Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Hotel Year ~ ... it never goes out

(No official website.)
Style: punk, alt rock
Label: Mightier Than Sword Records
Year: 2011
Home: Dudley, Massachusetts

Members: Christian Holden ~ bass/vocals
Zack Shaw ~ guitar/vocals
Chris Hoffman ~ guitar/vocals
Sam Frederick ~ drums


To mark their debut on Mightier Than Sword Records the label has re-issued with new artwork the formerly self-released debut album by the HY. The HY aren't braving too much new musical ground as they share the typical punk rock fare including rhythm-oriented & often raucous guitar playing, wild drums & bass thumping & quasi-hollared vocals shared amongst members. The shared vocal approach is a growing trend in the genre as more often than not bands that don't have a traditional non-instrument playing lead singer suffer from not having the best vocalist & thus the chorus & echo approach by fellow bandmates is welcomed & necessary compensation ... that also has the added benefit of adding new depth to the music. The HY understand this as lead vocal duties are seemingly rotated at will with regular use of vocal effects including echoed backing vocals, small group choirs & even pulling the music back for moments primarily given over to vocals. Though, it also means that part of the songs are traditional punk hollaring while the other half are more crooning, which leads to lumping the songs into the more predictable punk fare & then the more unpredictable interesting stuff. Further, when they abandon the hollar approach the crooning is far better tonally than what a lot of their peers offer. One can tell that at least one of the singers in the HY is actually trying to do something beyond kill the vocal chords. Every person has their natural singing voice, whether that's good or bad is irrelevant to the point, & then there's the voice they create to sing with, such as falsetto or screaming. The HY need to work more with their natural voices because the tones are full, rich & stronger, instead of being top of the range & clipped which is what screaming essentially creates. But as for what they're hollaring the lyrics paint a melancholly story, as some of the nine song titles belay: "Our Lives Would Make A Sad, Boring Movie", "Vacancy", "Lonely Hearts Club", "Weathered", "I'm Gone" & "... It Never Goes Out (There Is A Light)". One almost wants the boys to get out of the basement or garage they probably rehearse in so they have some happier material to draw upon ... but, on one hand this is what young listeners want to hear as they are sharing the same feelings of alienation & loneliness, while at least the HY are drawing upon their actual feelings & not throwing out vacant songs of girls & partying as has dominated so much of rock of the last few decades. Sad emotions also provides better song fodder with a more realistic slant. "You can't fix me, cause I'm so burned down" from "Vacancy" pretty much says it all for teenage angst. One thing the HY have that sets them apart is is that they look like four young guys playing rock'n'roll, instead of being covered in tattoos with long hair & looking like every typical punk band on the scene. It's nice seeing a band that looks normal that the non-tattoo'd constituency can relate to. Not every so-called punk, or post-punk or alt punk, band has to look as anti-social as possible. The Clash started off looking normal & it worked for them & might have been in their favor for reaching a wider audience. The HY not just don't look anti-social they also don't sound that way. The music may still be more dependent on rhythms then flashy leads, as is typical of the genre, but the songs move from rushed to laid back to sometimes vearing off in unexpected directions even including a bit of from country-esque flavorings ("Lonely Hearts Club") to blues harmonica (i.e. "Weathered"). It's a delightful & welcomed change of pace from punk bands that have to attack everything & don't realize punk is an attitude not a thrashy speed. Actually, it's quite shocking that a handful of the songs tend to have a more laid back sound than one might expect. Along with working with the vocals more work can be done on the song endings. Most of them tend to end a bit abruptly almost as if someone is holding a stop watch at three minutes. It would be enjoyable to hear songs stretched out a bit more, allowing more room for experimentation, even if it does verge more on jam rock than punk. But, really, punk is a misnomer for the HY as that might potentially alienate some listeners who would enjoy their musical variety. Two songs, "An Ode To The Nite Ratz Club" & "Weathered", that are highly recommended listens do a very un-punk thing by putting more emphasis on the haunting story-esque lament belayed by the lyrics than the music.



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