It’s always refreshing when an artist puts a fresh spin on a well-worn formula. In the case of Hotel Lights, the folky acoustic guitar songwriter is still at the center of Girl Graffiti, but he’s been complemented by a whole bevy of instruments that fill up the sound and allow each song to leave a distinguishing mark. Strings swirl, spiral, and fall. Electric guitars are used in both short bursts and full-blown melodies. Piano keys twinkle in and out. In the middle of all this are the steady acoustic riffs and beautifully sung vocals of Darren Jessee.
From the get-go, eccentric elements come into play for each song. “Falling Down” opens the record with a breezy, summer guitar that’s linked with occasional electric discharges, building up a subtle volume shift in the chorus that’s just noticeable enough without breaking the flow. “Girl Graffiti” arrives to the sound of violins tuning, and surefire drums pump up the guitars as sublime strings linger in the background. “My Pretty Quirk” is a rougher cut; the upbeat number is plugged-in for the most part, breaking out into crunchy riff and elegant post-chorus melodies.
Everything really comes together on the duo of “Dave Sharkey to the Dance Floor” and “Super 8MM”. The former has Christmas-y strings that play a deep, floating arrangement, while the latter’s mournful keys are reminiscent of “Let It Be” and the vocals barely reach above a whisper. Together, the songs give off the feeling of a dark, cold winter night.
All the songs on this album are straightforward and simple, but rich in melody, arrangement, and texture. It’s an excellent journey that feels both familiar and brand new at the same time. Definitely a pleasant treat that’s worth checking out.