Hospitality w/Dustin Wong, Glass Ghost
Friday, February 3
Better than: Listening to old K Records albums.
Thinking that Hospitality is a Scottish band, is an understandable mistake. The recent Merge signees are, in fact, from New York City, even if their smarty-pants pop has more in common with bands like Camera Obscura than many of their noisier hometown compatriots. The group crafts luscious songs that more often than not reference the members’ friends, personal lives, work, and relationships. Amber Papini furthers the Anglo-Saxon suggestion with an idiosyncratic, lovely voice that contains just a hint of a British accent (she’s from Kansas City, by the way). And the carefully put-together guitars, bass, drums, and sometimes horns and synths, practically beg to be listened to over a cup of PG Tips on a rainy day.
Friday night’s show at Glasslands celebrated the release of Hospitality’s album, but the band was a little late to its own party. Close to an hour after Glass Ghost finished up a lukewarm set of wispy electro-pop, Hospitality bass player Brian Betancourt finally took the stage to apologize for the delay and ask the crowd not to leave. A minute later, the band appeared and Papini cited “stuff going on that was out of our control” before dedicating the first song to the line still waiting in the cold outside. (There were whispers that a surprise health inspection had disrupted the proceedings.)
Hospitality’s sweet set erased any lingering annoyance. The band is incredibly well-rehearsed and Papini’s singing is as good live as it is on record. Every song is a brisk, collegiate investigation into the notions of melody and lyrics (sometimes explicitly so, as on the academics and sex-themed “Liberal Arts”). The addition of a second guitar player was a smart move, adding brief, explosive, noisy solos to the stripped-down verses and ferociously catchy choruses. Speaking of which, I’m still not sure what Papini is singing in the chorus of “Betty Wang,” which the band played a few songs into its set—”Sous chef?” “Fuchsia?” Whatever it is, the tune’s early appearance elicited happy cheers from the crowd, as did a new number that the band decided to try out.
The show really hit its stride when two sax players appeared onstage to perform “Friends of Friends” and the driving “All Day Today.” Hospitality’s spare and simple formula of clean-toned guitars and bass is a good one, but the band’s songs are lifted immensely when they are filled out a little bit. That being said, “Julie” was a highlight of the evening, a quiet, understated moment in contrast with the spry, bouncing pop that dominated the set list. As the band laid down the atmospherics, Papini earnestly emoted her way through chord changes that evoked standards. By the end of the night, it seemed as if even the grumpiest audience members might have been willing to take Papini up on her offer to party at the Woods after the show.
Critical bias: I promised myself not to refer to Hospitality as “twee” in this review.
Overheard: “I don’t wait this long for anything in Manhattan, and this is Brooklyn!”—a woman complaining about the long wait outside.
Random notebook dump: Papini kept looking over to the side at the wall while singing. Affectation or shyness?
The Right Profession
Friends of Friends
All Day Today