The thing that you have to admire about The American Hotel System, actually, one of the many things, is their ability to make music out of a few sonic lines. Those lines are occasionally big and bold or rather wide-screen and cinematic when a bit of punch is called for, but they are generally deft and sparingly used as if they are just trying to create a framework and letting the listener’s imagination fill in the blanks.
It’s a great way to work, the songs, even when creating big, buoyant, beautiful noises, as they do on the opener and title track “Can You Hear It?” remain fairly clean-limbed and never over-driven. Many bands think that impact and impression come from velocity and volume; thankfully, The American Hotel System (great name, by the way) knows better.
“Tripping” ebbs and flows between deft guitar lines and lush harmonies and slowly burns its way from minimal sonic low lands to musical crescendos but still creates that impactful sound through the deft placement of their instruments. Even when they are whipping up their lush sonic squall as they head for the finishing line, things still sound, somehow, understated. Or at least understated when compared to other bands attempting similar soundscaping. You know the mantra: less is more, less is always more.
“Fire” blends acoustic guitars and gorgeous violins to create a lush indie-folk tapestry, “Seattle” runs the gamut from almost a cappella deliveries to sky-searing anthemics, and “21st” is an array of tumbling guitar lines set to big dynamics.
Things round off ideally with “Not The End,” a song wracked with pathos and passion, heart and nostalgia, a brilliant modern hymn to love and loss and longing, a fantastic display of understatement over punch and melody over muscle, both a hallmark of what this band does so well.
It’s getting to that time of the year when people like me start compiling our albums of the year lists; well, I would if I could be bothered. But, if I could find the time, this majestic EP would be riding high on that list. And I’m sure there will be more scribblers like me who will pick up on how exceptional this collection of songs is.