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Album Review: Equivalency by Hotel Books

Hotel Books release their new album Equivalency on 9th February via Hassle Records. Hailing from Porterville, CA, Hotel Books revolves around the spoken-word poetry and lyricism of Cam Smith. Delivering intense, cathartic words over ambient musical soundscapes tinged with indie rock and post-hardcore. Smith uses his high octane vocal delivery as a platform for stories of pain, struggle, and the overall triumph he has found in faith and Love. Smith uses Hotel Books as a vessel to deliver his personal story, collaborating with stellar musicians to bring his words to musical life.

Sitting on the same bench as, but detached from, La Dispute, mewithoutYou and Listener you’ll find Equivalency to be a deeply emotion and visceral listen. There’s something primal and raw about music with spoken word vocals, here Cam Smith utilises his powerful delivery to convey all the hurt, pain and emotion of his poetry.

What makes Hotel Books unique is how the spoken word delivery is teamed with a post-hardcore sound rather than going full hardcore. It results in a baser emotion, the music complementing the vocal. That’s not to say it’s all about the spoken word; ‘Violent Smile’ and the wonderful ‘Celebration’ make full use of Smith singing to sucker you in on the hooks. It’s at these moments when Hotel Books deliver up instantaneous and immediate hooks that rope in the casual listener. A little more effort is required for the surrounding tracks – ‘Van Nuys’ and ‘Fears We Create’ – yet you’ll find them being just as powerful albeit in a different way. Perhaps the spoken word provides the track a touch more gravitas.

What starts off as a strong album takes a bit of dip with ‘I Knew Better, But Did Nothing’ and ‘Take Very Little’. Both tracks fail to convey the power of the preceding tracks, while they aren’t bad you’re just left comparatively numb. ‘Where I Am’ starts to get things back on track before ‘I’m Almost Happy Here’ ramps things up a gear and shines bright as the strongest track on the album.

AD Rating 7/10

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