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Album Review: The Motel Life - Retreat

The Motel Life are, in a lyrical sense, brutal. The honesty which they project from their debut, ‘Retreat’, is phenomenal in the sense that the whole record sounds like the telling of one big secret. These admissions are bent and twisted to fit over what is largely a coffee-shop soundtrack, sacrificing their melodies in order to deliver their morbid poetry. Bizarrely, some of it makes for completely compelling listening. Sometimes, however, it completely misses the mark.

Wooden Hands’, the dark yet dulcet opening to ‘Retreat’, compresses everything exciting about The Motel Life into three minutes; the sheen of sparse piano and soaring guitars are blemished by the raw vocals of Michael Escanuelas, who takes the indie-pop instrumentation of the band to a far darker place. This is further explored on the beautifully simple ‘God Loves’, as Escanuelas screams “Every son of God was lost” as if they were his last prophetic words. It sets The Motel Life to be the rightful heirs to Brand New’s crown, although in a fresh, more accessible manner.

However, such moments of greatness are followed by overtly jovial ditties such as ‘Second Place’. Whilst musically sounding like a cross between early Motion City Soundtrack, Death Cab for Cutie and The Early November, Escanelas’ solemn vocals come across like teenage poetry; lines such as “you’re an asshole, plain and simple” on ‘Writing a Book’ and “when I gave a shit about what people thought” on ’Second Place’ stand out from the pack as lyrically immature when compared to the depth of the previous tracks.

While perhaps a little emotionally exhausting for a full-length, ‘Retreat’ is an incredibly inspirational record in parts. It’s a shame that it isn’t as consistent as the stronger tracks on the album would suggest it could be. Given a few years, The Motel Life will hopefully outgrow their youthful clichés and embrace their darker side.


'Retreat' by The Motel Life is released on June 1st.

The Motel Life on MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and Purevolume.
Official Website.

Alex Howick

Alter The Press!