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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

January 27, 2010 at 2:39 PM

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World premier: OK Hotel Band springs into existence, culls from top-shelf local hiphop, makes glorious breakup R&B song "The Day"

Posted by Andrew Matson

ok hotel band.jpg
L-R: Budo, Thig Natural, J. Pinder

Meet Seattle's OK Hotel Band: local rappers J. Pinder and Thig Natural (The Physics) — here singing instead of rapping — and Seattle-born/Brooklyn-based producer Budo.

On the phone earlier today, Pinder said area rapper Tilson (formerly of The Saturday Knights) and the 206's world-famous hiphop superproducer Jake One are also involved in the project, but no word yet on what kind of work Jake's planning on putting in or whether or not Tilson will follow Pinder and Thig's lead and abandon rap for a more melodic life in the world of song.

The first publicly listenable OK Hotel Band song includes Pinder, Thig, and Budo, and is easily the best thing I've heard from any of them. Simultaneously sunshiney and weepy, fun but not necessarily funny, "The Day" stands as Seattle's finest neo-Motown offering to date.

"The Day" by the OK Hotel Band

We all might never have known it if not for "The Day," but Pinder and Thig have good, unflashy singing voices — the former's smooth, the latter's a touch husky, both in the tenor range — and sound comfortable together. Their mannered, back-up singer falsetto overdubs seem unforced, and when the two dramatically combine for the forlorn ba-ba-ba hook, the listener can see them two-stepping, stealing throwback soul-isms like 2009 crossover sensation Mayer Hawthorne does. They also borrow from Hawthorne's permanently oxymoronic heartbroken/heartbreaker lyric book (side note: Jake One is presently five tracks deep on his own project with Mayer Hawthorne).

Budo's beat starts with keyboards fading in and out and some odd quivering tone in the background. Then strings and piano show up, tense and splashy, and build until a beat drops halfway through that sounds like a jazz player doing hiphop. Either Pinder or Thig does a little "uh, uh," and for a second, it seems like a rap verse is going to commence, but it doesn't. After coming to a boil, the heat's cut, lid's put back on, track's over. It lasts four-and-a-half minutes but feels barely half that long.

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