Sunday, August 08, 2021

Chet Faker Releases Jubilant New Album ‘Hotel Surrender’

Chet Faker has returned rather triumphantly in this listener’s opinion. The man behind the curtain, Nick Murphy, has returned to his pseudonym to release ‘Hotel Surrender’ after what was a fairly turbulent year. 

Coming off from the long effects of Covid, he found sanctity and a safe space in his studio and crafted, what I think, is an ode to just making whatever you want to make. As such, he strove to make music that made him happy and gave as much as he could. After all, the music Faker makes is all about giving, without asking anything from the listener in return. Instead, he chooses to make textures and layers and takes his music to awesome places and explores human nature within that.  

He begins the album with a spoken meditation on what music does. The way I’ve described it doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it is but he delivers everything in this album with such a groove and funk energy that he could’ve talked about how paper is made and it would’ve sounded good. From here he checks into “Hotel Surrender” and kicks off an album about his relationship with himself and human relationships in general. ‘Oh Me Oh My’ had me singing along through the song and has the energy that a lot of young people have right now, which is highlighted in the hook “Oh me oh my/I’ll sleep when I die”. 

None of his songs start the same way. Some of them have cadences of Faker’s older, more mellow stuff, such as ‘Peace of Mind’ which reminded me a little of his standout hit ‘Gold’. Some have a nostalgic feel to them; ‘In Too Far’ for instance reminds me weirdly of cartoons I watched as a kid. Others have a cinematic feel to them, such as ‘Low’ or ‘It’s Not You’. What’s interesting is that he also varies the tone of the songs within twenty seconds of them beginning. Take ‘Whatever Tomorrow’ for instance, he leads in with a classic slow string swell and within fifteen seconds you’re being pushed along by a bass hook. He really enjoys playing with soundscapes and different feels. 

That being said, underneath all of this is what I think is one of the most important elements: the rhythm. He always punctuates his music with bass and percussion. The bass serves to give almost every song a solid grounding in what I would loosely call funk, while the percussion keeps the songs moving. A special mention goes to the song ‘Get High’ which, by the sounds of it, had a percussive element that sounded a lot like the sound a straw makes when drinking the last bits of a drink. This brings me to another thing I love: his sampling. Every so often he sprinkles in a bit of old dialogue such as in ‘I Must Be Stupid’ or ‘In Too Far’. It just adds yet another element to an already relatively complex group of songs. 

What I also sincerely appreciate is that he isn’t shy about using harmonies. His music was kind of built on harmonic synth-infused sounds so it only makes sense this would carry into the vocals. Nevertheless, he uses harmonies a lot but never to the point where they drown him out; it’s a delicate thing to balance. 

I think I should make special mention of ‘Feel Good’ which is a singularly upbeat song that stands out from the rest of the album. Faker always has the underlying ability to make songs sound subtly sexy but he really committed in this one. It’s fun, it’s a little sensual, it’s the kind of song I wish clubs played because I was having a full-on dance party to this one. 

This album is a fun selection of self-exploratory songs packaged to make them consumable and it just goes to show that potentially unhappy songs don’t have to sound unhappy. Throw a couple of these songs into a playlist and you’ve got a soundtrack that’ll make you feel good about yourself in no time. 

Chloe Boehm


 Image Credit: Official Album Artwork 

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