Hospitality

Hospitality

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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. First thing would be a vocalist, Amber Papini, who sounds a little weird at first but not in an off-putting way, more in a way that draws you in and leaves you hanging on each oddly phrased word. Second thing is very catchy tunes that will have you humming along right way. Papini's songs are unstoppably charming, with equal doses of free-spirited joy, hard-won knowledge, and semi-crushing melancholy. She writes about growing up, growing apart, falling in love, and getting by in a way that is both thoughtful and revealing, but never self-centered or insular. The third thing would be a level of musical intelligence and inspiration that lifts them above the hordes of drab indie lifers they share airspace with, and they have this to spare. Papini and the group -- drummer Nathan Michel (who also provides keys, guitars, backing vocals, and co-production) and bassist Brian Betancourt -- play Hospitality with a refined and steady grace that improves greatly on the bedroom sound of the EP and adds just the right amount of depth to quiet and thoughtful songs like "Julie" and "Sleepover." The group also does a fine job of giving the uptempo tracks some pep, like on "All Day Today," which ends the album in a whoosh of saxophones, clacking percussion, and Papini's breathless vocals. They also have a nice ability to bounce happily (on the sweet and cute "Betty Wang") or get your feet moving politely (on the album's best song, "Friends of Friends," which sounds like the mellowest Delta 5 song ever). Overall, there is a fine balance of sounds, feelings, and textures on the album, enough to make Hospitality both a vindication of promise already displayed by the band and hope for further greatness. That, and it just plain sounds good.

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