Hospitality – Hospitality

January 01, 1970

(Merge)

 

www.mergerecords.com

 

Amber Papini, the singer for Hospitality, breezes over jangly pop
riffs, her voice devil-may-care and intoxicating as she picks her way through
scenarios from young adulthood in New
York City. You see her, sharp and thin and funny, fond
of extravagant gestures and expressions, as she tells confides the details of
her day, her friends, her life…perhaps over drinks after work. The details –
Eighth Avenue, 14th Street, temp jobs and the questionable value of
a liberal arts degree – can be grubby, but Papini’s delivery is rapid-fire and Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s-sophisticated,
words jammed together in hyper-articulate bunches then strung out and even
abandoned altogether in wordless, giddy exclamations.

 

Papini is the top note in Hospitality’s debut, a singer charismatic
enough to draw attention away from tightly written, sharply executed songs. Her
bandmates, multi-instrumentalist Nathan Michel and bassist Brian Betancourt,
frame the cuts in a variety of ways, setting off a new wave-ish (think Joe
Jackson), ska-tinged racket in “The Right Profession,” slipping into C86-ish
jangle pop in “Betty Wang” and “Liberal Arts” and crunching hard, minimal rock
riffs in “Friend of Friends.”  The songs are
mostly first-person, confiding if not confessional, both the playing and the
singing buoyantly unsentimental. Songs about other people – “Betty Wang” and
“Liberal Arts”, for instance – cut a little deeper and allow a bit more emotion
to resonant. “Betty Wang,” one of the disc’s best songs, muses on a straighter
co-worker at a day job (“you don’t smoke/you don’t understand my jokes”) with
puzzled affection. “Liberal Arts” imagines life a little further down the pike,
when “you’ve traded all your time for money,” and purchased a house in Garden
City. Both have an undercurrent of melancholy, the ideal foil for their
sweet-sour pop arrangements.

 

Mostly though, Hospitality’s debut is a sugar-rush of an album, albeit
one given acerbic snap by Papini’s delivery. She may be sweet as she coos and
oohs, but there’s an edge in her voice that suggests naïveté just starting to
turn. She and Michel and Betancourt have pretty much captured
the nervous euphoria of 20-something life in the city, a time when everything
seems possible but nothing much is happening yet.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Betty Wang,”
“Liberal Arts” JENNIFER KELLY

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