Hightide Hotel – Naturally

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Hightide Hotel

Naturally - Count Your Lucky Stars Records

Hightide Hotel is yet another one of those bands featuring a lackluster vocalist hiding his uneven tone behind the guise of the contemporary “emo revival.”  The Philadelphia three-piece builds their latest full length, Naturally, around the familiar combination of jangly indie-grade tempos and indulgent noodly guitar tangents.  When it comes to vision and direction though, the trio’s middling execution gets them in trouble along the way.  A messy combination of problematic production and unremarkable personality makes for a final product with little sense of of direction, progress or high points to speak of.

At the crux of the issue rests a rather confusing vocal imbalance.  The album’s mixing is uneven at best, with the vocals taking an unexplained back seat to pretty much everything else.  The result is a song like “An Absence Felt,” in which the lyrics hold almost no weight.  The choice to place riffs and drum beats to the foreground and relegate vocals to the backdrop ensures that the already wiry and uneven vocal performance leaves much to be desired.  Even with repeated effort and concentration listeners will be hard pressed to tune into anything that Dave Sampson and Ben Schmidt spout out.  Perhaps the content holds some merit if reviewed on a lyrics sheet, but otherwise Hightide Hotel’s message is completely overshadowed in all but the most minimalist moments (slight vocal bridges in “Sigh” reminiscent of acoustic Into It. Over It. for instance).

Only a very small minority of Naturally comes across as worth tuning in to.  Two tracks come to mind: “Cosmos” and “Vertigo Chamber.”  That’s about it.  The former uses a tinge of vocal static to distort the performance into cool and calculated strings of robotic vocal arcs.  The latter becomes notable if only because of a (very) faint likeness to Senses Fail that just tends to pop out during the chorus.  Neither of those fleeting likenesses are a great foundation to rely upon.  The title track also has a solid minute or so off fairly epic, sweeping “woahs,” but it’s too short lived to make a lasting impact.

Unless you’re heavily invested in this scene, Naturally is one of those album’s you can listen to over and over and will find your mind wandering time after time.  Even with aspirations of melding math elements with punk and indie, very little distinguishes the record’s beginning, middle and end, making Naturally a confused mess.  Hightide Hotel has made no secret that their sophomore effort also serves as their swan song.  To that I say: what a disappointing way to go out.