Later tonight (February 9th, 2014, as I write this), Brooklyn band Hospitality will be performing a show at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge. I plan on attending, since I somehow made an excuse not to go after their prior trip through town (in support of their wonderful 2012 self-titled debut - #24 pick seen here). And again, I find myself in a dilemma. The show is a Sunday night. We’ve had a shower of ice layer over the streets after a few days of unusual amounts of snow, I’m old, I work early tomorrow morning, and I’m not sure I will be able to convince anyone to join me. Should I go? I’m listening to their new second album right now and the internal battle between my love of music and desire to support the bands I love versus the cheap old curmudgeon shut in that I’ve become rages on. What to do?
There is a dilemma spread across Trouble as well. Of course, the crossroads explored in vocalist/guitarist Amber Papini’s lyrics are a lot more in depth and more important than my trivial one. Papini seems to be stuck in a purgatory between the desire for a relationship and a desire to be alone. This is something I think all of us can identify with at some point in our lives. Do we want to deal with the weirdness, frustration, compromise and potential heartbreak of dating or do we want to be lonely? Neither one sounds particularly appealing, does it? Maybe this is the jaded view and we should always dream of that perfect match that only a rare few of us seem to find in life, but such are the emotional ups and downs of love and life.
Let’s begin with the lonely side of the equation. The smooth Luna sounding first single, “Going Out” (the video fittingly stars Luna’s Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips), finds our protagonist dressing up for a night on the town (“ruffled dresses and parasols / rhinestone rings and high-heeled soles / wrapped in cloth from your head to toe”), but the frosty night only turns out to be an evening stroll alone (“you’re looking at yourself a lot / standing in the glass with costume on / posed for no one but you were caught”). The stuttering “I Miss Your Bones” finds her alone either from separation or from being let go, while the epic and mysterious sounding “Last Words” finds her stranded on an island wanting companionship desperately enough to “evacuate to salty arms of a soldier or a snake.” On the closing spare acoustic “Call Me After,” Papini finds herself outstaying her welcome due to a rainstorm and the resulting humiliation of this realization: “Will you want me after? / will you want to walk me home in the dark? / is it the weather that just keeps me?”
Yet, on the other side of the coin, the album opens up with Papini’s faux British accent cursing a cheating lover in “Nightingale” (“If you sleep here you’ll see sirens and vamps”) over the top of spectacularly splashing cymbals in the rousing denial chorus: “What girl?” In the brief “Inaugaration” finds Papini sitting alone watching TV and giving a subtle kiss off to her missing partner (“Why you call and say / you’ll call me back / I’ll disconnect the line”), while the first album Psychedelic Furs sounding “Rockets and Jets” is a case of a lovely sunny afternoon out watching planes when things go south (“I left the knife on the rafter / I’ll have your heart after / I know this won’t last too long / I’ll have the day a long long time”). Meanwhile, the frank “It’s Not Serious” is all about being the on the other side and disinterested – “I’ll figure out / I don’t want this / and so it’s not serious”). Clearly, there are no easy answers. We are all heroes and villains in the world of love – depending on whose side you’re on, but finding a balance between independence and companionship is not easy to achieve.
Musically, this sophomore album is a big departure from the to-the-point baroque pop of their debut. As hinted at in the post album double-A sided 7,” “The Drift” b/w “Monkey,” the band have decided to stretch things out and linger over notes and passages in a more spacious way. Much like the early 80s post-punk influenced cover art (reminds me of early OMD); the music sounds like it could’ve been recorded from that period. There is a darkness and mystery behind many of these songs and the keyboard layers and moments of programmed beats and stark piano hammers enhance the indecisiveness and hollow feelings of the words, while the space allows for bolder crescendos and longer passages of near silence.
It is fun to hear a band growing and trying new things and so successfully. This album is an enjoyable listen from start to finish from the get go, but it reveals more and more with repetition. Now, should I go to the show tonight? I really should. They’ve travelled a meandering 3,000 plus miles to arrive here across a nation decimated by bone chilling cold and treacherous roads. It seems as though I could chance a 15 minute drive to see them perform. But I do have to be up early tomorrow….
Hospitality "Going Out"