Over the past decade, self-proclaimed “talk music” bands have rapidly grown in popularity, particularly within alternative Christian circles. However, unlike many other artists in this genre, Porterville native artist Hotel Books (the pseudonym of Cam Smith) doesn’t follow the typical talk music formula verbatim.
Although his new album ‘Equivalency’ leans heavily into spoken poetry, it also weaves in hints of pop-punk and a lot of singing. Successfully blending influences of both new and old, ‘Equivalency’ is one of their most varied and inspired releases of their career.
Primarily focused on telling a deeply honest story of a troubled relationship, the album immediately begins on a sombre note, opening with a heartfelt monologue from Smith‘s former lover before making way for a hypnotic vocal delivery. Kick-starting the album’s running narrative, ‘From Porterville’ is without a doubt a great opening track that sets a high standard for the rest of the album.
Similarly, ‘Violent Smile’ begins with a recording of a woman reading about reasons why relationships end. The same recording is later used to close the album on With Love’; it’s one of the most diverse cuts on the album, cycling between spoken word, signing, and screaming.
‘Celebration’, ‘I Knew Better, But We Did Nothing’ and ‘I’m Almost Happy Here’ delve further and deeper into the trials and tribulations of relationships, and continue to test the boundaries surrounding genres and sounds.
What’s simply impossible to ignore is the intense and dark lyrical content that the album explores. Serving as a platform for Smith‘s honest and authentic expressions of love, heartbreak, and loss, the album’s poetic lyricism hits hard, making it difficult to endure the ten tracks without connecting with at least several of them. Although some lyrics are heavily Christian based, it still comes from a place of honesty that can be understood and appreciated universally.
It’s hard to feel untouched by the journey presented across the delivery throughout ‘Equivalency’. Confidently merging various musical influences around its core sound, it’s an album that maintains the Smith‘s core identity throughout, placing poetic delivery and genuine emotion front and centre. This record is without a doubt the definitive Hotel Books experience, and a great achievement that once again cements the Smith within a league of his own.