Rocky Votolato – Hospital Handshakes (ALBUM REVIEW)

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rockyvalbum2Rocky Votolato has always won points, at least in the ears of this reviewer, for the intense honesty and emotional transparency of his music. Votolato’s recent work has been tinged with sadness which can be described as weariness translating to the sound of a man who had traveled a long road.  All that changes with Votolato’s ninth full length titled Hospital Handshakes. Votolato returns with vigor, having crafted a set of songs ranging from slower ballads to intensely-driven rock songs. All of it retains his authenticity, but it stems from some newly awakened place.

Hospital Handshakes opens strong, with a beautiful tune, “Boxcutter,” reminiscent of earlier Death Cab for Cutie , a sound made fresh with Votolato’s vocal approach and his ever-searching lyrics, in which he entreats the listener to “trust that everything happening’s perfect.”   The title track is a slow-burner with a brooding intensity that draws the listener into Votolato’s sphere, beginning with a beautiful piano riff. The main chorus speaks to the rebirth that one hears throughout the album, with Votolato singing that, “we must each be broken if we’re ever to be made new again.”

There are a few other standout tracks on Hospital Handshakes, including the hauntingly beautiful “Sawdust and Shavings” and solid album closer “The Finish Line,” which beautifully reflects on death. But perhaps more importantly, overall Votolato has fashioned an album that will bear repeat listening, carrying the listener through high energy and low, into territory that is emotionally resonant and comfortably familiar.

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