The Hotelier Home Like Noplace Is There

The Hotelier’s ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ Is Peak Emo Revival

The Hotelier’s harrowing Home, Like Noplace Is There is a defining record of the emo revival. It can make us feel less alone in our darkest moments.

Home, Like Noplace Is There
The Hotelier
Tiny Engines
25 February 2014

By the early 2000s, emo had morphed into something unrecognizable from its beginnings with bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace. Once a respite from the macho posturing of hardcore, it had become a parody of itself, a place for misogyny more closely associated with hair metal. The Hot Topic era produced a glut of sound-alike bands whose fashion-forward looks were easy to market. While this era produced some memorable records, the genre was becoming unrecognizable and irrelevant to those who fell hard for bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, the Promise Ring, Jets to Brazil, Braid, and Jimmy Eat World.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the fourth wave of emo reclaimed the genre from the malls and MySpace, returning to those late 1990s second-wave influences and shifting the lyrics back to self-examination. Bands like Algernon Cadwallader, Modern Baseball, Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw, and others took their cues from indie rock and groups like American Football and Jimmy Eat World rather than the pop punk-tinged sounds of the early 2000s.

When the Hotelier released their second album, Home, Like Noplace Is There, they created a flash point for an emo scene that had been steadily reinventing itself. The Hotelier’s debut release, It Never Goes Out (originally released under their first name, the Hotel Year), recalls bands like the Get Up Kids and is a serviceable debut, but it failed to make much of an impact. Tiny Engines, the label that released Home, Like Noplace Is There, passed on it.

Home, Like Noplace Is There was borne of tough times, with lead singer Christian Holden and bandmates struggling with many friends who were suicidal, often having to decide who to help and taking on a lot of personal responsibility for how these situations played out. In an interview with Stereogum that took place when the Hotelier were getting ready to release their follow-up, Goodness, Holden said he was in an abusive relationship with a suicidal partner and had a close friend who was harming his partner. He was trying to be there for all of them.

For listeners who focus on lyrics, this can be a hard record to listen to. The songs are populated with characters who are suicidal, struggling with gender and class identity, medicated, and in abusive relationships. Friends are ill-equipped to support each other and are left helpless and guilty when the worst transpires. Holden has a talent for phrasing that is lacerating without being melodramatic. His lines cut deep, especially if the listener has personal experiences with similar situations.

It would be too much to take for many listeners if the music wasn’t so engaging. The subjects of these songs might be coming apart, but the songs are carefully constructed and played with adornments that add but don’t overpower. This is precisely what Holden’s words need; if this were a stark collection of acoustic dirges, it would be unbearable. The loudness makes sense; this is a record about people who were told their troubles are just in their heads, told to squash feelings, to accept the unacceptable. The only way to honor those who are gone is to refuse to be quiet in the hopes it may end differently for others,

The journey begins fittingly with “An Introduction to the Album”, setting up the themes explored in excruciating detail across the remaining eight tracks. It builds and builds until finally breaking when Holden shouts “fuck”, and the song lets loose a big ending that sets up the next one, “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, a catchy track about a disintegrating relationship with someone who is suicidal. The next song, “In Framing”, would be radio-bound in a different era, with its driving bass and shouted responses to Holden’s lines that build to a big chorus about an addict who attempts suicide.  

All that weight comes to a head on “Your Deep Rest”, a devastating song about the aftermath of a friend’s suicide. From the first verse, the tells are building (“What’s that note you’re writing there / Why are you giving me this back?”), and it is hard not to ugly cry through lines like “I called in sick from your funeral / The sight of your family made me feel responsible” and “They diagnosed you born that way / They say it runs in your family,” if you have experience. About halfway through, the song shifts to a breakdown and the lyrics share what was in the note in bits and pieces, including “Remember me for me / I need to set my spirit free”. It also becomes apparent that the singer was present for the death. Holden weaves details into the verses that precede the event that provide some context, suggesting this person was struggling with distancing from blue-collar roots, abusing alcohol, and dealing with gender identity issues.

From here, Home, Like Noplace Is There works back through the person’s life as the narrator looks for closure and wrestles with guilt. “Among the Wildflowers” begins sharing more of the fallen friend’s story, building to a Cursive-adjacent finale with the final line “Killing the self to protect it from harm”. “Life in Drag” crashes into the end of “Wildflowers”, with its screamed lyrics about gender transition, but also questioning the ways people choose to present themselves in general. 

“Housebroken” seems to be a glimpse into a friend’s family life, although Holden has stated in interviews that the song was inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X (he describes himself as an anarchist in the Stereogum interview). However, another read is that it is about how the parents of a friend kept the person hemmed in and unable to be themselves. The Hotelier stopped playing the song for a while over its misinterpretation but have been playing it recently.

The final two tracks move toward closure. “Discomfort Revisited” is about the end of a relationship, and “Dendron” returns to the tree imagery that pops up in “Your Deep Rest” and the recurrence of frames as metaphors for boxing in, as in “In Framing”. The final lines are haunting: “Engraved in the stone by request and recurse of friends dead / Is ‘Tell me again that it’s all in my head’.” They bring us back to the final lines of the first track: “I had a chance to construct something beautiful / And I choked…” It’s a wrenching way to leave the listener, but there is no other way to end this journey. Sometimes, validation of experience can keep people going.     

The Hotelier released Goodness, another well-received full-length, in 2016 before breaking up. Holden began a career as an online poker player. However, they have reunited for shows to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Home, Like Noplace There Is. They are currently on tour with Foxing, who are doing a victory lap for the tenth anniversary of their debut album, The Albatross. As evidenced by the tear-streaked sing-alongs and sold-out shows, this is a touchstone record.

From moment to moment, it feels like nothing is out of place, nothing is accidental in Home, Like Noplace Is There. This is a concise, brutal statement about crises many of us have found all too relatable. It can’t solve anything, but it can make us feel less alone in our darkest moments.