Based in Brooklyn via Kansas City, New Jersey, and South Carolina Hospitality embraces the gamut of post-war British pop music. The three piece’s self-titled 2012 debut album gathered positive reviews for its chirpy brand of happy/sad guitar rock, but the word cute soon became a reoccurring feature throughout, thanks to singer/guitarist Amber Papini’s vocals which sit firmly in the Isobel Campbell (Belle & Sebastian) Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) camp.
Hospitality’s sophomore album ‘Trouble’ sees them embrace a more post-punk route, though the chirpy happy sad elements still remain on tracks such as Going Out and It’s Not Serious. The album is a much sparser affair than its predecessor successfully creating, thicker, darker soundscapes with less instrumentation on display.
Of course it would be preposterous for Hospitality to go full throttle post-punk without the untethered vocals of an Ian Curtis (Joy Division) or an Adrian Borland (The Sound) to rely upon. Papini’s vocals, even at their most ferocious, are dainty in comparison. Instead, Hospitality have struck the perfect balance between the alluring cuteness of their debut and a fiercer sound that says “don’t underestimate us,” “we are the real deal,” and “fuck you” to the critics, all in the one breath.
Single Going Out is alt-pop perfection; combining ‘60s girl pop with funky bass which builds into a tremolo guitar crescendo as Papini repeats “Rainbows down in the dust. Don’t have any fear when I’m cold”. I Miss Your Bones revs up the post-punk aesthetic with angular guitar lines coming to the fore, before Inauguration rams home the message that, we are not who you think we are, with a short spacious blast of synth bass, drum fills and feedback guitar.
Sullivan strips away all the dirt, replacing it with a tense, sombre, yet ethereal, bed of tremolo guitar and haunting piano motifs, set to lyrics that offer a glimpse into a confused mind “I’m leaves to pick/rocks to throw/Try not to let/ the fire go.” ‘Trouble’ veers suddenly and unexpectedly into Talk Talk territory with Last Words, a six minute slow-burning song, dripping with alternative ‘80s synths and guitar solos. But Amber Papini and co more than pull it off. The inclusion of male vocals throughout the choruses (their only appearance on the album) gives an added authenticity to the retro feel of the track.
‘Trouble’ succeeds where so many sophomore albums fail by retaining enough of the band’s original sound and aesthetic whilst simultaneously dismantling it just enough to keep it fresh and exciting.