One of the things about indie rock bands is that it’s actually pretty difficult to find really original, high quality, and salable music. That being said, Hotel of the Laughing Tree (or “Hotel,” as fans know them) is one of the few bands that cuts through the crowd and presents itself as a pretty marketable package. And apparently others have noticed it too, considering they’ve been reviewed by popular alternative music site AbsolutePunk, won the 6th Annual mtvU Woodie Awards in the category “Best Music on Campus,” were featured in Alternative Press Magazine as the “Unsigned Band of the Week” in January 2011, and were recently signed by indie label Brookvale Records immediately after recording their debut album.
From front to back, Hotel is filled with talent. Vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter AJ Estrada has a very flexible voice that can give us both gentle and powerful tones, with a very defined rock edge at a song’s most driving moments. Other axe players Brandon Peterson (guitar) and Anthony Arma (bass) present creative riffs left and right, and keys player Mike Solomon fills the mix with excellent countermelodies and some beautiful solo bits. Interestingly enough, these guys actually sport a glockenspiel player—Michael Nixdorf—who doubles on percussion with drummer Neil Scalese.
The Long Island-based indie/pop sextet brings us an imaginative and memorable set of songs with their debut album, Terror and Everything After. We begin with “Barnaby Bison’s Blind,” which hits us immediately with heavy rockin’ riffs and catchy vocals—very enjoyable. “Noah” shows their lighter side and features well-written vocal harmonies, and “Bad Canterbury” is a well-structured song with great buildups, a memorable chorus, and Estrada’s exciting vocals.
If you’re looking for more fast-paced or hard-driving songs, you’ll enjoy the bass-heavy, grooving triplet-feel track “Winchester Devil Grass;” the slow, heavy-hitting, and slightly creepy “Ghosts in the Basement;” the almost-out-of-control “Weather Maps for Nikolai;” or the multi-section title track, “Terror and Everything After.” And if you want to really take it down a notch, “Forging the Family Name” is a beautiful transition featuring solo piano by Solomon.
What nobody can deny about Hotel and the Laughing Tree’s Terror and Everything After is both the creative and carefully selected/mixed instrumentals. There is not only a ton of variety in the parts, but there was definitely huge attention to detail in creating a unique production value to each of the songs and adding parts for real color, not just filler. The songwriting is, as I said, very creative yet does not bore the casual listener who just wants to hear a great single with an awesome hook.
Overall, I’m extremely impressed at the quality of this debut album—I know we’re going to see a lot of great stuff from these boys in the future.
You can purchase this album at the iTunes store.
Terror and Everything After Track Listing:
01) Barnaby Bison’s Blind
02) Another Harvard Renaissance
03) Gods Great Gumball Machine
05) Winchester Devil Grass
06) Weather Maps for Nikolai
08) Gunpowder Falls
09) Bad Canterbury
10) Forging the Family Name
11) Mont St. Michael
12) Ghosts in the Basement
13) Terror and Everything After
For more information on Hotel of the Laughing Tree: