|1||And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me (feat Meg Baird & Walt McClements)|
|2||Arrivederci (feat Lol Tolhurst)|
|3||Blender In A Blender (feat Roy Montgomery)|
|4||Music For Applying Shimmering Eye Shadow|
|5||Horses, Glossy On The Hill|
|6||Yesterday's Parties (feat Rachel Goswell & Samara Lubelski)|
Through evocative, emotionally resonant music, Goodbye, Hotel Arkada, the new LP from American harpist and composer Mary Lattimore, speaks not just for its beloved namesake — a hotel in Croatia facing renovation — but for a universal loss that is shared. Six sprawling pieces shaped by change; nothing will ever be the same, and here, the artist, evolving in synthesis, celebrates and mourns the tragedy and beauty of the ephemeral, all that is lived and lost to time. Documented and edited in uncharacteristically measured sessions over the course of two years, the material remains rooted in improvisation while glistening as the most refined and robust in Lattimore’s decade-long catalog. It finds her communing with friends, contemporaries, and longtime influences, in full stride yet slowing down to nurture songs in new ways. The cast includes Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Meg Baird, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Roy Montgomery, Samara Lubelski, and Walt McClements.
“When I think of these songs, I think about fading flowers in vases, melted candles, getting older, being on tour and having things change while you're away, not realizing how ephemeral experiences are until they don't happen anymore, fear for a planet we're losing because of greed, an ode to art and music that's really shaped your life that can transport you back in time, longing to maintain sensitivity and to not sink into hollow despondency.”
Memories, scenes, and split-second impressions have long filled Lattimore’s musical universe. As one of today’s preeminent instrumental storytellers, she has “the uncanny ability to pluck a string in a way that will instantly make someone remember the taste of their fifth birthday cake," writes Pitchfork's Jemima Skala. Lattimore's impulse to record life as it happens matches her drive to travel and perform, as profiled by Grayson Haver Currin for The New York Times: "Lattimore recognized that being in motion shook loose strands of inspiration, moods she wanted to express with melody. She needed, then, to remain on the go." That sense of fluidity has also made her a prolific collaborator outside of solo work. 2020's Silver Ladders, recorded with Slowdive's Neil Halstead, opened the door for Lattimore to widen the vision of her primary project as well, and its proper follow-up is the natural next scale. “All of these people I asked to contribute have deeply affected and inspired my life.”
For the title and inspiration, Lattimore’s mind returns to the island of Hvar in Croatia, where she first saw those silver ladders at the water’s edge. “There's a big old hotel there called the Hotel Arkada, and you could tell it had been hosting holiday-goers for decades in a great way. I walked around the lobby and the empty ballrooms and it looked like a well-worn, well-loved place. My friend Stacey who lives there told me to ‘say goodbye to Hotel Arkada, it might not be here when you get back’ and I heard soon after that it was actually going to be renovated in a very crisp, modern way.” Lattimore became fixated on the ingredients that make a place special — for Hotel Arkada, the patinaed chandeliers, the patterned bedspreads, the echoes of its intangible charm — and how when those leave this world, as they inevitably always will, it feels important to memorialize them, “to bottle it for a brief second.”
For the opening track, “And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me,” Lattimore looks to two of her closest friends — songwriter Meg Baird, her collaborator on 2018’s Ghost Forests, and accordionist composer Walt McClements, who she’s toured and performed alongside — to surface a core memory. As a kid, Lattimore won a drawing contest through a country radio station and got to see Sesame Street Live! in Asheville. She and her mom were invited backstage, and there the benevolent icon Big Bird “gave me an incredible hug with his scratchy yellow wings.” The trio channel the enveloping warmth of that portrait, the feeling of innocent escape, flying away towards a childhood dream that is just out of reach, surreal, and tinged with sadness. In a rare vocal passage in Lattimore’s library, Baird softly hums with the rolling washes of harp above McClements’ tranquil drone; just for a moment, we are held in a sublime canary yellow embrace.
“Arrivederci” features the synth work of Lol Tolhurst, an original member of The Cure and one of her musical heroes. Lattimore started the song after getting fired from a project because she hadn’t played the harp parts well enough. “So I came home and cried my eyes out and then wrote this song to try to recapture my love of playing the harp with nothing to mess up. I received Lol’s parts on New Year's Eve when I was hosting a party. I secretly went into my room and listened to the song and it felt just so magical to have such an influential musician connecting with a song that I made, especially a song I made when I was feeling like a total failure.”
On “Blender In A Blender,” Lattimore connects with guitarist Roy Montgomery, a pioneer of New Zealand’s underground. First drafted by Lattimore during an artist residency program in UCross Wyoming, the track later evolved over the duo’s pen pal correspondence. Montgomery adds chords that first feel distant, hazed behind a high-drama harp pattern, before thundering into the foreground in a thrilling outro. The title refers to the trend of teenagers blending their cell phones; Lattimore and a friend were joking about all stuff that could be blended, including another blender. Humor is an unsung key to Lattimore’s craft; titles and anecdotes provide unexpected, counterbalancing levity.
The subdued and striking “Music For Applying Shimmering Eye Shadow” is a tribute to the earthly rituals of preparation. “I wanted to make a song for the green rooms,” she says, recalling a moment in the mirror when a tourmate readied herself to go out into the unknown of performance. “It originally was made after googling ‘what does space smell like’ and getting an answer of ‘walnuts and brake pads’ and thinking about the wooziness of space, somehow smelling familiar earth smells in unfamiliar territory. Once I started adding more layers, I started thinking about what I hoped the song would soundtrack and what I wished a song would do.”
In the case of “Horses, Glossy on the Hill,” the narrative is nearly inextricable from the sonics. The percussive clacking resembles hooves in an anxious gate. There’s a storm cloud in the sky; from a car window, Lattimore captures the silvery sheen coming off the horses’ striated shapes as if photographing the scene through sound. Her shimmering strings accelerate and distort under twisting effects as the herd becomes one with the horizon.
There’s a crumbling elegance to the closing track, “Yesterday's Parties,” indebted to the reveries of Julee Cruise and the droning down-tuned strings of The Velvet Underground. We join Lattimore on a midnight stroll through the streets of Brussels; she looks through stained glass windows into quiet apartments and thinks of late nights with her friends who were out of town. Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell sings a wordless hymn as the harp, a special one Lattimore keeps in Brussels, glides with violin from Samara Lubelski. Leaving Lattimore in this place, itself a memory of yearning for connection, is an appropriate end to an album devoted to remembering and manifesting through shared expression.