Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hospitality Drifts Into More Coarseness

It was the bonus tracks and not the studio cuts off the self-titled debut Hospitality that made me a believer in the Brooklyn indie pop quartet. When Amber Papini isn't busy sounding studio pretty, she becomes more convincing as a bit of a punk. So does the rest of the band.

The Betty Wong studio cut is airy and a bit pretentious. The bonus track is raw and emotive. The Sleepover is wistful to the point of listless. The bonus track lays it down flat. Only the studio session, The Birthday, arguably plays better than the Amaya Sessions. But even then, it's only because Papini gives up too much vocal control in the bonus tracks.

But not everyone heard the bonus tracks, especially after the band garnered generally positive reviews. Never mind that most of it seems tied to the hit single, Friends of Friends, and a few other standouts like The Right Profession. The newest single, The Drift, would have gained more attention if they had. 

The Drift dazzles with Hospitality as it might be or could have been. 

The strength of the lyrics, powered vocals from Papini and punch of the instruments is only the beginning. After Papini powers through a couple of sparse verses, the entire song slips into a lazy daydream before bouncing back with some blistering guitar solos. 

This is the kind of song where Papini's idiosyncratic songwriting and the richly layered arrangements of the band earn the respect that has been put upon them. The limited edition 7-inch track smashes any chance that the band will be underrated. 

The near prog B-side isn't an exception either. Monkey has just as much punch, opening with a minimal percussive beat before layering in the guitar work. Between the two of them, there is every reason to reconsider whether indie pop is even fitting for the angst. 

Either one would have made a brilliant video and some people are hoping. Instead, the band put out a vid for Eighth Avenue, which is a funky little weirdo tune that leads the album but without the conviction of Papini's natural power. There is, however, a half-baked version of Monkey that was performed live for WFUV last February.

There ought to be an emphasis on the half-baked tune. The finished song as it was laid down on the single skips out on the sing-song and takes more advantage of Papini's voice and guitar work. There is also more to hear from Nathan Michel (guitar, keys), Brian Betancourt (bass), and newcomer David Christian (percussion) with the instruments being brought to crystal clarity.

Some added attention would be welcome for the band. Originally founded in 2008, the band almost went bust as members drifted away to work on side projects and Papini dealt with a death in the family. Maybe the wait had its advantages. Hospitality might not have played as well five years ago despite putting out a fine EP. 

It will be interesting to hear what other people have to say about these singles that stand out against the album. By cutting out some of the business and letting Papini deliver up biting lyrics with an irresistible rawness, everything about the songs seems like the right direction but maybe too big of a swing for people caught up with all the niceties of the studio album straight up. 

The Drift With Hospitality Stands Out At 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Both The Drift and the B-side Monkey could make a great defining moment for the band. Although both are beautifully layered, the roughshod arrangements are better suited for what Papini writes about, especially now. She's a little older, smarter and world weary. Isn't everyone.

The Drift by Hospitality can be downloaded from iTunes. You can also find the limited edition vinyl Monkey/Drift, which comes with an MP3 download. The download is also available there on its own. The band is currently touring in support of the album, recently adding new dates in January via Facebook.
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