Following the posi-vibe on Summer House, their Los Angeles, California-inspired debut album from 2010, Gold Motel will be releasing their long awaited sophomore album on July 3. The self-titled album consists of 12 easy breezy songs that highlight the sunny themes of reminiscing, adolescence and nostalgia. It’s a common case of the summer blues, but this album doesn’t burn out in the heat—instead of drowning in tears, it leaves everyone smiling and sun-drenched.
Originally based in Chicago, Illinois, the indie-pop band started off as multi-instrumentalist Greta Morgan’s solo project after he parted ways with The Hush Sound. Balancing roles as lead singer, songwriter, pianist, keyboardist, and organ player, Morgan eventually decided to collaborate with other musicians. Evidently, Gold Motel evolved with the addition of Eric Hehr (guitar), Dan Duszynski (guitar, vocals) Matt Minx (bass) and Adam Coldhouse (drums).
Overall, Gold Motel sounds like a concoction of pop music ranging from the 1960s-1980s. However, it should not be labeled as ditzy pop—the power that oozes from the instruments and vocals is far too strong for that category. This band is a powerhouse.
“Brand New Kind Of Blue” zealously kicks off the album by setting a hazy summer mood with an upbeat tempo created by light drumming and electric guitar strums that go back and forth with the alternating male/female vocals. It’s a song about having the blues, yet it has this happy-go-lucky feel to it that will crack a Cheshire cat grin on a face before it droops into a frown.
“Musicians” misses a beat and is out of place. Gold Motel makes it clear that this two-minute-and-forty-three-second song is a tribute to all the struggling musicians out there, but after hearing “Most of my friends are musicians in the subway stations // Making amends with a dark and different world // Paying their dues like a faulty, underwater mortgage // Taking the cues from an all-existent fantasy girl” the first time, it becomes a nuisance to hear again and again…and again.
Amidst the lovely xylophones chiming, Morgan blatantly calls out a guy who is “the last to give and the first to take” in the song “In Broad Daylight”. While many songs of this nature fixate on cringe-worthy recollections of failed relationships, they send us back to a period of accepted naivety. Oh, the wasted years of teenage youth. Similarly, “These Sore Eyes” reminds listeners of their childhood or early adolescence. Although the memories randomly come and go, they are never forgotten.
Behind an airy guitar, thumping drums and hushed harmonies, Morgan wails, “I go home alone every Saturday night // I come home alone, pretending it’s alright // I still read your books under neat city street lights // These sore eyes are such an awful sight,” himself—and you, too—in a trance, only to wake up in a dusty high school gymnasium full of teenagers dressed in faded clothing, slow dancing to a jukebox in the 1960s.
“Cold Shoulders” falls out of the same nostalgic timecapsule, remembering a broken heartafter being iced out one too many times by an ex-lover. But not lamenting it: reassuringly, Morgan insists, “It’s too late to take it all back.” As soon as the track starts, the drummer takes the lead and sets the light-hearted tone instead of the expected metronome in the back. In “At Least We Tried,” a song about the efforts made to save the inevitable demise of a romance, the band rocks out 1970s style with a badass guitar riff intro and hectic tambourine shaking off the Richter scale.
The band’s powerhouse sound is demonstrated best in “Your Own Ghost” where the bass dominates, partnered with catchy “ooh oohs” that clearly resonated from disco in the early 80s. A underlying eeriness creeps about, courtesy of the organ. Morgan’s organ is also utilized in “Slow Emergency”, but it stands out more because it enhances the intended sluggishness of the track, the music aligned with the lyrics’ mission. Everything slows down from the tempo to the vocals, which are low and drawn out. “Santa Cruz” transports listeners to the town itself on a hot, summer day in 1975. Perhaps we’re sitting on the beach after a long day of unfulfilled nothingness, asking ourselves where the day went. It sounds like something out of a wistful summer dream.
To end the summer day on a good note, Gold Motel closes with “Leave You In Love”. “Shut it down // start it up // didn’t mean anything, didn’t mean much”, Morgan sings in the chorus. It is the sad tale of a boy who means nothing to her now, but meant everything to her at some stage in her past life. But it’s not a sad tune. Gold Motel has proven throughout the record an uncanny ability to capture the complex moment of nostalgia where joy and sadness converge, letting the healing salve of lapsed time and sunny musical composition rule—the negative feelings positioned as small, underwater ripples as a reminder that has a mitigated effect on the span of the sea.
Gold Motel is an equilibrium of buoyant tunes and slow jams, all of which flow efficiently as they dip into different eras of music. It is apparent that the band’s sound is influenced by 1960s girls’ pop, groovy tunes from the 70s and that raw 80s funk, but the band fuses it flawlessly.
Over the past two years, Gold Motel has matured in all aspects and as a result, this album is a testament to their incredible musical journey. If the essence of summertime were turned into music, it would be this album.
*This review was composed by Sydney Gore and edited by Emily Coch