and "Hollow" can be forgiven and written off as slightly mislead experimental attempts. All in all, when taken on its own, Secret Somethings: Volume 2
is at least a marginally enjoyable listen.
The issue with this is how difficult it is to forget about Nothing Was Missing, Except Me
while listening to this, exacerbated by the fact that the two releases were lumped so close together. To me, it almost feels like eating dessert before dinner… I do love me some meatloaf, but really how good can meatloaf taste after a banana split. So, in closing, there is a simple yet seemingly obvious key to enjoying Secret Somethings: Volume 2
: listen to it completely objectively. If you've never heard Hightide Hotel before, start here. If you have, well maybe just pretend that you haven't or something., it could work for you.