At first listen it’s tempting to classify Hotel Lights as background music, but even through the band’s fragile melodies and soft-spoken ways, something louder emerges on their latest effort.
Girl Graffiti is a confident mix of youthful homage and adult satisfaction. While frontman Darren Jessee is still tight in his romantic niche, Girl Graffiti is more pleasantly love-addicted than handicapped. In the title track, when Jessee acknowledges “she always chose the dream over the real world,” he doesn’t sound bemoaning, but oddly impressed.
Throughout the record, Jessee’s muse is radically intriguing. She’s a “happier off-Broadway actress” in the starter track “Falling Down” and “an inside joke” in “My Pretty Quirk.” She’s inescapable, but somehow the album isn’t just her. It’s also the moments in between. The nostalgia-driven “Dave Sharkey to the Dance Floor” will have long-time Lights fans twirling around and round, while other tunes explore a 360-life with friends and self-discovery.
Girl Graffiti is the record Hotel Lights fans have been waiting for. Jessee is no longer Ben Folds Five’s ex-drummer nor a heavy-handed songwriter with cleverly hidden lyrics. Instead, he’s the leader of a band that doesn’t make you question your attention, but just modestly magnetizes it.