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  Gold Motel  
  Gold Motel  
  Good As Gold Records  
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Back at the end of 2010, the EvilSponge gang was rather taken by the debut album of Chicago group Gold Motel. Led by vocalist/keyboardist Greta Morgan (late of the Hush Sound) with strong contributions by guitarist Dan Duszynski (from This is Me Smiling), Summer House was a record of joyous Indie Pop filtered through a 1960s girl group lens. Although that record was recorded with a full backing band (most of whom were other members of This is Me Smiling), the music really seemed to emanate from Morgan, who carried most of the melodies via her keywork and took the full lead on the vocals. Later in the same year, Gold Motel released a 7 inch, Talking Fiction, which proved that the band was actually becoming, well, a band where each instrument carried more weight and depth. So it shouldn't be too surprising, then, that for the last year and a half, EvilSponge HQ has been waiting with great anticipation to see what Gold Motel would do next.

Usually when you look forward to a record so very much, the actual product turns out to be somewhat disappointing, if only because it seems inevitable that some expectations won't be met. However, Gold Motel's self-titled second release is not only a worthy follow up to that amazing debut, it also manages to expand the musical boundaries of their sound, while also retaining that quintessential "Gold Motel" feel.

As an example, opening track Brand New Kind of Blue begins with a jaunty, toe-tapping guitar rhythm over which Morgan sings the words of her narrative, showing off a more expansive vocal range than was heard on most of Summer House. The song bounces along happily in contrast to the somewhat darker lyrics about near death experiences while the guitars become fuzzier and the rest of the band chimes in with backing vocals. It's a nice beginning, especially as Morgan's vocals seem more organic and wrapped up in the rest of the band's instrumentation. Likewise, These Sore Eyes has sunny, laconic Southern California feel complete with oohs and ahhs and acoustic guitars and a rhythmic pattern that recalls the early 1960s. In contrast, Musicians (a tale of buskers) allows Morgan and Duszynski to share vocal duties as they sing the same lyrics simultaneously in slightly differing styles with an urgency and quick pace that's more revved up than the earlier tunes.

The middle of the album consists of the two tracks which made up the afore-mentioned Talking Fiction singled. As detailed elsewhere on this site, Slow Emergency is a fairly mellow tune where the Morgan and Duszynski vocals bring to mind the sound of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham circa Rumours, albeit tinged with a faint hint of Captain & Tennille. The next track, Cold Shoulders, formed the A-side of the single. It has a quick pace with crunchy rhythmic guitar work. Morgan really shows off her vocal range on this tune, as her voice switches back and forth from the lower speak-sung sound (commonly heard on the debut record) to a more soaring soprano. It's a very energetic bouncy song, which I think is enhanced by a mid-song bridge consisting of a bass melody and angular guitar that feels like a stolen snippet of old-school Duran Duran.

From here, the album continues to expand its musical tone. Your Own Ghost brings the bass to the melodic forefront, backed with staccato keys and skittery drums that sounds not-dissimilar to a quieter track by a more electro-oriented band like Atlanta's Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun. In contrast, Always One Step Ahead adds reverbed guitars to the contrasting vocal harmonies of Morgan and (a very low-pitched) Duszynski. Like much of the record, this is a summery pop track, but Duszynski's voice gives the tune a low end which you don't hear on many of the band's songs. Likewise, Counter Clockwise recalls the mellowness of Slow Emergency, but adds space by allowing the instrumentation to seem sparse, even though you can clearly hear every band member participating.

Still, towards the end of the record, Gold Motel returns to the breezy pop sound which is their bread and butter. At Least We Tried invokes the 60s girl group spirit with an emphatic, take no prisoners chorus and fairly simple, repetitive melody. Similarly, penultimate Santa Cruz has a more measured swagger and sway that highlights the lyrical narrative which includes the great line "I bet you'd make a good memory." Finally, the album ends with Leave You in Love, a quick paced bouncy little tune that recalls tracks like We're On the Run from Gold Motel's debut, although Leave You in Love is a bit more restrained in its mix than that earlier work.

Rationally, if you look at it, it's hard not to acknowledge that Gold Motel is a more accomplished and realized record than Summer House. Throughout this second full-length, the music feels fuller and more integrated while Morgan's voice breaks out in ways not heard on the debut. Likewise, while every song on Gold Motel sounds completely like Gold Motel, the patterns and rhythms of the album branch out from what we've heard previously. Still, I have to say there is one thing lacking from Gold Motel: the sheer exuberance and over the top warmth I heard in Summer House. Nevertheless, that absence is I believe a matter of my own taste and not a reflection on the ultimate loveliness of Gold Motel.

Related Links:
Also on EvilSponge:
      EP: Gold Motel EP
      Album: Summer House
      7": Talking Fiction
      Festival: SxSW 2011 - Wed.16.Mar.11
      Festival: SxSW 2011 - Fri.18.Mar.11


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