Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Brian Thorn at The Magic Shop in NYC during CMJ weekend 2011
No doubt, it's a different city when you've grown up there, when you've lived there for so long and you've seen its underbelly, or just a regular old belly. The Manhattan and everything surrounding it that Hospitality's Amber Papini paints for us in her exquisite snapshots of the city give her away as a 90-year-old woman - someone who grew up in the city and never once left. Everything that the tired, but sharp as she ever was woman, has ever seen or known is tied in some way to her location. It's just bananas that Papini grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, a nice place, but nothing like Manhattan. One of her bandmates, bassist Brian Betancourt - also of the White Rabbits, spent many of his younger years also in Missouri, a state that has never had a reputation for glowing nights and nostalgic trips back to golden eras, where everything interesting and spectacular that was happening in, was happening there.
Hospitality - rounded out by the extremely talented founding member and guitarist Nathan Michel - could make you assume that the makers of this music have some of the oldest souls in NYC. They should be leading the tours, making it possible for you to close your eyes tight and imagine a place that doesn't exist any longer. It's a place that's markings are hanging faintly on the sides of buildings, or have been touched up and refurbished dozens of times over the decades. They are the places for the people who have lived in them. They are the colorful neighborhoods for the larger than life personalities, those with their particular mannerisms, for their looks and their walks, for the things that they cared enough about and to make sure that they didn't disappoint. Papini's singing and the leisurely ways that she tells her stories tend to rush us back into a vision of the past, if only for the persnickety attention to street names and the tiniest details. We feel that this means that all of these things are meant to have happened forever ago because we can't be bothered with paying that much attention to what's happening around us right now, our eyes always being so buried into our little screens. It must mean that these things are ancient and regal because we've been able to go back and look at photographs, see them in books, imagine what it would have been like to get lost in some previous time period where nothing's the way it is now, where you could actually borrow a cup of sugar and it wasn't just a trite expression.
It's immaculate, beautiful pop music, with grooves in all the right places, that reminds us of a big, old, sprawling and grand place that once we knew, or once we never knew, filled with the kinds of people we hope there are enough of for the day when we're recollecting back on the times that we had. Hospitality music reminds us of the kind of New York City that Zelda Fitzgerald describes near the beginning of "Save Me The Waltz," writing, "City of glittering hypotheses, chaff from a fairy mill, suspended in penetrating blue! Humanity clings to the streets like flies upon a treacle stream. The tops of buildings shine like crowns of golf-leaf kings in conference." It's a place that is mostly a remnant, but one that's still able to be visited. Some of those people are still around, those under the streets' restorative light and those up on the rooftops playing spades and hearts, wearing their Sunday clothes.
Hospitality Official Site