A song about how all of life’s little things gradually add up, Emét’s “The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” of the year is as much an homage to Leonard Cohen as it is its own instance of intimate, aching folk balladry.
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“The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” – Emét
I’ve listened to enough Leonard Cohen to overthink just about everything he penned, so I wanted to explore the idea of small inconveniences and mercies which can crop up throughout an average day.
A song about how all of life’s little things gradually add up, Emét’s first single of the year is as much an homage to Leonard Cohen as it is its own instance of intimate, aching folk balladry. Tender and heartfelt, acoustic and raw, “The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” is a wistful, poignant reflection on our daily doldrums: From the mornings we just happen to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, to those fleeting moments that wear on our weary hearts and tear at our tearful souls. It’s emotional, dramatic, and a great way to pass three minutes’ time.
One of those days when the hat doesn’t help,
and the love that you’re feeling for somebody else
is replaced by the sting of a single word text.
Your patience is thin, but sure, what’d you expect
when it’s one of those days and the bell never rings?
You try not to feel but you feel everything
and your thoughts turn to grey, like a varicose vein.
You look for the words but it’s really quite hard to explain.
Released February 4, 2022, “The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” is the second single and second track off Emét’s recently released debut album, Carlin’s Farm (out April 8, 2022 via AntiFragile Music). The moniker for Irish-born, Calgary, Alberta-based singer/songwriter Emmét McGonagle, Emét (pronounced “Em-it”) introduced their folk-laden artistry with the song “JJ Johnston” in late October, and went on to released their debut EP Cheers & All the Best in March 2021.
Making music primarily centered around vocals and an acoustic guitar, Emét’s folk sound is honest and candid, familiar and refreshing: Reminiscent of Hozier and Vance Joy’s debut records, Carlin’s Farm carries the folk torch forward while honoring those who came before. This sense of tribute and carrying on is particularly present in “The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice,” whose name and lyrics reference the late Leonard Cohen.
One of those days when you’re stuck with yourself
and you come face to face with your own mental health,
screaming: “I had a purpose when I was a wean.”
It’s gone for the winter, it’ll come back someday
in the midnight hour and come back to bed,
and I’ll pay in time for the things that I said.
I was a coward and I was afraid.
I was a white-collared, middle-class slave to the wage.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Leonard Cohen, both as a musician and as an artist,” Emét tells Atwood Magazine. “He was the first vinyl my ma ever bought back in the day, and I quickly resonated with his strange perspective on life, mortality and morality. One day I happened across a self portrait of Cohen, donning his trademark hat, alongside the caption “one of those days when the hat doesn’t help”. At this point in my life, I’ve listened to enough Leonard Cohen to overthink just about everything he penned, so I wanted to explore the idea of small inconveniences and mercies which can crop up throughout an average day.”
“‘The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice’ covers issues such as one-word texts and broken church bells, but quickly descends into existentialism off the back of spending too much time alone – an issue which I usually fix through talking too much, from what I’m told. The song reaches its peak with the lines ‘And where’s Commander Cohen when you need him? ‘Cos I passed the Chelsea Hotel and it’s closed.’ Believe it or not, I really did visit the Chelsea Hotel a few years back – former home of Cohen and the inspiration behind many of his songs, including ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’ – and didn’t think to check whether it was still an active hotel during my brief travels in New York. Looking back on the scenario felt like an appropriate closer to a song built on the foundations of Mr. Cohen’s work.”
“I recorded this track at the beginning of last year in Belfast’s Half Bap Studios. It was slap bang in the middle of an eight-day recording session for my debut album Carlin’s Farm, and at this point we (producer George Sloan and I) were in a pretty solid flow of work, coffee and more work. However, it took a while for this song to reach its final iteration – the energy was a bit different, and so (as someone who writes all their songs on guitar) it felt right to add some different elements to it. George is the mastermind behind the piano, as well as the melodica which gives the tune a bit of a bohemian vibe. I really wanted to lean into the notion of ‘the artist as a vocation’, which is something Cohen discusses quite a bit in his poetry but kinda makes me want to boke as a concept. Overall, the track feels sad and dramatic, but also has a sincerity to the composition which I love. It’s sad and camp, which is everything I strive to be at this point as a person.”
And where’s Commander Cohen when you need him?
I passed the Chelsea Hotel and it’s closed.
I need a dream but I’ll wake up to the fear.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll “go clear.”
Well you asked for the end, now the sky’s fallen through.
There’s a man in the clouds and he’s pointing his finger at you.
But if I bought a hazmat suit…
Gentle piano and a plaintive harmonica can be heard mixing together with Emét’s accompanying acoustic guitar, but ultimately it’s the artist’s voice that shines the most on this tempered, evocative dose of moody melancholia.
From stirring poetic lines like, “The love that you’re feeling for somebody else is replaced by the sting of a single word text” to, “Well you asked for the end, now the sky’s fallen through. There’s a man in the clouds and he’s pointing his finger at you,” Emét creates in this song an insular, inviting world that we can not just imagine, but truly relate to. We all experience down and out moments to some degree, and we’ve all had days where we just want to go back to bed and try again tomorrow. That this universal experience has been so elegantly and intimately brought to life in song is a testament to Emét’s standout talents as a folk songwriter and storyteller. Wherever you find yourself today, this song is sure to find a way into your heart.
Listen to “The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” and the rest of Emét’s debut album wherever you get your music. Carlin’s Farm is out now!
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“The Chelsea Hotel Is Closed Until Further Notice” – Emét
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