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The Hotel Alexis - Goliath, I'm On Your Side

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Artist: The Hotel Alexis

Album: Goliath, I'm On Your Side

Label: Broken Sparrow

Review date: Jan. 29, 2007

The Hotel Alexis is Sidney Alexis Lindner. His first full-length The Shining Example Is Lying On The Floor (originally released as a CDR back in 2004) was the most heartbreaking record of that year. Lindner started the Broken Sparrow label to release that sparse collection of confessionals that featured intimate, worn vocals, dewy-eyed slide, brushed snares and lonely piano played “in the dark.” Of the many standouts “OK” and “Superman and Vitamins” were mixtape favorites. Lyrically, the songs stung of romance run amok, unemployability, depression, substance abuse and small-town self-pity. But also a tinge of hope. With The Shining Example, Lindner set out and succeeded in making a record destined for contemplative listening while lying in bed at night.

His new album’s title, Goliath, I’m On Your Side, hints at a slight shift in perspective. From the outset, you get the feeling Lindner is a bit more self-assured. Take the opening salvo (“It rained on your army / in that soft, soft war / and I’m not sorry / anymore”) as a shining example. New Southwestern surroundings have also crept into these songs, most noticeably on the above’s carefree acoustic shuffle. “The Range's" jejune pace, piercing pedal steel and Crazy Horse-like fadeout invoke brush thickets skipping across arid land. On “San Diego Backslide,” a female voice echoes misty images (“the condensation’s on the wood”) over plaintive picking nearly muted by a subtle rewiring of electronic devices. Many of these songs sound like they were conceived during overcast mornings before the midday sun broke through.

The years Lindner spent working professionally as a recording engineer also pay off handsomely here. The record is more polished, and even details like the handclaps on “Silver Waves Crash Through The Canyons” have furtive purpose; the song’s carousel melody and arrangement sound almost like Sufjan Stevens in miniature. In terms of instrumentation, the haunting vibraphone outro on “I Will Arrange For You To Fall II” and the mellotron-led, desert-shore shanty “Oh, Good Captain” leave lasting impressions.

But what makes the record exceptional is the songwriting. On conspicuously titled "Sister Ray," Lindner sings: “Those dogs were barking all night long / The acid we took came on too strong” above simple chords and Cale-inspired keys. He saves the white heat for the 19-minute desert drones of “"Hummingbird/Indian Dog"; the wayward piece is pure back-porch concrete.

It’s interesting then that “The Devil Knows My Handle” overly justifies past (and crude) comparisons to Wilco. Lindner’s voice sounds uncannily like Tweedy’s and phrases like “turn off the consequences” read like they could have been torn from his poetry journal. The song sounds so similar to Being There that I have to wonder if Lindner's ever heard it. Regardless, it’s one of Goliath’s better songs, and one more indication of how criminally overlooked this Parisian-born-turned U.S. nomad has been by not only the No Depression crowd, but everybody else. Goliath may finally put an end to Lindner's underdog rep.

By Jake O'Connell

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