The Only Living Band in New York

Hospitality and Teen at Barboza, Seattle | 9 October 2012

Hospitality are kind of old New York. They have a drummer that looks like Billy Ficca and they  sound like beatnicks  from the village incorporating elements of bossa nova, 1970’s am pop radio aesthetics, and literate lyrics. At first take you might write them off as being too fey and light, but behind that fragile facade is a complex band that isn’t afraid to turn it up, rock out (a little) and have a good time. Hospitality’s self-titled album from earlier this year is full of polite, catchy songs that are given wings from singer Amber Papini’s wide-eyed innocent delivery. It’s part Astrude Gilberto, Stuart Murdoch and Joanna Newsom, but unlike those singers, her voice has the strength to be heard over volume of live band.

This was their first time in Seattle, though they were out this way in the spring to play Sasquatch. They bypassed Seattle probably because playing Sasquatch forbade them playing here at the time. It wasn’t a Sasquatch sized crowd at Barboza Tuesday night, but me and about 30 others were glad they made the effort to return and play Seattle.

They sounded great. Right at that sweet spot where they’ve played the songs enough to know them like they were their children, but they haven’t become so familiar to where the band is sick of playing them. Accomplished yet playful. Sweet and understated songs like Betty Wang, Liberal Arts Friends of Friends reminded me of the Jazz Butcher and the Legendary Ruiz Group effortlessly doing cocktail jazz, indiepop and smooth pop all at once. They also included a handful of more muscular sounding new ones in the set including both The Drift and Monkey which are due for release as 7-inch at the end of October.  Hospitality, after a single album are already accomplished at writing unforgettable pop songs and alluringly delivering them. I only hope they keep their quirky pop leanings and not try to get too serious sounding as some of their new songs hinted at.

mp3: Hospitality – Eighth Avenue (This song owes a debt of gratitude to Belle and Sebastian. You can get Hospitality’s album and upcoming 7-inch from Merge)

New York City pals Teen opened. They seem to be a split personality band. I dig their Go-Go mixed with Motels song  Better but it is the anomaly in their otherwise too self-important sounding debut record In Limbo which was recorded by Spaceman Sonic Boom. Live it was the same story. Too much gravitas and not enough hooks for my taste.

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