Love can truly be a funny thing. Whether it be romantic, platonic, familial, or just the love you have for your pet, everyone has something or someone they love. But, as much as we may sometimes try to reject it, love is hand in hand with loss. Love leads to heartbreak, it leads to depression, anger, guilt; all of the strongest emotions on some level will stem from love, which will be followed by intense loss.

Hotel Books’ songwriter and emotional outlet enthusiast Cameron Smith has once again perfectly painted a painful portrait of both love and loss on his newest full length album, Equivalency.

While previous efforts by Smith have been equally as emotional and tear-jerking, on his latest project, Smith strays away from the droning guitars and exasperated spoken word vocals to deliver something firmly between the debut albums of Listener and the Maine, as odd as that may sound. Whereas Smith’s past material has been almost exclusively ambient, swelling guitars laying snug beneath impassioned spoken word poetry, this latest full length embraces more traditional songwriting and templates, complete with catchy hooks and anthemic verses alike. While detractors of Smith’s early work may not be inclined to listen to this new project, they’d be very foolish not to give “Celebration” and “I Knew Better, But Did Nothing” a chance.

Loss is hard. Especially when it’s of a loved one, be it a romantic partner or a close family member or friend. People will leave us behind and we may be forced to pick up the pieces. But love will eventually return.

Instrumentally speaking, this album is not a far departure from previous albums, but it does experiment quite a bit with flavors of alternative, indie, emo, and post-hardcore. Songs like “Celebration” are anthemic and driving pop punk and alternative romps very much akin to Modern Baseball, where as “Where I Am” and “I’m Almost Happy Here” are bleak, depressive homages to La Dispute and Saetia. This is absolutely not a bad thing, however, as Smith executes all of these styles with fervor and a unique honesty found in more folk music than outright rock.

Besides a stellar instrumental side, Equivalency boasts a phenomenal, nearly flawless vocal delivery from Smith. At times pained and heartbreaking (“Violent Smile”, “Where I Am”), and at others joyful and careless (“Celebration”, “Van Nuts”, and collaboration with Chase Huglin, “Fears We Create”), Smith is unrelenting in his desire to make the listener feel something. He effortlessly switches back and forth between yelped spoken word, honest crooning, and unfiltered shouting from track to track and creates something truly special.


FFO: La Dispute, the Maine, Listener, Modern Baseball