I’m not sure exactly how indicative this is of the quality of Hospitality’s debut album, but for the life of me I cannot think of a single feature striking enough to grace the first line of an album review. Don’t get me wrong – this was a thoroughly pleasant album to listen to, full of many interesting layers and the occasional endearing third person narrative reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian. Of particular note was the general cadence of the track progression, which delicately balanced the subdued and contemplative with the careless and silly. No endless ballads, no brash guitar solos, just a carefully calculated blend of rhythms and melodies. Lead singer Amber Papini’s voice is well-suited to the instrumentation and the attitude of the album as a whole – distant and sometimes amused – and for the first several tracks I assumed she was British. In fact she is about as American as it is possible to be (claiming Kansas as a birthplace), and it is likely the composition of the songs in their entirety that give off a slightly less-aggressive Britpop air.
Arguably the catchiest track is the second, entitled “Friends of Friends.” Full of jazzy riffs and rough guitar accents, it has a more distinctly forceful feel than the rest of the album. Some of the feathery quality of Papini’s voice is replaced by a throatier seductiveness, which makes it easier to get in to the beat and harder to space out (an ambiguous quality in music in general). This was one of six songs recorded in 2008 on a four track EP, all of which have a much grittier quality in their original version. Nearly four years later everything as been markedly polished, setting a smooth tone characteristic of the entire album.
Other notable tracks include the breezy “Liberal Arts,” which ironically and somewhat lackadaisically discusses the inherent problems of studying impractical things in college. The song itself is prettily orchestrated and amusingly whimsical; the only slight issue I take with it is the rather carefree tone with which it discusses an issue that has caused increasingly frequent and intense panic attacks amongst most of the Georgetown population (myself included).
I must reiterate, therefore, that this album is thoroughly well thought out and well produced. The track list has a compelling narrative, and the group’s style is unique enough that you wouldn’t confuse them with every other small indiepop group trying to make their way in the world. But there is definitively a little something missing – perhaps a lack of annoyingness, nothing to make you really appreciate the buttery effortlessness of the rest of the album. Or perhaps it is just more fun to write a mean review. Regardless, Hospitality’s debut album is definitely worth a listen.