By Jackson Tarricone
Perfectionism comes right out of the gate with an arena-friendly guitar riff which simmers down into just kick and bass for the first verse. The two sections combine to reach a happy medium, adding guitars and a driving beat to the subdued pattern, reaching a sonic “goldilocks zone.” After that, the song strides confidently onwards with immaculately placed, hooky instrumentation beneath singer Charlie Kerr’s simultaneous swagger and desperation. It’s no wonder why this song is both the title track and the opener. “Perfectionism” captures everything that makes Perfectionism a great power pop record.
Perfectionism, which drops on Valentine’s Day, is their first record as Hotel Mira, although the Vancouver natives have released two albums as JPNSGRLS. Nevertheless, this album has the feel of a triumphant debut, providing plenty of infectious pop hooks seemingly designed specifically for fans to shout along. The second track, “This Could Be It for Me,” is no exception to this. The song opens up with a dreamy guitar line, eventually settling into a half-time feel. When the drums pick up, the song ascends like a rollercoaster until we finally reach the peak and are greeted with Kerr’s urgent call to “wait!” along with distorted guitars over a danceable beat that just makes you want to jump around your room without a care in the world. On top of this, the chorus starts just 37 seconds in. The sensation of momentum, however, simply doesn’t quit throughout the entire song. “This Could Be It For Me” flaunts Hotel Mira’s immaculate pop sensibility along with producer Eric Ratz’s prowess behind the board.
One of the highlights on the album is the sixth track, “Speaking Off The Record.” The song brings about a noticeable change of pace, opting for a darker, more introspective tone compared to the other tracks. Both lyrically and instrumentally, there are intimate lows and intense highs. Ironically enough, this song sees Kerr embracing his flaws, admitting that he spent a large part of his youth touching himself and singing out of tune in his room. The song’s hook features a wonderful tongue-in-cheek meta commentary on being an artist as Kerr sings “I’m not Cobain; I’m just a bitch singing to the masses.” Kerr sings repeatedly about death and masking his feelings with either a smile or the facade of a rock star, which puts a slightly morbid spin on the album’s title. “Speaking Off The Record” is the only track to address this theme, which makes its impact all the more ominous. The name of this track means that its singularity comes as no surprise.
There are many great things about this album, but perhaps its best quality is how it takes the best aspects of different styles of music and reconciles them effortlessly to form a polished final product. The bridge of “Son In Law,” for example, features McCartney-esque chord changes over a prominent bassline. Surrounding it on either side, however, is an anthemic instrumental with guitars, synthesizers, and a Grouplove reminiscent hook. Both “Jungle” and “You Know Best” feature hard-hitting, drum-heavy instrumental breaks that would fit in just fine on fellow Canadian band PUP’s The Dream is Over. Hotel Mira also draws from The Cars with their poppy combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. The organ sounds on “Arcade Heart” are a callback to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Refugee,” although literally any other component of this track sounds not even remotely close to that song. As a result of the diversity in (perceived) influences, this record sounds like it could have been made in at least three decades—four if you count the 2020s—depending on the song. Perfectionism is a wonderfully executed, curated, and produced collection of guitar driven pop songs, almost to the point of, dare I say it, perfection.