Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I haven't listened to Home, Like Noplace is There by The Hotelier, but you can sort of tell that it was a dark and harrowing album simply by listening it to the album that came next. Goodness was released earlier this year, and it's a textbook example of a 'morning after the dark night of the soul' album. If you've heard Tomorrow Morning or Daisies of the Galaxy by the Eels, you'll know exactly what I mean; those albums were released after End Times (one of those break-up albums that compares the end of a relationship to the end of the world) and Electro-Shock Blues (a musical memoir of a period during which the songwriter lost his sister to suicide and his mother to cancer) respectively, and both are relatively bright and optimistic, hopeful glimmers of light at the end of two long, dark tunnels.

That's exactly what Goodness is. It has a 'back to nature' hippie commune kinda vibe, thanks in part to the outdoorsy renditions of popular lullaby I See the Moon that serve as interludes and in larger part to the artwork, which features a group of men and women standing naked in a field: 

Fun fact: my copy of the Goodness CD was packaged in a sleeve bearing a censored version of this image, because heaven forfend that anyone should accidentally see a boob or a willy.

Goodness evokes the feeling of going outside and feeling the sun on your skin for the first time in months. It's an album about emerging from a period of isolation and reconnecting, both with the people you love and with the world around you; it's about relocating your place in the universe and learning to love and share and feel at peace again, man.

Now, if the above description has you worried that Goodness is the sort of moonchild campfire stuff you might hear emerging from a cloud of cannabis smoke on a farm run by naturists, you can relax - the songs themselves are absolutely nothing like that. This is muscular rock music that connects with a thud and only reveals its more existential side after repeated listens; here, for example, is the album's kind-of title track, Goodness Pt. 2:

That song instantly reminded me of Built to Spill's excellent Goin' Against Your Mind, largely because of the insistent, womping drum beat that carries it all along. It's an interesting complement to the album's themes, actually; Goodness encourages the listener not only to stay open and receptive to life's good stuff, but also to persevere through all of the bad bits until you come shooting out the other end. That 'keep going' ethos is reflected neatly in the unrelenting drums of Goodness Pt. 2, as well as by several other moments ("Sustain!" sings Mike Mills soundalike Christian Holden again and again over the course of Piano Player).

Goodness offers no easy answers, but with its strong focus on the positive side of nature and interpersonal relationships, it does serve as a rousing reminder that - no matter where you are or what you've been through - life really can be a wonderful thing. Buy it and keep it on your CD rack for times when you forget that.

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