As we previewed in our Artist of the Week and subsequent interview, we’re pretty excited about the new Gold Motel record. The Chicago-natives took singer’s Greta Morgan’s experiences in Southern California and made a pretty successful record despite the recording process being a bit disjointed. This time, on their self-titled sophomore effort, they set out to make things a bit more cohesive and more of complete record.
The sunny, breezy California indie pop that defined their first record is still prevelant, especially on album opener “Brand New Kind of Blue.” This was a smart way to open up the album, which features the Morgan’s familiar, sweet, chanteuse vocals. As with their first record, Morgan is a highlight. The upbeat vibes continue on “These Sore Eyes,” which is definitely the standout track on the album. Again, rehashing the‘60s indie pop that defined their earlier work makes this a fun continuation of where the band left off, but it’s easy to fall into the trappings of repeating yourself. Thankfully, Gold Motel takes some risks, some good and some not.
Naturally, they try to mix things up and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s admirable that the band tries to evolve, but on songs like “Musician,” the band takes a sharp left. While retaining the lo-fi, indie guitars that have become the hallmark of their sound along with the good vibes, it becomes a bit overambitious. There’s nothing wrong with mixing things up a bit, but Morgan’s voice is the straw that stirs the drink and defines the band’s sound.
Musically, Gold Motel does take a step forward, which is what they promised when we caught up with them. Playing around with different musical arrangements keeps things going, as long as Morgan is singing. A new twist are the xylophones that are weaved in on the mid-tempo of “In Broad Daylight,” which add to the record’s brightness, while “Cold Shoulders” is a bit heavier, though it works well. The song is a nice transition and has driving guitars that give the song a nice garage-y feel and as the singer and guitarist Eric Hehr described, sound like you’re coming home from the party instead of heading to one. Driving guitars with funky licks make this an unexpected highlight, especially with the neat jam session towards the end that feature the slick guitars of Hehr and Dan Duzsynski.
“Your Own Ghost” sounds like it belongs in the mid-‘80s due its New Wave bass line that would make bands from that era jealous. Like the aforementioned track, this one shows a bit more ambition musically and works within the structure of the album. I’d be curious to hear on a more experimental body of work.
Gold Motel is a fun record and makes you feel like you’re gliding down the PCH instead of Lake Shore Drive. The album is a nice step forward, but if the songs evolve into sounding more like “Cold Shoulders,” then the band is definitely onto something. The album is bright and lively, hopefully they’ll continue to grow into what their potential has in store. Remember, this is their first album that they recorded as a cohesive unit, so that being said, if they can reign in what they want to do, they could be onto something.