Review Summary: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Quite a bit of time passed for Hightide Hotel between their release of 4-song debut EP Porch Luck
and its similarly sized follow-up, Secret Somethings
. What band members Ben, Chris and Dave were up to during this time is none of my business, though evidence suggests their focus was more centered around tweaking old material than it was on writing fresh stuff. Eight months prior to the release of a fantastic debut LP in Nothing Was Missing, Except Me
, the boys of Hightide Hotel released their second EP, a collection of acoustic songs with a twist, some of which were simply unplugged versions of older tracks. Whether the release was to appease eager fans who had jumped on the bandwagon following their debut, or rather the result of some alternative motive is hard to say, but it isn't nearly as difficult to come to a conclusion regarding the significance of the EP, as the drop of Secret Somethings
didn't exactly do anyone a favor (including themselves). The four tracks found here, though somewhat charming in their own right as a variation in sound from previous material, stand as a mostly passable effort from a band still trying to find some consistency.
Similar to, though slightly less refined, than its successor in Secret Somethings: Volume 2
, volume one doesn't cover a whole lot of musical ground. Each track is mostly the result of only acoustic guitar and collaborative vocals, both of which find themselves constantly over-saturated in reverberation. Each song seems to drag on twice as long as it should, though most of them run less than three minutes in length. Still, the EP manages its moments, with opener 'Wordsearch' promptly reminding the listener of Hightide Hotel's immediately lovable emo jams that made porch luck so damn enjoyable:
"I've prepared a ist of words for the things I'll never be,
one that includes 'funny', 'attractive', and 'interesting'.
I've also got a few choice words for the things you know you are,
like 'careless with other people's hearts', and let's not forget stubborn."
The heartfelt charm is still intact, but what the track really seems to lack is that certain twinkle. While most of the pieces and the intent are still there, an overall disjointed feel hangs over Secret Somethings
. 'Apartment Buildings' takes place at about half the pace that it should, causing even the instrumentation to sound forced and rudimentary. Perhaps the release was simply a matter of Hightide Hotel experimenting with new sounds in an attempt to broaden their musical horizons, but the after effect might have just been better staying tucked in a folder on their computer's desktop. Fortunately, they would later regain ground with the release of their brilliant and twinkly debut full-length, and even manage to have slightly more success with the second volume of Secret Somethings, which implemented some of the same experimental mentality found here, yet with an entirely more mature and cohesive sound. The half-assed, almost disregarded vocals by the end of 'Porch Luck', alongside the childish giggles and sardonically muttered "good job team" make me want to believe that SS
was some sort of bad joke being played by the guys in Hightide Hotel, juvenile in execution but harmless in nature. And perhaps there's a tad bit of truth in that, that the release wasn't taken all too seriously and henceforth the wane in quality. Either way, it's easy to look past their temporary slip into mediocrity when taking into account that their lowest quality work was preceded and succeeded by their two most fantastic efforts, making Secret Somethings
a forgettable release in a not-so-good yet forgivable way.