LP Review; Hotel Books: “Equivalency”

“From Porterville” starts with a recorded track of a woman speaking of leaving and heartbreak as a simple melodic line builds in intensity and in dynamics. Soon after the singer’s characteristic vocals enter at a progressive yet relaxed speed. The content of the singer’s style is a spoken word method that rides on the fluctuation of the voice paired with the varying of pitch and dynamics. The background music to this track is very minimal: it contains simple melodic lines that repeat in a motivic way paired with a snare drum that mimics the marching style of playing. As the song reaches its end, there is a quick moment of silence followed by the singer’s last lyrics in isolation: “but I didn’t choose you”.

“Van Nuys” starts with an instrumental feature that is driven by a gentle guitar melody that rises and falls musically throughout the song as the content remains contained. The singer provides the same technique of singing; however, as the band reaches the chorus of the song, the vocalist switches to a rawer technique, for it sounds as if he is stretching out his words as he is borderline yelling without screaming. As the band reaches the middle of the selection, the guitar switches to a steady strumming pattern as the singer provides the audience with the first clean sung verse of the album. Towards the end of the work, the band provides a snippet of a similar recording to the first selection; after that, the band comes in heavy with louder instrumental methods and vocals. It was pleasing to hear the band include a few moments of “standard” vocals in this work, for it gives the listeners a moment of familiarity in terms of music provided by other artists they (might) listen to, but it also shows them that this artist has the ability to pull off both styles.

“Violent Smile” starts with a recording that sounds like a computer program reading off a simple monologue about romantic relationships. The instrumental material that is presented works with the technique of minimalism within music. To further, the band keeps the guitar part contained within its range and rhythm, and it remains rather static throughout the song. The percussive part is provided to set the steady pulse and help to maintain the groove of the song. The vocals of this work switch back-and-forth between the three different techniques that the vocalist has provided through the previous tracks on the album. Near the end of the selection, there is a small instrumental feature that drives on a tranquil vibe, and this is conveyed through its lack of complexity, but it is pleasing to the ear. The selection concludes with the same recording voice, who concludes the story she introduces in the first few bars of the song.

“Celebration” starts with vocals from the first beat of the selection. The instrumental music of this track shocks the listener because it has an upbeat undertone to it, and this technique sets a relaxed groove that is similar to the grooves presented by other artists in the scene. The vocalist mainly utilizes his natural singing voice throughout the song. The lyrical content of this song is overly memorable, and the way that it is presented makes audience members want to learn them quickly. As the band moves to the second verse, they provide more of their characteristic vocals before crashing back into the chorus. Towards the end of the song, the band toys with the technique of minimalism once more to make the final chorus more powerful as it is played with the full ensemble. This is a foreseen favorite of the album because it memorable, and it provides the audience with an innovative interpretation of the music they’ve come to know and love.

“Fears We Create” features Chase Huglin and starts with a recording set in the similar style of the others, but this one is only brief, for the vocalist enters in quickly after with a sweet melodic idea before falling into his normal spoken word style. As the song progress, the instrumental material falls back into the single semi-tone driven contour that shapes the phrases through the rising and falling of dynamics. The chorus of this selection is beautiful, for the vocals are pure and sang sweetly overtop a well-written chord progression that sounds simply graceful. This will likely be a favorite of the album, for it is different than everything else presented on the album, and it has an overly pleasing tone to it.

 “I Knew Better, but Did Nothing” starts with vocals on the first downbeat of the song. The instrumental content focuses on a quicker pace compared to the rest of the album, which helps to progress the song forward. The vocalist utilizes the spoken word technique for the verses and regular vocals for the chorus. As the song progresses, it can be heard that the band includes different instrumental content within the percussion section, for the content appears to be played on a single toned drum, which helps to forward the music through its minimalistic nature. At the end of the song, the selection fades to nothing, and then out of nowhere, the vocalist enters in with his spoken word style in a loud gesture and pulls us in until the actual finish of the work.

“Take Very Little” features Chris Bernstorf and starts with the vocalist sharing a story to the audience with background music that is driven through electronics and instrumental semi-tones that grow and fade to help keep the listeners engaged throughout the story. As we reach the halfway point of the selection, the content of the beginning all remains the same: the vocalist just continues to convey his story to the audience. As the song moves forward, the singer utilizes the different inflections in his voice to help drive the different emotions of the story that are being discussed. Towards the end of the selection, the featured artist joins into the story and adds another layer on top of it, which adds variety to the work. This style of a song is a very interesting inclusion for the album. The vocalist uses the same characteristic vocal technique as he does in the previous selections; however, it is simplified, so it feels as if he is just talking to the audience. This inclusion shows the audience another side of the artist, but the audience could lose focus on the song quickly, for there isn’t much more than him talking provided.

 “Where I Am” starts with a single tone that evolves into a chill groove established by a simple guitar motive and the heavy ictus driven percussion part. The singer starts with his normal technique, but he then shifts to a style where he is yelling the lyrics, and the audience can hear his voice almost crack with each word that is said in that style. As the lyrics shift in emotion, the vocalist shifts his style to morph to that feel. In the middle of the song, the band drops in dynamics for the vocalist to enter again with a faint cry to his voice. After this entrance, the vocalist builds in intensity with hard hits being provided by the instrumental section. The band provides a deceptive moment to the audience, for they build up this grand section to lead the audience to believe it’ll result in this huge instrumental feature, and it simply falls back to its pre-stated groove from the beginning.

“I’m Almost Happy Here” starts with the band’s overly standard sound that they’ve conveyed throughout the entire album thus far. The instrumental material is minimal driven through small motives, and the vocalist utilizes spoken word technique that pushes and pulls with time. As the song moves forward, the band adds and subtracts instrumentation to allow some lyrical passages to stand out compared to the rest. In terms of the vocal content, the vocalist drags out words at times, which foreshadows the elongation of vocal technique that is featured later in the selection. In the middle of the work, the instrumental section picks up pace and quickly finds a groove to help drive to the end of the selection as the vocals grow in intensity and lead to the final words that were screamed: “God, forgive me”.

“With Love” starts with the recorded voice that is provided on previous tracks on the album. Again, the electronic voice is referring to the relationship that has been in topic the entire album. The instrumental material is pleasing to the ear as it shifts between single note passages and small chords, but the contour of the line remains rather static, and the content stays dormant with its range. This song provides no vocals other than the computer-programmed voice. This is a strong conceptional choice for the final song, but a very poor musical choice. Yes, the computer voice concluded and resolves the underlying story that drove the content of the album, but the whole last track has nothing to do with the characteristic sound that was well established on every other track.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I give this album 3.5 out of 5 stars. I am giving this album such a score for a few reasons. First off, the vocalist’s style is something completely new for the scene, which is refreshing, but when the vocalist utilizes his standard vocals paired with his spoken word technique it’s such a beautiful pairing, and there wasn’t enough of that connection for me. Also, a lot of the content on this album isn’t musically interesting, and pretty much every song sounded the same, musically speaking. This doesn’t make the album bad by any means, it just makes it less memorable. Furthermore, if you are looking for an album that will make you rethink about relationships and hit you right in the heartstrings, as you sing/talk along with emotive passion, this is the album for you!

*”Equivalency” was released on October 27, 2017 through InVogue Records.




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