Review Summary: I don't know what I want, what I want's where I've been.
In a recent interview/***ing thesis with Stereogum preceding the stream of their new album, Hotelier frontman Christian Holden concluded that, "This isn't Home #2, this is a transition. You have to find a way out. You can't live in anguish your whole life." For a vast majority for which Home, Like Noplace is There
struck such a vital chord and became THAT album, the quote sounds almost dismissive. Here was a band that almost exclusively traded in diaristic misery and catharsis basically telling their fan base to ya know, maybe move on already. Upon listening to the stunningly expansive and profound Goodness
, it thankfully becomes clear that this is far from the case.
From the lyrics to the songwriting to the production, things have opened up considerably on Goodness
. There is more space, musically and intellectually if not emotionally. Part of the album's brilliance is that while it is chock-full of gorgeous lyrical statements, it is still unsure of itself; it is still needy, and worried, and continuously asking questions. Though Holden is more external and cosmic here, there are still moments of self-doubt, of intimate detail and longing. It's a natural progression from the viewpoint of Home: shifting the focal point outwards without losing that personal touch. The same could be said of the songwriting, as well. It seems that with the most recent releases of Foxing, Pianos Become The Teeth, and La Dispute, there has been a very conscious decision within this genre of music to slow and soften the harder edges and trade catharsis for restraint. For some, this has worked; listen to the heart-stopping 'Woman (In Mirror)' and how 'Repine' so gracefully shifts in dynamics per usual for PBTT but with much lower stakes. Unfortunately, this has also led to some seriously ponderous navel-gazing; the worst parts of Empire! Empire!'s baffling final release come to mind. Here, The Hotelier have found a seemingly perfect middle ground. Songs are beautiful and repetitive until they explode with catharsis; there is the tension AND the release.
The success found here in the musical approach obviously can't be that simple, but it can fundamentally be boiled down to that. When the near acapella opening of 'Goodness Pt. 2' slowly integrates each instrument into the mix to become a soaring indie-punk anthem by its conclusion, it's evident that The Hotelier have mastered their craft. For all that can be said about the lyricism and about what this album means for the genre, there is also simply a surplus of hair-raising moments. The incredible riffs of 'Settle The Scar'. Holden's bravura and naked vocal performance on 'Goodness Pt. 2'. The dizzingly euphoric chorus of 'Soft Animal', and the throat-shreddingly anthemic chorus of 'You In This Light', and the sudden grand finale explosion of 'End of Reel', etc. The band has expanded their songwriting to craft wholly interesting and put-together songs instead of what could in the past feel like huge moments of catharsis with a musical backbone, while still having those moments of outpouring passion. In short, they've gained everything without leaving a trace of themselves behind, and that is what should be celebrated here. As another band who released a masterpiece of composure and expansion summarized in their final moments, "Stay true." I can't think of a better mission statement than that for what The Hotelier have presented to us here.