PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Eliza Gilkyson: Paradise Hotel

Roger Holland

It's her most accomplished and consistent work to-date.

Eliza Gilkyson

Paradise Hotel

Label: Red House
US Release Date: 2005-08-09
UK Release Date: 2005-08-08
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

Paradise Hotel is the fourth of Eliza Gilkyson's increasingly impressive Red House releases. It's been an interesting journey. An evolution almost. Hard Times in Babylon (2000) promised much but under-delivered. Lost and Found (2002) was still a little less than it might have been but nonetheless presented a largely fine collection of deeply personal moments. Meanwhile Land of Milk and Honey (2004) saw Gilkyson step up her game once more by addressing political issues -- and in particular the Middle East -- in addition to her staples: emotions, love gone wrong, and the human condition. Paradise Hotel continues the trend. It's her most accomplished and consistent work to-date, probably because she seems really to have found the self-assurance and independence she announced in a trio of songs ("Not Lonely", "Wonderland" and "Separated") on Land of Milk and Honey.

Although there is no single theme to Paradise Hotel, there are several series of recurrent imagery. The most obvious is Gilkyson's persistent use of seas and storms to describe our troubled times. This is a motif that runs the title track, "Calm Before the Storm", and "Requiem". The last two of these form part of an essentially spiritual threesome that culminates in the hopeful album closer "When You Walk On". Clearly, like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Eliza Gilkyson believes in the golden sky at the end of the storm.

Each song on Paradise Hotel is interesting in its own right. One borrows heavily from Procol Harum, another is sung in Spanish, a third is an inelegant but virulent attack on the Bush administration, a fourth features the high clear voice of Gilkyson's daughter as a counterpoint to her own more travelled vocal, and so on and so forth. But the three best songs all stand alone in their own ways.

"Jedidiah 1777" tells of Gilkyson's ancestral grandfather, Brigadier General Jedidiah Huntington, who fought alongside George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. Over a simple and relentless acoustic pattern, she sings, in dry matter-of-fact tones, lyrics that come directly from Huntington's own letters to his family -- letters she found at a Connecticut Historical Library. It's an engrossing song that could have achieved something approaching epic status had Huntington been a more prolific correspondent.

"Is It Like Today" is a cover of an old World Party song. One which, in typically modest Karl Wallinger style, attempts to analyze the history of pretty much everything that's ever gone wrong with mankind since we first started keeping records. Gilkyson's performance makes the most of the lyrics while her music rises and becomes more insistent as she moves forward throughout history repainting someone else's pictures because they fit splendidly into her construct of concern about a coming storm. Like Wallinger's Everyman and God, Gilkyson is clearly "really worried about living".

"Jedidiah 1777" and "Is It Like Today" are both excellent performances, but the very best song on Paradise Hotel comes when Gilkyson steps back from the big pictures and tells a small, plain, personal story. In simple terms, "Think About You" is the closest Gilkyson has ever come to a Lucinda Williams moment. She's driving north from Los Angeles, thinking about a lost love, stopping here, there and at Half Moon Bay, singing a straight-forward stoically soulful country song full of self-knowledge. Sometimes less is most definitely more.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.