By: Jeremy Scott
Marona and Hotel Colors capture the power of minimalism in their recently released split. The six tracks bring to mind the melancholy and ennui characteristic of the college age experience in America. It is clear that both groups have similar stylistic influences, which makes sense given that Hotel Colors is the solo project of Eric Moeller, the drummer for Marona. In fact, if I didn’t know that I was listening to a split, I would assume that the album was a made by a singer-songwriter duo that alternated performing vocals depending on the song. That being said, there are subtle distinctions between each group’s three tracks on the split which elevates the depth and richness of the album.
The first three tracks on the split are by Hotel Colors and feature a darker feel than the following three tracks by Marona. The first track, “change”, begins with open chord strumming that is soon joined by the vocals to create a droning sound that is awkward and cathartically draining. The desperation and apathy are evident in the way the vocalist slurs through the lyrics. At the midpoint of the song, the open strumming transitions to single note plucking that creates a foreboding mood. The vocals re-enter the song with the same droning quality, however the droning is broken up with staccato emphasis at the end of each phrase. The the lyrics “kill me at the table, fuck your traditions” are sung twice, with the song fading at the end of the second repetition. The second track, “6am”, transitions easily from the first track with a return of the melancholic strumming and droning vocals. However, “6am” brings more brightness tonally compared to “changes”. The vocals taking on a delirious quality in addition to the palpable desperation and apathy in his voice. There is an urgency and need to get the lyrics out, even though the subject matter is painful to recall. The third and final Hotel Colors track, “gfwh” is the one that resonates with me the most. Additionally, the vocals are clear and understandable compared to the first two tracks, which I prefer. That being said, the vocals on all three tracks are effective emotionally and stylistically. The guitar on this track is soft and sad, featuring the repetition of arpeggios that takes you on a winding journey through the song. When the vocalist sings, “I think it’s time for me to say goodnight” it reminds me of a young child performing a hymn at a recital. It is melodramatic, yet feels heartfelt and sincere. The line, “I change every five or six months or so,” resonates deeply and reflects beautifully the struggle to find identity while depressed in your twenties.
The remaining three tracks by Marona are tonally brighter and cleaner than the Hotel Colors tracks, however, they still effectively convey a depressive mood and dark subject matter. “gluten-free bread riot” is by far my favorite song title of 2018 and is also my favorite track on the split. Although still dark, the song feels more folk punk compared to the emo vibes of the three previous Hotel Colors tracks. There is a strong juxtaposition between the campfire sing-a-long feel of the song and the disillusioned ennui tinged lyrics recalling an emotional night in Paris. When the chorus hits, it is easy to imagine show goers with arms over each others shoulders, swaying to the lyrics “you call me hopeless, you call me a cynic, you say I’m depressed and pessimistic.” The next track, “please come home”, feature the most complex lyrics and imagery of the album. The lyrics paint a beautifully sad mural for the listener. Throughout the track, the guitar has an ambling, restless feel. The lyrics are poignant and frank, calling out to an old friend or lover. The vocals become strained and higher pitched as the singer pleads for the subject to “please come home,” so that he can hold on to life with that person as it seems to be slipping away from the both of them. The final track on the split, “trench coat”, is an instrumental track. The guitar tones are bright and clean, however the mood of the piece remains overcast and foreboding. It reminds me of seeing the sun shine through the clouds on a rainy summer day. It reminds me of times when I felt a glimmer of better days despite being surrounded by hopelessness. It reminds me that hope can be so hard to find when in the depths of depression and the struggle to feel worthy of the light that breaks through the storm. “trench coat” is a beautiful and effective song to round out the album. It reinforces the mood and theme for the rest of the split and highlights the depth of feeling possible even in such a minimalist track.
The split was self-recorded by Marona and Hotel Colors in Pensacola this year. Recording and mixing was done by Eric Moeller. Mastering was done by Sean Peterson of Pensacola Audio Documentation. Album art was done by Samantha Earley. Marona and Hotel Colors are based out of Pensacola, Florida. Marona previously released a self titled EP in 2017. Hotel Colors previously released a self titled album and “heat”, both in 2017.