My favorite Hotels track, “Near the Desert, Near the City,” is a sad song. Reverb sick guitars carve huge minor chord tunnels while singer Blake Madden whisper-mopes, “I just got invited to a party/ but I don't really want to go/ if someone there will miss my presence/ tell me so.” The song opens into a powerful, wordless chorus, one that aches. Hotels is a good name for a band this melancholy.
Of course there will be haters, and even I find myself asking, “Is this what the Cure sing karaoke to when they are too drunk and nostalgic to be self-conscious?” Hotels yearn for a semi-imaginary "the eighties" when sad sack synth pop led teenagers to nurse electro arpeggios gently. There is the in-my-bedroom-alone “Atlantic” which employs a bleary-eyed glockenspiel hook and Vangelis synths. Do Hotels like Joy Division? “Port of Saints” answers that question definitively. Yes, Hotels like Joy Division.
But if rock music can't connect to depressed teenagers why have rock music at all? Hotels imbue their songs with therapy session empathy: They're sharing their sadness to connect with others, not wallow, and there's something pretty lovable about that.
“Hydra” is downright huggable, bursting into an ascending vocal rush and it becomes clear that Hotels are open about their sadness, open about their influences and open to the fact that a pop song can be great and derivative.
Hotels play the Sunset Tavern Tonight.