Review Summary: A blatant cash grab meant to seem much deeper than it is by an artist that continually preaches about maintaining the authenticity of art.
Hotel Books is a spoken word emo band fronted by poet Cameron Smith. They used to incorporate heavier post-hardcore elements into their sound before cooling it down a good bit on their last album Equivalency
. Hotel Books has always been a complicated project for me, because they have some songs I really love and Cameron is a very genuine person, and an amazing poet, but it all seems a bit over the top to me a lot of the time. The melodrama is turned all the way up on some of their songs and for as good the lyrics are they don't connect with me enough to justify it. Going into this I was expecting to be divided on it, like I usually am with his albums, and that is pretty much what happened.
What I didn't expect, however was ***ing trap beats. Yeah... That caught me off guard. Surprisingly enough though, they aren't that bad. I know on paper it sounds horrible, but the somber guitar riffs mixed with the understated trap beats actually work quite nicely. If there is one thing this album has going for it, it's the mood and atmosphere. This album sounds like a cold, lonely autumn morning, and the album cover reflects that. If there's one track I can really get behind, it's the opener titled "Just How I Feel"
. It's sad, bad it's not overly dramatic, it's melancholy and breazy. It's catchy as well, which I feel like is something Hotel Books has always had problems with. There's one other track on the album I like called "Your Voice"
, but even with that one I'm struggling. Parts of it are great and parts of it make me cringe beyond belief.
Possibly the biggest problem with this album is these weird auto-tuned and pitch shifted clean vocals scattered throughout the tracklist. Gross misuse of auto-tune is one thing, the pitch shifting is what really ***s up songs that would've otherwise been good. I mean he goes from like chipmunk vocals to super low vocals in a matter of seconds and it doesn't make any sense. It's especially baffling because there are clean vocals on here without grotesque amounts of auto-tune that sound perfectly fine, so why the obnoxious vocal effects? They ruin perfectly good songs like "Death is a Terrifying Thing"
and "Just How I Feel, Pt. 3"
. Another issue is that the lyrics go into some very unnecessary territory that really add nothing to the songs. Just pointless details, emphasis in all the wrong places. When I first noticed this it didn't bother me too much, because I thought back to a post Cameron made on Instagram talking about how he made this album for him, not for others. I thought about how in several of his songs, including songs on this very album, he goes on these tangents about how if you make art for the consumer the art you're making is hollow and not a reflection of yourself but what someone else wants you to be. I thought about that, i figured it excused the more specific seemingly pointless lyrics here and there, but then it hit me. He put trap beats on this emo record. You know what's really big right now? Emo trap. So convenient that he decided to throw trap beats on this album when that genre is at its peak. Look, I can't be certain he's doing this for a cash grab, but that's sure what it looks like. Pander all you want, but don't you dare try to make it seem more deep than it is.