The opening narration to the opening song from Chet Faker’s brand new album Hotel Surrender, his fourth overall and second under the Faker moniker, is a litmus test. If you can get past the spacey, half-coherent, stoner philosophy that Faker spews out on ‘Oh Me Oh My’, then you’re in store for ten tracks of charmingly low-stakes soul rock. If you don’t get that far, I don’t blame you.
Perhaps it’s a way to ward off those who would otherwise only casually listen to Hotel Surrender, the people that may have heard about this bearded Australian who sometime goes by his birth name Nick Murphy and sometimes makes awesome trip-hop inspired electronica. Maybe Faker/Murphy is really looking to pinpoint the fan who’s willing to dive headfirst into the album with all their senses firmly at attention for whatever the artists is about to serve them.
So, is Hotel Surrender a fully engrossing experience that will invigorate you and excite you in equal measure? If you’re open enough to it, and possibly high, then yes! My friends under the influence will be happy to hear that the spacey textures and woozy buzz of Faker’s past material, under both monikers, is intact on Hotel Surrender. Each song is densely packed with plenty of white noise and synthesizer whirs to keep you lost in a haze. But whereas Faker has plenty of room for musical ambience, it occasionally comes at the expense of memorable melodies and noticeable hooks.
Still, tracks like ‘Low’, ‘Whatever Tomorrow’, and ‘I Must Be Stupid’ push along with enough light charm, whether it’s the former’s trippy loft beat, the middle’s beautifully stirring strings, or the latter’s gospel influence, to keep the album afloat. The layered vocal harmonies and funky backbeat of ‘So Long So Lonely’ remains the album’s highlight, and I was thankful that I had stuck with the album long enough to get there. It was a but of a winding road to reach that point, admittedly, but it’s a road less traveled, filled with saxophones and and lazy struts and charmingly goofy lyrics that occasionally turn into melancholic and rapturous thoughts.
For the most part, Faker stays away from any of the heavy stuff, preferring to stay on the heady side of things. There’s nothing especially weighty about Hotel Surrender, but in terms of an easily accessible distraction or a casual listen, you could certainly do worse. The album is really only a hard sell at the beginning, when Faker’s own highly conceptual manifesto gets him caught a little too far up his own ass. Otherwise, it’s good quality pop fuzz for the soul.