Now Hear This

This is the first in a series of posts covering albums – yes, whole albums – of music that I think people should listen to! I think the album is something of a lost art in music, so here I’ll only be featuring the real deal. No singles!

Now that is out of the way, I’d like to start off with my favorite album of all time: Hotel California, by the Eagles.

Hotel Californiahotelcalifornia

  1. Hotel California (6:30)
  2. New Kid in Town (5:03)
  3. Life in the Fast Lane (4:46)
  4. Wasted Time (4:55)
  5. Wasted Time (Reprise) (1:22)
  6. Victim of Love (4:11)
  7. Pretty Maids All in a Row (3:58)
  8. Try and Love Again (5:10)
  9. The Last Resort (7:28)

A “concept album”,  or album with a grander overall message in the music, Hotel California was recorded in 1976. The Eagles had primarily written songs with an old west feel, so Hotel California was a departure from their previous work. It focused on urbanization, loss and the California lifestyle. I’ll discuss my favorite tracks on the album, although all of them are important to the concept.

The title track has a haunting vibe to it. The “Hotel California” in the song is really a metaphor for the California lifestyle and how it lures you in but is ultimately empty and inescapable – “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

“New Kid in Town” chronicles a familiar journey for many. The awkwardness is replaced by a sense of belonging and then ultimately fading into the background as there is always another new kid who’s making things exciting again.

“Wasted Time” is a haunting but hopeful ballad which, when combined with its instrumental reprise, leaves the open-ended question of what will happen next.

“Pretty Maids All in a Row” is pure lyrical poetry. It’s a song about loss whether it be losing your heros, your friends, or someone else – it’s very much open to the listener to decide who. It’s not about death so much as just drifting apart, and sometimes not even knowing the reason why.

Finally, “The Last Resort” is an epic song about the urbanization of California. “There is no new frontier, and we have got to make it here”. It’s the perfect cap to an album about California, but also about life and loss. As the last notes fade into silence on the final track, the finality of the album’s end seems to leave the listener with the feeling that maybe we don’t have to “kiss it [paradise] goodbye,” but we probably will.

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