Duluth Budgeteer News
By: Teri Cadeau
Yellow Plate Hotel has been traveling around for the past year.
“I’ve been gone a lot this year, but I’m finally making the music I’ve been searching to make,” said Jason
Yellow Plate Hotel’s “The Final Scene” is an album written and recorded by Jason. He describes the music as melody-driven, acoustic based songs with a touch of folk, rock and country that are bent around themes of love, separation and desire. The album is accompanied by additional instruments including cello, upright bass, fiddle, piano, accordion and harmonica.
“It’s a collection of songs that deal with love, separation, redemption, forgiveness and ones’ self-view of their own moral standing,” said Jason.
Some of the songs deal with family, especially “Best Damn Soldiers” and “Come Back Home” which he says were inspired by his daughter.
“She started it all." - “I don’t sit down to write a song, they just kind of happen."
Duluth News Tribune
Album review: Yellow Plate Hotel's songwriting deserves attention
By: Tony Bennett
You'd be forgiven for assuming that Yellow Plate Hotel would somehow be a Neutral Milk Hotel-style indie band, especially given their name (and that they have a song that stylizes the word "airplane" into "aeroplane"), but what we're looking at here is a singer-songwriter album of gently plucked acoustic guitars and front-and-center vocals, with very little in the way of effects or set dressing. It's quietly confident indie folk, with more of an emphasis on the "folk" than on the "indie."
Jason is the Duluth-based man behind the name, and he's got a long history of playing music in Minnesota and elsewhere. With "The Final Scene," he makes the common mid-career move of settling down and getting quiet, but with the kind of restraint and craftsmanship that eludes many who attempt such a transition.
The most striking aspect of this particular album is that the guitar-playing is measured, calm and exacting in a way that recalls some of the work of Elliott Smith. The late musician's work was poppier and more intricate, but there's an attention to detail in Koski's picking that recalls Smith's in the way that every note choice seems to have been perfected over time. It's clear that a lot of work went into the guitar arrangements, and each tiny morsel of melody was coaxed into being long before anyone hit "record."
Vocally, Jason is less impressive, although there's nothing to complain about. His slightly monotone, rough-but-not-gravelly approach is reminiscent of someone like Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, but without all the irritating over-emoting.
"Best Damn Soldiers" kicks off the record; it's seemingly a kind of vow from a father to a troubled child in song form. Repeatedly, Jason promises to "send my best damn soldiers / you will see that it's over." It's a bit too cyclical, but it sets the table well for "Wilmington," a more jaunty love song to a future spouse. "Maybe you will and maybe you won't," he sings. "I'll be waiting here on the back side of the moon." It doesn't make a ton of sense (why is he on the back side of the moon, and how can he breathe up there?), but it sounds good.
"Ghost Town Appalachian" features some pretty melodic nylon-string guitarwork. "I wanna see you dance again," Jason sings. It's Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" reimagined in many ways, but it's got its own vibe.
This is true of much of the album, that it recalls other artists but never quite hits the "ripoff" alarm. That's a good thing, as many great artists in their own right are able to show their influences and even openly borrow phrases from them while still retaining their own essence; it seems that Jason is able to do this, too.
"If I" is a highlight of the album. It's a clever piece of writing in which the title is the beginning of most of the lines, and it features a woman improbably named "Nature Lindsay" on harmony vocal. "Maybe I'll fly away / maybe I'll fly away someday," goes the chorus. "Living in another winter / I think I'm finally going insane." (Preach on.)
"In Aeroplanes" is another winner, a melodically strong composition with a gently wilting, clever harmony vocal from Lacey Capel that takes the song from "good" to "real good."
Overall, the LP sticks to the acoustic guitar / voice base, but nice bursts of cello, fiddle, piano and other instruments shine through here and there. It's a great start for this particular project, and Jason is a songwriter worth keeping an eye on.
Yellow Plate Hotel / "The Final Scene"
Recorded at: Sacred Heart Music Center, elsewhere
Reach Tony Bennett at email@example.com.
