This is a story about a song.
In 2001, one year after my favourite band Ben Folds Five had disbanded, I found the final three new songs they had ever presented live on the Internet: “The Secret Life Of Morgan Davis”, a swinging pop-tune, reappeared as a b-side to Folds’ first solo single “Rockin’ The Suburbs” later that year. “Prince Charming”, written and sung by bass-player Robert Sledge, was included on the first (and only) EP his follow-up-band International Orange released in 2004. The third one which I had always liked the most, stayed missing: “Amelia Bright”, written by Darren Jessee who had been the drummer of Ben Folds Five (the amazing ballad “Magic” on the band’s final record was also his tune).
In 2004 I found out there was Hotel Lights, Darren’s new band where he now writes the songs, plays the guitar and the piano and sings. I listened to a few of their songs that were available online and wrote an email to Darren. I wrote him that I loved the music of Hotel Lights, but asked him what had happened to “Amelia Bright”. Darren replied that a lot of people had asked him that question and we stayed in touch. He sent me a copy of Hotel Lights’ self-titled debut album, CT das radio, the college radio station I was working for back then in Bochum, Germany probably became the first European radio station to ever play the band and whenever I met someone who was working for the music industry I told him about Hotel Lights (I’ve only done this twice, the other band being Kilians who had more luck in achieving a record deal in Germany.) In 2006, Hotel Lights released an EP called “Goodnightgoodmorning” which came up with beautiful folk-based pop songs once more. You might have listened to their song “A.M. Slow Golden Hit” on “Grey’s Anatomy” without knowing it.
A few weeks ago I learned that Hotel Lights would release a new album called “Firecracker People” – and on their MySpace site I stumbled across their version of “Amelia Bright” at last. I don’t know whether it’s because I had already loved the song for seven years, but it’s beauty literally struck me. It was even better than the version Ben Folds Five had done – probably because this time the singer was the man who had written the song: Darren Jessee.
Even though “Amelia Bright” sticks out of “Firecracker People” (and was used as a trigger for this article by me so inelegantly), the other songs are by no means worse. The music of Hotel Lights reminds me of artists like Ron Sexsmith, Josh Rouse and Sparklehorse (Alan Weatherhead of Sparklehorse co-produced the record and played the guitar). It sounds autumnally, melancholic and peaceful to me and I imagine driving through small American towns and into deserted landscapes – images Darren Jessee says he’s okay with.
Click here to read a full-length interview with Darren Jessee of Hotel Lights.
Hotel Lights – Firecracker People
Release date: August 19, 2008