If you were to take a typical California road trip and distill it into one album of music, this would be it. A road trip is not all sunshine and happiness. There has to be a reason you want to get away, an initial longing for something more. At this crossroads between excitement, adventure and melancholy, Gold Motel
Very much like fellow indie-poppers Los Campesinos!, there is a disconnect between the tone of the music and the lyrical message in Gold Motel’s music. The reverb-heavy guitars and jumpy drums would sound at home on a California beach in late June. But if someone chimed in with the lyrics without singer Greta Morgan’s saccharine voice, the cheery summer vibes would quickly take a dark turn. Seriously, no other singer could make a song called “Cold Shoulders” sound so cheery.
It’s no surprise that the Gold Motel sound was formed when Morgan, a Chicago native, moved to Los Angeles, where the group now spends quite a bit of time. The simple instrumentation and catchy pop hooks are reminiscent of times when a band meant guitar, bass, drums, vocals and nothing else. Maybe keyboard if you were getting crazy. The simple sound really works for them; the band is very tight, and Morgan’s voice pops out over beachy rock guitar.
Gold Motel’s debut album, 2010’s Summer House, was a beautiful ode to a relaxed summer lifestyle, but it had nowhere near the emotional weight of the new release. While the band’s debut contained tracks like “Perfect In My Mind,” “Safe In L.A.” and “Fireworks After Midnight,” the group has traded awe for disillusionment. Now, titles like “These Sore Eyes” and “Cold Shoulders” show that the group can do more than cheer. Like a marriage that has exited its honeymoon stage, the flaws in what initially seemed perfect have begun to show.
The album comes out of the gates roaring, wasting no time to drive home the main point: This whole summer lifestyle is not without its drawbacks. When the sun goes down, people fall “in and out of love” and friends become “musicians in the subway station.” There is in fact a dark side to the glitz and road trips. Gold Motel’s debut showed its sense of wonder, and this album demonstrates what happens to that wonder after a few years.
In the final track, “Leave You In Love,” Morgan sings a line that sums up her experience with her West Coast, relaxed lifestyle. The line can also easily sum up the band’s shift in tone. “We didn’t change, we didn’t move on,” she says. “We just moved away.”