Perfectionism marks the third full-length from this Vancouver band and it is undoubtedly their most polished, focused, and concrete set of songs to date. Not only is it the strongest outing the band has put forth of their career, but it’s poised itself as one of the best releases of 2020.
Hotel Mira (FKA JPNSGRLS) always had a post-punk, garage rock sensibility with a brash confidence and untamed heart. It made for wonderfully playful and earnest sing-along anthems like “Southern Comforting” (“I don’t regret it if you don’t regret it”) and “Oh My God.” There was no doubting the band’s potential based off the two albums under their former name, but with Perfectionism, Hotel Mira’s potential has become fully realized.
Fans were first given a taste of what was to come as far back as the fall of 2018 with “Jungle.” There’s something so disarming and innocently self-deprecating in the way frontman Charlie Kerr delivers his words. “Oh baby, we’ve got it good/She says ‘you’re handsome but you shouldn’t move to Hollywood.’” The first two albums made clear he was an accomplished vocalist but with the latest set, he seems to have found the perfect balance of casual charm and driven charisma.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when they returned with “The Eyes on You,” immediately one of the most dazzling and smashing heartbroken rock songs of their career. This was followed by “This Could Be It For Me,” the chart-climbing radio hit of the album. While a radio-friendly peppy rock jam, it’s written around some of the darkest context of the album; relating to suicidal thoughts and a continuous struggle with mental health: “And if it’s not tonight/Then it’s still on my mind/How nice.”
If the radio single seems dark, it doesn’t quite strike a chord like the final single of 2019, “Speaking Off the Record.” The words don’t hide behind a radio melody and it’s amazing how the song can cut to the core. Kerr is at his most vulnerable on this one and it makes for a brilliant song that can only come from the darkest of places. “I’m not Cobain, I’m just a bitch/But I live for fame and I’ll die for it.”
There’s so many moving songs to be found on this. “Arcade Heart” is a fabulously constructed melody with an organ/synth backbone that vibrates the track along with a stomping rhythm lifting the tune to incredible heights. This album follows heartbreak and Kerr appears a bit resentful when he sings, “Go play like his heart is your arcade.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen” comes in fast with a perky beat that disarms you for what’s to come next. The floor of the song drops away into the most mesmerizing chorus; Kerr splitting singing duties with the backing vocalists: “Ladies and Gentlemen (the here and now, the here and now).” Nine songs into the album, to hold one such as this is exactly why this album is so good.
And it doesn’t stop. Following track “A Song For Daisy” is the slow one but it’s not short of emotional strength as Kerr’s words provide some of the most naked truth of them all: “That’s not love/It can’t be love/If that was love/I’d be in love.”
It’s 2020 and in the streaming era singles seem to dominate more than ever before. To find an album that can deliver front to back is rare as many artists seem focused on just getting a few gems on the latest Spotify playlist because, who really listens to albums anyway? But music is still very much more than a casual hobby for many and to find an album of 11 songs that do not falter is so special in these times.
To have an album such as this come from a band from our very own Vancouver is a monumental moment for the city’s music scene. Hotel Mira have not only created a flawless rock album in 2020, but have cemented themselves as a truly special act on the way to becoming legends in Vancouver, if not Canadian, rock. Hell, their boundaries are limitless.