Hotel Dog wrestles with relationships, dismal inspirations, and general ennui in a way that feels wholly authentic.
Throughout the limited time I’ve been writing this review, the world has entered another dismal chapter in the COVID-19 epic. The Omicron variant threatens plans for early 2022, and we are again asked to lock ourselves in and avoid others at all costs. Winnipeg-based band Hotel Dog’s debut album Isolation Inn stares blankly into the cavernous abyss and challenges the banality of lockdowns and joyless solitude. Through a cascade of textured synths, Hotel Dog wrestles with relationships, dismal inspirations, and general ennui in a way that feels wholly authentic. The seven tracks on Isolation Inn take on many forms. Each song is an entire territory in itself that’s a genuine reflection of the deep emotional states in which Hotel Dog exists.
Tracks like “Loop Song” and “November” are downtempo exercises in humble emotional proclamations, with the latter specifically being an instrumental Sci-Fi odyssey through the malaise of lonely winter months. Among the doldrums are love songs that feature piercingly honest lyrics said simply and with purpose: “Look at me one time, and I’ll be melting / No, your smile’s not helping,” lead singer Charlie Baby confesses through laughter on “Better Afterwards.” The consolidation of antipathy for solitude and the joys of love are what makes Isolation Inn feel so special.
One of my favourite moments on the album comes about halfway through. As a full-frontal pop jam, “Telephones” could and should become a mainstream hit. The self-actualization lyrics are flattered by the acid house-like beat, on-the-run bassline, and a synth that would be perfectly at home in any Nintendo video game. The track is a fantastic display of Hotel Dog’s care-free ethos — “But today I’m happy to say looking at you is all it takes to feel okay.”
The bands’ bedroom pop tendencies, much like “Telephone,” keep the album fresh and buoyant. From the very beginning, opening track “Growth” plays with an earworm melody that sounds like a Phoenix or Passion Pit song. It’s a nod to the warmth of nostalgia that’s a sonic theme on Isolation Inn. A juvenile philosophy that runs throughout the record is reinforced with lyrics like “I can be a doofus” (“Better Afterwards”) and “Friends are forever, boys are for never” (“Telephone”).
Personally, I find the band’s humorous outlook comforting. They recognize the obscurity of our times and create something meaningful that is challenging and just simply fun. Isolation Inn is a wonderful example of how bedroom pop turns angst into bliss. Hotel Dog never fails to sound anything less than sincere, and that honesty cuts deep into the soul of anyone that listens.
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