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For over twenty years, Darren Jessee has been a driving force in alternative music, specifically as the drummer for Ben Folds 5. Jessee has also written many songs for Ben Folds 5, including the chorus to “Brick”, and even toured as a drummer for Sharon Van Etten a couple of years ago. This brings us to his Hotel Lights project, where he steps out from behind the drum set and creates his own sound. Earlier this month, Jessee released Get Your Hand In My Hand, his fourth record as Hotel Lights on Bar/None Records.
Hotel Lights’ music is a nice mix of genres. It finds its roots in alt-country, but it can rock and soothe as well. The first track, “Lens Flare”, has a nice feel to it, a track describing a scene that almost sounds like a warmly filtered Instagram photo. “Everything Hurts You Now” is another great track led by acoustic guitar and Jessee’s gritty voice. “What a Love” is a gorgeous piano-led track with some really great strings that is a total shift from the first two tracks. “Unbound” continues that feeling. It’s a great track with more great strings, as Jessee tells the listener a vivd story, which shows why many consider Jessee to be one of the most under-appreciated songwriters today.
“Sky High” is another great alt-country track with some really nice guitar work. The same goes for “We’re Really Gonna Do It”, from which a line in the song lends the album its title, features a really pretty keyboard solo over some more great strings. Hotel Lights rocks out on “For All Time”. It’s a great track with some honest lyrics like, “But that’s bullshit, maybe, but no one deserves it”. “Girl I Used To See” is a stunner of a breakup track. “You Don’t Care” closes the record quite nicely. It feels like Get Your Hand In My Hand built up to its closer, nice and slowly, and as its ending fades out, it feels like the end of a good, emotional story.
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Get Your Hand In My Hand is a great example of why Darren Jessee is highly regarded as a songwriter. What he achieves on the album is a wonderfully crafted record with captivating songwriting and delivery. It’s witty, dramatic, intimate, and emotional, at times it’s sad, but there is a warmth to it provided by Jessee’s voice and the alluring quality of the instrumentation on this record.
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