Where Hearts Go Broke

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Brisk, trebly, and out to groove nervously, Hotels' second album, Where Hearts Go Broke, has about all the melodrama one could expect (or want) from an early 21st century rock band aiming for another variant on the kind of post-punk theatrics that recurred from the 1980s. (Perhaps not for nothing is one song called "Flight of the Navigator," given the relatively obscure reference to a film from said earlier decade.) Compared to any number of extremely emotional types who worked in the field, though, Hotels practice a certain restraint, letting the singing of Blake Madden skate through and sometimes well below the mix. It's not hidden like shoegaze, say -- at least not all the time! -- but by letting things like the slow guitar break on "Hydra" and the drum roll and woozy lounge tones of "The Heart That Hears Like a Bat" come to the fore more, it helps give Hotels a richer feeling with their songs instead of bawling out their feelings. There's also a breezy pop air that surfaces that more po-faced bands wouldn't allow themselves -- the airy "Leilani" could just as easily be released on any number of Swedish indie pop labels as American emo ones, while the brief synth interlude "On the Casino Floor" sounds like it should soundtrack a classic video game. Meanwhile, the wide open spaces conjured by the combination of guitars and keyboards on songs like "Near the Desert, Near the City" show how easily Hotels can scale up their sound -- and how well, too.

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