It’s been three years since the release of the band’s critically acclaimed sophomore record Firecracker People and now Hotel Lights are gearing up for the release of their highly anticipated new album, Girl Graffiti, on Bar/None Records on August 16th.
Hotel Lights, featuring singer-songwriter and former Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee (vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards), recorded Girl Graffiti with guitarist/engineer Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse, A Camp), Jay Brown (bass) and Zeke Hutchins (drums), both of Tift Merritt’s band, at The Sound of Music in Richmond, VA. The new record has the spirit of a live recording, but with a graceful, polished delivery—a testament to the musicianship and sound these four seasoned players have created together over the years.
North Carolina native/Brooklyn-resident Jessee made Girl Graffiti with no pressure, only wanting to please his fiercely loyal fan base, his longtime band and himself. Most songs and vocals were tracked live in the summer, some with the band having just learned them moments before, like the gently stunning “My Own Cloud.” Others were finished in the cold of winter, like the album’s Rhodes-driven ballad “Super 8mm,” a true standout track where Jessee paints lyrical pictures that begin with an apropos mention of freshly fallen snow.
The title track of Girl Graffiti is lush-pop perfection, with steadily driving verses and a richly orchestrated chorus, all led by Jessee’s blissfully understated vocals. Longtime fans of Hotel Lights will enjoy some of the looser, seemingly off-the-cuff tracks like “Dave Sharkey to the Dance Floor,” “Through The Crowd” and “All My Asshole Friends” with their nostalgic vibe and sing-along bent (for “All My Asshole Friends”, Jessee and Weatherhead enlisted a live horn section to playfully romp up the verses). In addition to horns, there’s a subtle presence of strings throughout the album, adding even more poetic beauty to a band that innately possesses so much of it already. Girl Graffiti is an album that’s decidedly relaxed and exquisitely shimmering—all at once.
Jessee, who WXPN’s Bruce Warren called Ben Folds Five’s “secret weapon”, formed Hotel Lights in 2003 after many years writing songs, playing drums, and touring in the trio. He co-wrote some of Ben Folds Five’s biggest hits including “Brick” and “Song For the Dumped” as well as writing the tender ballad “Magic” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. In his own band, Hotel Lights have had their songs featured in hit TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill) and a major motion picture Baby Mama.
In 2006, Hotel Lights released their self-titled debut record on Bar/None Records, which was followed up by the 2008 release of Firecracker People, to an enthusiastic response from fans and the media.
Hotel Lights have developed a loyal following for their lilting pop sensibilities and sumptuous melodies. At heart, Girl Graffiti is a rock record with majestic soundscapes, melodic ease and sigh-inducing lyrics that have Hotel Lights written all over it.
Bar None Records 2011