Yellow Plate Hotel: The Final Scene
By: Paul Whyte
There are plenty of albums put out by singer-songwriters in the area and it’s no light task to judge someone’s personal, stripped down and minimalistic approach to music. It goes without saying that singer-songwriter material isn’t something that is weighed by extraordinary technical playing or studio tricks that make something sound cool. What usually gets me is when I get the feeling that the material makes one moved, caught in the moment and convinced that there’s something genuine behind it on top of holding a sense of originality.
Jason's travels in and out of the Twin Ports area and his new CD, “The Final Scene,” was written and recorded in Washington, Colorado, Florida and Minnesota. In this album he achieves a feeling of something real in the lyrics and delivery which lie over laid back and tasteful musicianship.
The track, “In Aeroplanes,” brings in the cello, fiddle and additional female vocal accompaniment besides Jason's gently picked guitar and soft vocals. Despite bringing in several instruments on a good number of the tracks, it stays minimalistic and goes for effective melodies in creating a mood over being showy. The sound of the album lies somewhere along the lines of folk and country, but it holds back in style from a lot of other artists I’ve heard that fall under that genre.
It’s not exactly a sad album, but the lyrics are often sentimental and reveal a sense of vulnerability in the aspects of love, longing and just getting by. After this winter, the track, “If I,” is easy to relate to. It’s about the feelings of being trapped and coping with winter as well with dealing loss and regret. “Maybe I’ll fly away someday…living in another winter, I think I’m finally going insane,” goes the chorus.
The tasteful use of instruments and vocals are well demonstrated on the track, “Air Balloon.” The listener gets welcomed by the warm sounds of a cello which backs off as the vocals come in. The female backing vocals hold the melody lines well. Towards the middle of the song an accordion comes in and gives way to the cello. In a way I guess this could be considered the solo or breakdown, but it’s so mellow and pretty, it seems wrong to call it that. In the final verse the vocal duties switch off and Jason fills the secondary vocal parts under the female vocals. The few times I’ve seen Jason play in the Twin Ports he is accompanied by Nature Joy Lindsay but I’m not familiar enough with her voice to say for sure if she is featured on this album. Whoever did them, they certainly add to the delivery of the album.
While this album is really chilled out and at times a little somber, there are a couple of songs that are a little more upbeat. While more uptempo, they stick with the general feel of the album. The song “1200 Miles” takes on a more definite feel of country. As the title would indicate, it’s a song about taking off and traveling. The other track, “Moral Relapse,” crosses blues, country and folk and is one of the only tracks that have harmonica on them.
Lyrically this album stays in a realm of being accessible without giving away too much. Songwriter material is often hit or miss on creating a genuine feeling without being too abstract or telling a story where the listener has no idea what the story is even about. The imagery is fitting for what is happening most of the time on this album. A reoccurring theme of film and movies comes out towards the last half of the album. The track, “Pillow Collapse,” plays on the theme. “I write the scripts in my dreams/I lay awake, you fall asleep/and darling will you give me some more? A little of all you know/trapped inside your camera roll/a silent movie and private show to unfold.” The titles of the last two tracks, “The Final Scene” and “Silver Screen Interstate,” follow suit on the theme.
I’m unsure of the relevance of the cover art to the music overall. It’s a jellyfish and the only thing besides looking kind of cool that I can think of is that Jason got the idea while in Florida.
Overall, “The Final Scene” delivers a smooth listening experience from start to finish. It reflects on some deeper issues, but remains composed and collected. As far as singer-song writer material goes, it really pulls through on lyrics that the listener can relate to and everything from the melody lines of the vocals and use of extra instruments is well orchestrated. Jason was going for a certain mood in this album and pulled it all together wonderfully.
On And Off Stage
Jason’s songs have a kind of familiarity about them that will make you smile as if you were greeting an old friend. Pop in the Yellow Plate Hotel’s latest CD, The Final Scene, close your eyes, and it is like you are sitting around the campfire listening to songs you have grown to love, except you have never heard those songs before. It just feels comfortable and real. You can’t help but be drawn into his love for music and how he throws caution to the wind to make his dream come true.