Monday, March 06, 2006

CD of the Day, 3/6/06: Hotel Lights-Hotel Lights

Hotel Lights is the solo project of ex-Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee. And before you think it might simply be a case of Jessee trading on his Folds association, keep in mind that Jessee pretty much wrote the band's biggest hit, the 1998 megasmash "Brick", to which Folds added some lyrics. So it's no surprise that Hotel Lights sounds like the work of a unique artist, rather than a mere sideman.

Unlike the manic Folds, Jessee turns things down a notch or two on Hotel Lights. This is more the lush pop sound of the Pernice Brothers or Elliott Smith than what you remember from the Five, and the first two tracks tell you that you're not in Kansas (or at least North Carolina) any more. "You Come and I Go" is a beautiful mellow 70s AM-type track, almost reminiscent of how Bread might have sounded had they come up in today's indie scene. And just in case such a comparison didn't leap to your mind, the next song, "AM Slow Golden Hit" will make it for you. A great track (which alert readers will note I featured as my "song of the day" a couple of days ago), Jessee namedrops songs like "Rocket Man" and "Walking on Sunshine" while crooning "soft rock on the radio/everything comes 'round again", essentially describing his own sound. He summons up some of the old BFF attitude in "Small Town Shit", while cranking things up a bit on the organ-driven "Marvelous Truth".

It's really a great debut, and it actually first appeared in the late summer of 2004 as a self-released disc. They recently signed with Bar/None, who is giving it a proper label release tomorrow, and they're playing SXSW later this month. Here's the SXSW-approved mp3:

AM Slow Golden Hit

Here are some more places to listen: Very high-quality streams of "AM Slow Golden Hit", "You Come and I Go" and two others at their site; a lesser quality stream of "Anatole" at their myspace page, and 2-minute samples of the rest at cd baby. While poring over their site, I notice that they've also just released an EP titled goodnightgoodmorning available here (with mp3s). Yes, I've already sent them my $8.

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