Hotelier – ‘Goodness’ Review

Posted: by Colin

The Hotelier refuse to adhere to societal standards and musical conventions which they deem oppressive, and this has shaped their views on: schooling, politics, gender roles, and songwriting. Goodness is The Hotelier’s third full-length release and second on indie powerhouse Tiny Engines. The album is the follow-up to Home, Like NoPlace Is There, a release that was vigorously adored, and was pulsing with emotion and overflowing with catharsis. Home was the epitome of the band meshing emo and alternative together, and in the process perfecting both, but Goodness is a reinvention of the sound.

Goodness has themes of serenity, peace, belonging, and harmony inspired by Holden’s Taoist beliefs. These themes are depicted in the album’s artwork, lyrics, and uplifting chords. However, Goodness is not idealistic or as overwhelmingly happy as it appears to be. Its depth develops as Holden addresses life’s duality by alluding to opposites: summer and winter, the sun and the moon. These pairings are riddled throughout Goodness to show that even the most comfortable feelings are temporary, dynamic moments. This premise is most memorably executed in ‘Piano Player’, ‘Soft Animal’, and ‘Sun’ where multiple, overlapping juxtapositions are used with long spanning metaphors. 

‘Piano Player’ follows ‘Goodness Part 2’, the album’s true introduction. The opening track, ‘Coordinates 1’ is a brief poem written and recited by Holden. The recitation is highlighted by its rawness, as you can hear Holden ruffling his notes. In similar fashion to one of my all time favorite records, The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path by The Early November, where the band used spoken word to give context to the twenty-plus songs that were just digested, The Hotelier use spoken word to give pretext to help the listener navigate what is about to occur. The majority of ‘Goodness Part 2’ is an interestingly abrupt few minutes, as Holden’s lyrical patterns do not follow the drums’ beats, in an intentionally disorienting way. Yet, when the song opens up and explodes into a fearsome guitar solo it becomes one of the album’s most ferocious songs. 

The opening five minutes are the album’s most experimental and ambitious, ‘Piano Player’ is an even-keel fives minutes helping to soothe the album into a more traditional state. It features a menacing riff and repeating “sustain” throughout the song’s entirety that creates an enormous and elongated chorus not dissimilar to Manchester Orchestra, a band that prides themselves on writing huge sounding choruses. Finally, the song produces one of the album’s best lyrical sequences, “The things you grow are set to die, you cling to them with knuckles white. So wind me up, damper to floor, and I don’t know if I know love no more.

Another aspect that contributes to the strength of Goodness is its own self-awareness. If Home was about going through tenuous and seemingly everlasting difficulties and Goodness is about tranquility and peace, then in order to learn, accept, and make sense of the past it needs to be remembered. These memories are subtle Easter eggs throughout the album. Birds were a theme on Home’s ‘Introduction to the Album’ and they reappear on ‘Goodness Part 2’. Postcards were mentioned on Home’s ‘Discomfort Revisited’ and on Goodness’s short ballad, ‘Opening Mail for my Grandmother’. And there’s even an allusion to their first full-length, It Never Goes Out, the last song on that album is sub-titled ‘There is a Light’ and Goodness has a song titled “You In This Light” – both songs are arguably both album’s most positive and peppy songs. 

The album’s swan songs ‘Two Deliverances’ and ‘Sun’ are logical progressions of what made Home outstanding. Both songs contain crunching riffs that kick each song into gear. ‘Two Deliverances’ is about trying to be honest with someone you care deeply for, but having anxiety over it and therefore being acutely aware of your surroundings. The setting is detailed at the start of each verse, “The icons cluttering your bureau are eyeing me as I walk in” / “A drapery of clashing fabrics in every corner of your room. They hung like lace on the whitewashed face of the walls that are begging you to move.” The song burns patiently until it stops, then slowly rebuilds and reaches a peak over Holden’s most relatable string of lyrics on Goodness, “Do I hear your tunes or acknowledge wounds that I got from rubbing elbows with a sharpened edge? But if I choose this too does it count as my move? I can’t drop my history just to become new.” 

In contrast, ‘Sun’ is an athematic six minutes where clashing Midwestern toned guitars compete against each other. The song takes nearly five minutes to peak, as it is the slowest building but most satisfying song on the album. The significance of “Sun” throughout the album is feeling the warmth of another person, similar to the feeling one would get while sunbathing. But, the sun eventually sets, akin to a relationship’s honeymoon period as the initial excitement wears off to become, “twin firing machines spending all their energy. If it’s you undone, then I can’t sit with you. And it’s you undone and I can’t sit in your sun.

It’s very rare to feel like an album will be among my personal all time favorite records. Goodness is maybe the 5th album I’ve felt this way about. The skill of the musical performances – from vocal approach to guitar work and drumming are exceptional. Unlike a majority of records to be released recently, the album’s length and sequencing does not hinder its potential, it adds to it, and it listens like a story – full of ebbs and flows like a plot line. Most bands find one mood they feel comfortable writing in and stick to it. The remarkable thing about The Hotelier is that they found a mood, anguish, which was wildly successful on Home, and then challenged themselves to write an album in a new state of mind. With Goodness, The Hotelier have proven that they can write extraordinary songs around any mood, feeling, or state of being, and that’s what makes the album so profound.  I feel I can only give this album a perfect score, because I could not have asked for more.


You can order Goodness from Tiny Engines here!