One of NYC’s best kept secrets of the last few years has been Brooklyn trio Hospitality, whose delectably quirky 2012 self-titled debut combined Belle & Sebastian’s cute-as-a-button awkwardness and Vampire Weekend’s Ivy League musicianship. On their second LP, Trouble, the band contemplates a slightly darker side of life, thankfully without sacrificing any of their compulsive listenability.
Trouble is a stark and deliberate record that doesn’t pull any punches. Through 10 tracks that range from bedroom acoustic torch song (“Call Me After”) to six-and-a-half-minute electro juggernaut (“Last Words”), there isn’t a single wasted note or syllable. In the past, singer Amber Papini seemed clad in cardigans and buried in books, and here she’s grown a set of fangs and moved downtown. On herky-jerky single “I Miss Your Bones”, her voice borders on a snarl as she juxtaposes lines like “The stars will twinkle in the mist of the sea” with “black and lonely, everlasting loss like abyss.” This newfound grit suits the trio remarkably well — see also: the 90-second guitar freak-out that closes out the track, sounding like Nels Cline on a cotton candy high.
“Last Words”, however, is the album’s clear centerpiece. It’s the group’s most ambitious venture into electronic music to date, but they never stray into aimless knob-turning territory. The pulsing beat that runs the track is at once understated and driving, acting as the vessel for Papini’s figurative solo journey from the sea back to solid land. Followed by the delicate, Pink Moon-indebted comedown “Sunship” (those horns!), the second half of Trouble is a distinctly enjoyable 20-minute stretch.
Hospitality is extremely adept at creating complicated songs that sound painfully simple, not unlike the earlier work of the aforementioned Vampire Weekend. With Trouble, they easily avoid the sophomore slump and take an accomplished leap forward.
Essential Tracks: “I Miss Your Bones”, “Last Words”