The Hotelier
Goodness


3.5
great

Review

by Zack Lorenzen CONTRIBUTOR (36 Reviews)
June 8th, 2016 | 23 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's enough.

It’s been a little over two years now since Home, Like NoPlace Is There put the Central Massachusetts emo outfit The Hotelier on the map, and deservingly so. Home was a record inspired by grief, attempting to grasp the goodness in life and watching as the people around you were falling apart and struggling to do the same. It was a tour de force of catharsis and confusion, guilt and sorrow. The band, as if getting the formula for relentlessly catchy yet intensely grim tunes down to a science, rarely if ever took a wrong step with Home. It was a perfect storm, lightning in a bottle, call it what you will. Anchored by Christian Holden’s intimate lyricism and the group’s propulsive songwriting, all its pieces flowed naturally and supported one another, culminating in what remains one of the best records I’ve heard in recent years.

As the band made explicitly clear in the lead-up to their follow-up Goodness though, times have changed. People have moved on. You can’t live in agony forever, and it’s not healthy to feign it either. Goodness, as its title implies, is certainly lighter than Home lyrically, and while the latter rarely felt instrumentally oppressive, Goodness nonetheless manages to carry with it a noticeable glimmer. Though the previous subject matter of Holden’s lyricism has been scrapped, his ability to churn out detailed, close, and poetic heaps of lines has not. Goodness isn’t obnoxiously optimistic and there’s no lack of tension, but it’s decisively not a life or death affair. As Holden explains, “on this one, I wanted to force people into a place of being calm and a little bit off balance. I was messing with silence. I was literally thinking for some of the songs, ‘how do I make this feel more natural?’ And then ***ing with that.”

Which isn't an inherently misguided idea, but in the process, something was lost here, and it certainly wasn’t the lyrics’ craftsmanship. Rather, the lazy open-sounding tunings and lack of effective dynamics in several songs give off the impression that they’re meandering, and to make up for that manipulation in dynamics, the record is interspersed with unnecessary bells and whistles, few of which ever feel like they contribute to something greater than the sum of their parts. The extra snare hits of "Goodness Pt. 2," "You In This Light’s" skippy outro, and the interludes which foreshadow or call back to previous passages all exist for the sake of experimentation and experimentation only, failing to further any vital element to the record’s overall cohesiveness. To make matters more frustrating, Goodness is shamelessly front-loaded with these problems; the spoken-word introduction even guitarist Chris Hoffman has stated he dislikes and the sluggish monotonous beginnings to "Goodness Pt. 2" and "Piano Player" fail to really kick the record off with a bang and think they’re more clever than they actually are, while "Two Deliverances" and the dated "Settle The Scar" settle for being slightly above average indie rock tunes and not much more.

Where Goodness really picks up is the criminally underrated "Opening Mail For My Grandmother;" in addition to conveying one of Holden’s more obvious and relatable sentiments, the music, melodies, and lyrics finally come together as something wholly cohesive and outstanding for the first time on the record. Shortly after, "Soft Animal," already widely lauded as one of the band’s best tracks to date, rises and falls with moving drum work and a chorus refrain about witnessing a deer that somehow feels no less existential than calling in sick to a funeral or sleeping for years on end. "You In This Light" and "Fear of Good," as relatively brief as they are, throw in two of the catchiest moments on the record with contrasting musical extremes, the former one of Goodness’ least predictable tracks, the latter a piano-centered segue into its final cut.

On that note, "End of Reel" (and "Sun" before it) showcase the most potential from The Hotelier yet; upwards of 6 minutes long apiece, these two standouts ebb and flow at a pace that feels more confident and comfortable than draggy and climax into two of the best moments the band has ever penned. "Sun" nearly all but vanishes to a whisper after an opening few minutes of syncopated rhythms and certified emo™ licks only to re-emerge in crashing waves of cathartic melodrama. And for all of the album’s earlier inconsistency, Goodness doesn’t bumble around with its finale - "End of Reel" takes a more subdued entrance and initially lets Holden steal the show before flowing into a marvelous chorus and speeding up for one final grasp of energy. Even with no words, the vulnerability and emotion of these closing moments are practically tangible.

