Over the past decade, self-proclaimed “talk music” bands have rapidly grown in popularity, particularly within alternative Christian circles. The youth group kids who once religiously doted on metalcore have a newfound love of the spoken word, and similar artists are popping up all over the church scene. Hotel Books are one of such bands. But unlike many of the other artists in this genre, they don’t copy the talk music formula verbatim. Although their new album Equivalency leans heavily into the slam poetry style of predecessors like Levi The Poet and Listener, it also weaves in hints of pop punk and noodley emo-revival. Furthermore, Hotel Books incorporates a lot of singing into Equivalency – often in the form of a hooky chorus or a melodious bridge – which helps set them apart from other bands in their genre. The spoken word portions transition seamlessly into singing, and they complement each other quite nicely.
The lyrics are pretty blatantly Christian, and may not be as accessible to non-religious folks as some of the more subtle faith-based artists in this scene (e.g. mewithoutYou, Listener, La Dispute). However, it seems to be coming from a place of honesty. As a non-Christian listener, I felt like the narrator was simply telling his story through his own lens. It comes across as heartfelt, not preachy or pushy. Sometimes the lyrics and vocal tones are a bit over-the-top emotional, but for the most part this reads as an honest portrayal of the narrator’s struggle.
The band still has room to mature, both lyrically and musically. But Hotel Books is a breath of fresh air from the played-out spoken word music that has been dominating this space as of late. The fact that they aren’t afraid to stray from the script and sprinkle in elements of other genres make them a promising act for the future.