Review Summary: I'll give this album a shot just in case
In an era of emo where every band is making ironic and detached music, Hotel Books should be a breath of fresh air. The world needs their hyper sincerity with bands like dAd ClOsEt!!!!1 dominating the scene with songs such as “i am at the beach with all my FRIENDS and am definitely not sad”. Hotel Books are in prime position to recapture the spirit of a dying scene. They’re one of the few emo bands left that don’t feel like they need to add aloof and sarcastic framing to their songs about sadness and longing. Hotel Books proudly play in melancholic music, and vocalist Cam Smith belts out honest to god poetry. Hotel Books would be the answer if only they didn’t make frustratingly terrible music.
Hotel Books rely on spoken word/shouted vocals. It’s their signature, and it’s also their downfall. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this approach if done effectively. Listener and Mark Kozelek come to mind, as does HB’s best album Run Wild, Young Beauty
. But even at their best, they’re messy, Cam does not have an endearing voice, one that can carry an entire album, and more importantly, his lyrics are cheesy and sophomoric.
It's abusive to live life just to avoid pain / But put in a corner, an emotional hoarder / It feels more like a game to jump to conclusions / When was the last time you chased after pleasure? / When you talk to yourself about the future, and not just the weather? / Where you can find a vapid way to put it into practice, without feeling so plastic
Death is real, I don't need an augmentation of the way that I think / It's easy to feel its embrace when your hands are on the edge of a cliff, looking at the brink of your own defeat / And you're afraid of real failure, so you live for fake success / You try to trace behavior in your own tattered dress / Hoping you'll be in a pine box long enough to feel alive / The irony is that it's the only way that we can still fight
And it’s hard to hate because it’s brave, it’s some of the most sincere and passionate lyrics out there, but those qualities alone do not make good lyrics. Cam has no better musings about life and death than your average freshman philosophy major. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cam’s writing process was to write down every thought that comes into his head and call it a day. It’s a believable theory in the context of some truly bizarre lyrics.
You're not a martyr for burning yourself at the stake / You're a firestarter, learning nothing from your mistakes / You make mistakes / And I don't need to be told how you perceive my reality when I'm simply living in it / So keep your propaganda to yourself / I don't want to hear someone else's words from you, just because you once fell for it / It's so selfish / 'Cause loving someone is like having a / Suitcase around your neck / And every time you fall apart or fight you're throwing another brick in it / And eventually it's too heavy for you to carry 'cause it weighs you down / So you say, "I'm sorry" / Which has no meaning / It's just another sound to you
All the passion in the world can’t save you from lyrics that bad.
The music itself is nothing special, it’s there because it has to be there, accompaniment for the vocals. I prefer the more technical guitar driven stuff Hotel Books occasionally pull off on other records, while this album is creepingly slow and more electronic-based instrumentaly. Fairly standard chord progressions and reverb-soaked chords and arpeggios represent the more tolerable aspect of the band’s sound. The worst elements are the keyboard, electronic drums, and odd alien-esque pitch-shifted vocals - components that all detract from the spoken word lyrics. After a couple albums of improvement, I’ll Leave the Light On Just In Case
is far and away Hotel Books worst record musically.
I’ll Leave the Light On Just In Case
Is not a miserable experience, but it’s a highly puzzling one. The regression and meandering experimentation hamper a band I at one point believed had the potential to break through. It’s almost a much-needed balance to “dude, bro” emo, but there’s nothing to latch on to - the lyrics are too cliche and strange and the music is too bland. I’m rooting for these guys, but five mediocre albums in and I think it’s safe to say they just don’t have “it”. And it’s a real shame because this level of sincerity is exactly what emo needs right now, but a dud is a dud.