Scattered with good songs and even greater ideas, where Goodness ultimately falters is that it doesn’t effectively feel best listened to as an album - it’s too lopsided, too unnecessarily concerned with tricks the band hasn't mastered yet, and not the ideal step forward in songwriting for the band coming off an almost faultless predecessor. But it’s far from a complete blunder either; the feeling of goodness rarely hits like a bullet train, and for this era of The Hotelier, their charm is in small, universal, and stirring moments, something Goodness retains plenty of, even when the bits that surround them are less than perfect. They’re in the confusingly relaxed urgency of “I don’t know if I know love no more” and the cries of “I couldn’t ask this of you,” among others, and by extension, I’m sure they’ll function as well as intended as a step sideways out of the mist for anyone still reeling from distress. It’s not a permanent fix and there’s no epiphany or revelation here. Goodness just is. I see it and it sees me. And you know what? That’s enough.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ashcrash9
Contributing Reviewer
June 8th 2016


3357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Basically my first time reviewing a current release and something that's already been reviewed here, but I felt my thoughts were different enough from the two reviews this already has. Hope you enjoy it. As always, feedback would be appreciated.

Slex
June 8th 2016


16690 Comments


Can't read right this second cuz I'm about to play some Doom but have a placeholder pos cuz I'm sure it's great. I'll try to leave some feedback for you tomorrow!

Snake.
June 8th 2016


25286 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

doom more like mushroom am i right

Slex
June 8th 2016


16690 Comments


Is accurate Snake
Also I skimmed this and the last paragraph is great Ash!

Crawl
June 8th 2016


2948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I probably agree with this review the most. I also think that the production is mostly lazy and lacks the proper punch.

NorwichScene
June 8th 2016


3300 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review!

Conmaniac
June 8th 2016


27694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wow really good review. I feel like all of your criticisms were fair and well explained. I actually agree with you on almost all of them (except calling Two Deliverances and Settle the Scar "above average indie tunes"). Also the highlights you point out are my favorites as well. I guess the downsides didn't annoy me as much though.

ashcrash9
Contributing Reviewer
June 8th 2016


3357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks for the kind words, guys. Glad you enjoyed it.

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2016


18963 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

great review, dude! I actually think the album loses steam in the second half as opposed to the first but you defended your argument very well. Pos'd

Pajolero
June 8th 2016


1440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Most accurate review. Some tracks I love, some tracks are kinda okay, some just annoy the hell out of me. Really wish I could like this record more.

IamSpaceGhost
June 9th 2016


42 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That last paragraph is aces. Great review

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2016


10289 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Brilliant review. Still really need to check this out, but obviously concerned that it can never live up to its predecessor or the expectations I have unfairly placed on it

Observer
Emeritus
April 22nd 2023


9408 Comments


hmm. Shame people dont love this as much as i do

Onirium
August 17th 2023


3118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I know right? Sometimes I like it even more than Home



Of course Home is a classic at this point, so it's in its own category I guess. But I feel like they just went further in the best direction possible with this. They sound so great (e.g. the whole groove driving Two Deliverances), the production is lush, the melodies and lyrics are beautiful

SomeCallMeTim
August 17th 2023


4276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Think I am about this one more too

Meborphus
October 11th 2023


211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I find myself returning to this more than Home these days. May need to bump the 4 up.

Clefairy
October 11th 2023


295 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Seeing them with Foxing in November, like it’s 2014 all over again

butt.
October 11th 2023


10986 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Now if only they would make some new damn music

Pheromone
January 21st 2024


21443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

been getting much more into this over the last month as i figured it was due a re-check after i had been regularly jamming piano player n soft animal



it's better than i remember, but man some of it sounds so demo-y - even the t/t highlight

Pheromone
January 21st 2024


21443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

bmp tho



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