Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Synth doodles and squeaky-cutesy vocals abound on this Brooklyn trio's aggressively adorable debut. But Hospitality have more to offer than mere sweetness: Check how the wistful ballad "Eighth Avenue" left-turns into a spastic guitar outburst, like Tom Verlaine crashing a Belle and Sebastian session. Amber Papini's lyrics keep the merry-sounding tunes grounded in reality – deft sketches of young New Yorkers falling for new loves, droning away at dead-end jobs and dreaming of far-away homes.
Amber Papini's world is full of doors, locks, and keys. Half the tracks on her band Hospitality's self-titled debut LP make mention of these things, either their presence or, more significantly, their absence. Take "Liberal Arts", an appropriately languid tribute to mapless post-graduate ennui: "So you found the lock/ But not the key that college brings/ And all the trouble of your B.A.
Hospitality’s debut self titled LP is pitched squarely within that liminal zone between adolescent angst and the jaded security of pre-middle age in your first flat with your third girlfriend; ten breezy indie-pop tracks channeling the nonchalant breeziness of twenty-something existence in the city. It's a record waiting to be squashed under the pressure of making life choices which will lock you into irreversible patterns. There are songs about the difficulty of long distance relationships and deciding whether to hedge your bets with one or cut your losses; the gut-chilling panic of finding yourself on a career path which leaves you perpetually dissatisfied; and - of course, that timeless old chestnut - never having any fucking money.
Living up to its name, Hospitality serves up indie-pop comfort food with a sound that’s warm, inviting, and familiar. On its eponymous debut, the up-and-coming Brooklyn band mines those time-tested twee themes of unrequited love and self-doubting ennui with a sweet-and-sour aesthetic that conjures up a pit-of-your-stomach feeling that could either be anxious anticipation or impending doom, whether it’s over love, what to do with yourself, or life in general. Considering how well crafted Hospitality is, it’s tempting to think that the trio is more experienced than its years, except that it takes a certain kind of precocity and earnestness to capture a snapshot of that time in your life when you know enough that you realize you really don’t know enough about how the world works, especially other people.
Hospitality, the eponymous debut of the Brooklyn indie band, takes on the weightier issues of being a 20-something with the wit and wisdom of 30-somethings, probably because singer-songwriter-pianist-guitarist Amber Papini has grown into her 30s since Hospitality’s 2008 EP. In those years, she has gained the experience, both in life and in music, to look back on friendship, love, boredom, and New York with smiles and laughter. The focus of Hospitality is not the lost love, choice of college major and profession, perpetual boredom, or growing up; it’s about how the lost love, the B.A.
After releasing a well-received EP in 2008, Brooklyn indie pop trio Hospitality seemingly went into hiding, not letting even a single track escape. Finally, in early 2012, they resurfaced with a full-length, self-titled album for Merge that expands on the promise of the EP and delivers a nice combo of sophisticated wit, musical surprises, and emotional punch. It's something bands like Camera Obscura and the Concretes are/were able to achieve again and again, and Hospitality shares much with these two bands.
Like former Merge band Camera Obscura, the first few strums of Hospitality's "Eight Avenue," which opens the band's new self-titled album, are a bit misleading. The quiet acoustics and simple percussion, not to mention Amber Papini's airy vocals all scream twee. And for a few minutes we are in a kind of plush bedroom pop world, something aware of how unassuming it is, something almost precious.
With Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), The Kinks built the ideal pop concept album by cannily constructing an entirely convincing post-colonial landscape out of a collage of musical idioms and cultural signifiers from across the Anglophone world. By layering tambourine and twanging guitars over hymnlike structures and juxtaposing kazoo with harpsichord, Ray Davies made scarcely 50 minutes of wax feel like it might contain centuries of world history. Indie pop crew Hospitality’s self-titled debut hints at that sort of thaumaturgy, although its subject — the directionless inanity of privileged post-collegiate life in New York City — limits the extent to which the elaborate instrumentation manages to create a compelling world.
This is a hard band, and album, not to like – as the inviting name of Hospitality promises. Even the if some of the songs have an edgier feel, like the excellent “Friends of Friends” with its striking and slashing guitar accompaniment, all the songs dissolve under the sweet voice of Amber Papini, a name that also feels, well, cozy. Most songs, however, have a comfy, even homey feel: a sleepier Belle & Sebastian (as in the first track, “Eighth Avenue”), with vocals courtesy of Camera Obscura (as in the haunting and brilliant “Argonauts”).