When I was 17 years old, I got my wisdom teeth removed. All four at once. Spring of 2015. While my face was still swollen and I was still spraying water into the holes in the back of my mouth with a syringe, I traveled to The Metro with my high school boyfriend. We had gotten into an argument because he wanted to give the ticket to a friend. I don't remember the details, but I was passionate about being given the ticket I was promised because the show felt special in the moment. I'm glad I didn't give in because the show still feels special in my mind to this day.
The show was Title Fight and La Dispute with The Hotelier opening. Hyperview had just been released and I didn't really like the band, but my friends loved them so I was excited to see them anyway. I'd loved La Dispute for years at that point and loved their 2014 album, Rooms of the House. I was excited for the show all around, but the reason I fought my boyfriend to go was all about the opener.
Home Like NoPlace Is There is a record that shook my whole world when it came out the previous spring. It's part of a group of albums that were released the year I was 16– alongside Foxing's The Albatross, Into It. Over It.'s Intersections, and Touche Amore's Is Survived By– that I consider much of the most formative music of my life. I liked emo for the same reason most kids like emo (or punk or hardcore) and that's a desire– as put by Christian Holden more gracefully than I could on my favorite Hotelier song– to make your chaos external.
I remember standing on the floor of The Metro staring at Christian and being so taken by the energy and feeling of the performance. I don't remember the crowd much, but I remember staring at Christian Holden from the moment "An Introduction to the Album" started through the end of "Dendron". It is the lasting memory of that show besides Title Fight's strobe lights.
I saw them play one more time before they mostly ceased in 2018. I don't remember it as well, but I think I had just started straying from a big investment in the music I loved in high school and didn't want to think of those bands as special in the same way. The emo revival era defined my taste for years, but I rejected records by bands I liked– namely Goodness by The Hotelier and Harmlessness by TWIABP– because I felt alienated from the whole thing. At the time I felt like I certainly didn't need the albums by those bands that get discussed as if their main virtue is being far enough from the music I loved most to grab the attention of reluctant serious adults with music tastes much more serious than mine.
I knew The Hotelier was good. I didn't need to be given permission. Fuck indie rock and fuck pitchfork dot com.
In retrospect, it's an attitude that I don't think is fair to the bands, but I sympathize with my teenage self's impulse to want to bite the heads off people who I thought just didn't get it. It's the same tone that has gotten an eye roll out of me when people have talked about hardcore over the last few years. It's this feeling that the writer thinks this is the best version of a genre because it's the version with the edges shaved down to the point that Serious Adults can enjoy it. They don't have to feel cringe or childish– "yeah it's that genre, but, like, actually good trust me!"– but it's also new and trendy enough that they can also feel cool and in the know. That feeling that the writer is saying, "well this is like the actually good version of that thing you like!" is why people don't like music criticism. Even (or maybe especially) as a teenager, I never wanted to be affirmed that way. I think most people don't. I'd rather say "Fuck you, you don't get it" to a 1.9 review of a Joan of Arc album than get reluctant approval in that way.
For what it's worth, I do think Turnstile is good. Always have. And I do think Goodness and Harmlessness are good. I'm glad all those things get the attention they deserve, I'm just not interested in reading too much about them.
The other night I went to see Foxing and The Hotelier play their albums that were so formative to me when I was a 16-year-old kid and thought a lot about their positioning as bands that are discussed as being "elevated" emo. These bands that live in the limbo of still being seen as emo bands, but somehow something else, too.
Foxing as the band perpetually trying to be better than emo. (insult.)
The Hotelier as the band that achieved it, in some regard, on their third album, but ends up in the "Okay But Is It Actually Good?" conversation.
I'm not in the business of convincing other people to love the stuff I love. I don't believe in objective quality and I don't care what you like. Those records are all feeling and if you don't get it, that's not for me to fight against.
But standing in Thalia Hall the other day, it's hard for me to believe how you could not get it. Both bands are better performers than most bands– more dynamic, more tuned in, more exciting. Both Conor Murphy and Christian Holden are more talented and interesting vocalists than most things that get The E-Word tag.
I do think The Albatross is a weird album to hear in full– Nearer My God is THE Foxing album to me and the textural passages of The Albatross are best served loud in good headphones– but I remain firm that it is better than people give it credit for and god do they sell it.
The Hotelier couldn't have been better. Just like when I was 17, it was easy to get locked in on Christian Holden– just this time with the added benefit of 3 guitarists harmonizing and a thousand people screaming the words.
I cried all the way through "An Introduction to the Album" and I cried at the end of "Dendron" and I felt closer to the person I was when I was 16 and incapable of externalizing anything I was feeling.
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, podcaster and law school drop out based in Chicago. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram for more bitching about music writing: @mirandareinert. This blog does have a paid option and I would so appreciate any money you would be willing to throw me! You may also send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo/on Paypal if you want. As always, thanks for reading!