Album review and features

Dork-rock fans around the world were shattered by the sudden demise of Ben Folds Five in 2000. On the bright side, this event allowed band-member Darren Jessee to step away from the drum kit and spread his songwriting wings. Based on the excellent debut from Jessee’s band, Hotel Lights, his wingspan may be large enough to overshadow even the mighty Ben Folds in time.

While Ben Folds Five made an art of drawing in listeners with their cheese-filled, tongue-in-cheek anthems, Hotel Lights takes a more serious and somber approach. Hotel Lights’ debut album primarily consists of reflective ballads with catchy melodies. Jessee’s mellow vocals, which are reminiscent of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, accentuate the overall melancholy mood. Lyrically, Jessee explores the mix of emotions associated with broken relationships, from confusion (“Anatole”), to regret (“Miles Behind Me”), to drunken ambivalence (“Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues”). One of the standout tracks is “Follow Through,” a beautiful yet painful take on the timeless theme of “if you love someone, set them free—even if it hurts like hell.” Throughout the album, the lyrics are well-written and poignant—they have an instant accessibility and universality that draw in the listener.

The album’s slow vibe is uplifted by a few songs with faster tempos, including “I Am a Train,” “What You Meant,” and “Marvelous Truth.” These tracks are as melodic as the album’s slower songs and Jessee’s vocal styling helps these songs blend with the overall reflective tone of the record. Hotel Lights is also an excellent live band with the talent to go far in the music business—look out Ben.

PIGEONHOLE: Somber alterna-pop with catchy melodies and reflective lyrics.
CAVEATS: Although this album is an indie release, the music may sound a little too commercial (read: polished) for some listeners.


It’s time for a little “edumacation,” Sloppy style. In the new millennium, many threats face our fragile–yet still rockin’–democracy. Some see Bushy #2 as the biggest threat to the existence of our musical nation. I can’t argue with this one, but I can’t dwell on it too much either–I’ll either start crying, start breaking shit, or both. You don’t want to see Sloppy cry. It’s ugly with a capital “G,” baby. Of course, breaking shit is fun–as long as it’s your shit. Breaking other people’s shit is a crime, so don’t do it. Although Bushy #2 could bring the whole free world down with him, maybe we should just be thankful that Tipper G. isn’t slapping “explicit lyrics” warning stickers on our assholes right now. (Dear Al G., you know I love you, but keep your wife off Sloppy’s First Amendment).

Others see Darth Vader as the new American–dare I say “galactic”–threat. If you feel this way, I would recommend hitting yourself in the face, readjusting your dental headgear, curling back up with your Ewok doll, and going back to sleep. If you still feel this way after all that, please see Star Wars Episode VI again–Vader gets the shaft, so there’s nothing to worry about until Cheney gets elected. Fear the Wookie in 2008. At least, this occurrence will give Lucas some new material for the next series of movies.

Although Bushy #2, Vader, and the Wookie are all good candidates, Sloppy’s here to tell you that the scenester butt monkey is the biggest threat to our rockin’ democracy and all of our musical youths (pass the Dutchie, baby!). If I had a scenester butt monkey right now that could speak into a microphone he might sound like this (note that it’s hard to get them to speak because they get very focused on staring at their shoes and sniffing their pits).

Get over it! You’re still that same socially dysfunctional nerd that you were in high school–I don’t care if you hung out with Jeff Tweedy backstage, you moron. Be kind and compassionate to others (You dip shit–don’t make me kick your pathetic ass, because I’ll get thrown in jail! And Sloppy doesn’t do well in jail). Please? What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

Butt monkeys of the world unite! Redeem thyself. Lose your “loser” tag. Reach out and touch someone in a place that won’t get you arrested. The heart, man, I’m talking about the heart! Share your love of music with others. Embrace others with your musical knowledge–don’t use it as a vehicle to snub. Be open to the musical preferences of others. Even if it hurts your ears, love it for the fact that it has enabled someone else to make a connection to music, the rhythm of life. So many people don’t have any connection to music. And that’s just sad.

So go now, misguided scenester butt monkeys, and use your musical powers for good. Put your dental headgear back on and go back to sleep. Dream of musical harmony in the galaxy–Wookies and Ewoks dance happily in the forests of Endor, as Leia caresses your light saber. Sweet dreams, young Jedis.