Conor Byrne, that beloved Ballard pub normally informed by folk and Americana, becomes a hotbed of noir-informed musical intrigue Friday night. Seattle band Hotels takes to the stage, and I won’t mince words: You really should go.
Night Showers, the most recent release from the band, wound up being one of my most cherished album crushes of 2016 (how cherished? See here and here). Simply put, it’s one of the most sophisticated and beguiling pop records to sprout from this neck of the woods in, well, a damned long time.
The lion’s share of that sophistication can be credited to Hotels lead singer/bassist/principal songwriter Blake Madden, a New York expat who’s made Seattle his home for over a decade. With Night Showers, Madden draws from Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, The The, and Burt Bacharach among others, guiding his rotating cast of musical conspirators through dark, rich, and thrilling songs that combine baroque pop, new wave, jazz, surf music, and cinematic atmosphere. As I’ve said before, Night Showers is the sound of Seattle on a Friday night, when it’s thrumming with life and the promise of the weekend rests in the palm of the city’s proverbial hand.
Friday night’s show is ostensibly a celebration of the band’s new video for the Night Showers track, “Linnette,” a sleekly soulful, vibraphone-seasoned tune bolstered by a cooking bed of female vocals (courtesy members of Wiscon and the late, great NighTrain). What’ll make this particular set special will be its acknowledgment of the rest of the band’s history.
Hotels have been emphasizing Night Showers’ continental lushness since resuming live gigs late last year, replete with the horns and strings that inform so much of the new record. But it’s the stripped down edition of Hotels that’ll be playing Friday for the first time in a goodly while.
For a little over a decade, Hotels have also been a post-punk band par excellence, crafting taut new wave tracks that are equal parts atmospheric, insidiously catchy, and pogo-worthy danceable. It’s a sound that packs some serious snap and crackle live, with Madden’s nimble bass and Max Wood’s driving drums leading the rhythmic charge.
The stripped-down Hotels lineup has always worn its influences on its well-tailored sleeve. There’s slashing guitar pop a la The Cure in 2012’s compulsive “Spider Pardy,” and coiled, menacing goth informs “Underburg.” If you’re looking for epic shoegazer pop with guitars that do their best impersonation of restless waves crashing against cliffsides, prepare to be summarily captivated by “Near the Desert, Near the City.” And Hotels nail sleek new-romantic dance music with tracks like “Trouble at the Consulate.” The band adroitly balances that familiarity with propulsive energy and Madden’s oft-poetic, sometimes wry lyrical sensibility—a can’t-miss swirl of the old and new.
It’s also a bill more than stacked enough to warrant showing up early. Nearby, the latest project from Dust Moth member/Erik Blood collaborator Irene Barber, opens, and the middle slot’s occupied by Animal Camera, a magnificently daft low-fi stew of psych-rock and spastic new wave. Madden himself (AKA Doc Blammer) will even be warming things up with a pre-show DJ slot. Bring your dancing shoes.