One of the most exciting aspects of writing for a site that covers bands with little to no press is coming across the occasional newborn artist. There are endless possibilities that lie in store for such musician(s), whether signed or unsigned to a record label. In most realistic cases, they will continue to venture through obscurity, pressing onward to gain recognition. The excitement, however, stems from the prospect of said group proverbially blowing up after an album release. Enough of the yapping, though. The artist now in question is recent signees to the impeccable Merge Records, Hospitality. Following a self-released EP back in 2008, their self-titled debut album will see its release on the 31st of January.
Listen to “Friends Of Friends”
So, it’s no surprise that a band from Merge sounds great. In all seriousness, this LP is brilliant. The band can be most easily described as a more demure Vampire Weekend fronted by an American, inner-city Björk. Energy is always present on a band’s debut album, as it is crystal clear to see on classics like Icky Mettle and Funeral. Hospitality has the cognizant ability to not mistake energy for hyperactivity.
Hospitality has its handful of songs set at a jogging pace such as “Betty Wang” and “The Right Profession,” but the band can hit just as hard by slowing it down to a more focused ballad, like “Julie.” Tone-wise, this album is quite emulative of a typical New York City-native young adult, which the members all happen to be. There are tunes that touch upon the night life of the Big Apple like “Friends Of Friends,” but they more so deal with relationships, which seems most typical and relative to the ethos of a few Brooklyn twenty-somethings. That may sound like a broad form of pigeonholing, but vocalist Amber Papini does well on her part by making each track a good story. The music itself will get you nodding your head, while the lyrics give the LP endurance.
This trio is a perfect example of a group that takes musical influences and voices them within their own songs. “Eighth Avenue” echoes Belle And Sebastian, “The Right Profession” echoes Vampire Weekend, and so forth. Taking a tip from Belle And Sebastian though, rather than the latter, Hospitality chooses to be a songwriter’s ideal band. As mentioned earlier, Papini has a tendency to shine through as a storyteller, and that is what gives the songs their boldness. Yes, the instrumentation is wonderful, but the strong point of their sounds is in Amber’s NYC-raconteur type character.
“Friends Of Friends” is the leadoff single from Hospitality, and rightfully so. Without coming off as expected of most indie bands at their status, that song is practically begging to be in a commercial. What separates them from fellow indie rockers is that they aren’t one trick ponies, like most of those chosen for Mac commercials. The entire release is pretty brilliant, it stays gripping from start to end. If you let the album take control, you’ll wind up thinking each subsequent tune is your favorite on the album. “Julie” is so intriguingly pensive and builds to a beautiful close, “Sleepover” features a stunning display of ethereal vocal tracking, and this goes on until the time is spent. Basically, this is yet another installment in the large musical string of fantastic debuts.
If you couldn’t decipher from everything that’s been typed so far, this album has no faults. Any faults that may exist with this band would have to do with their live performance. That is, some songs may or may not translate well on the stage. Hospitality consists of three core members, and the production on a few tracks can get fairly thick at times, leaving the small problem of a potential discrepancy between performance and studio recording.
Hospitality is 402′s first review of the year 2012, and it may be one of the best albums of this year. It sounds cliche and/or sycophantic, but I assure you readers that it is pure coincidence. After just one listen, you will know why this is receiving my nomination for album of the year already. Amber Papini, Nathan Michel, and Brian Betancourt have made a great LP, and are guaranteed to be a band to watch out for. More good music can only be expected from these youngsters.