Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hospitality (2012).

Possibly my new favorite band, or my favorite new band.  My first impression of Hospitality was, while listening to Eighth Avenue, the opening track from their debut album, that they might be another twee band stuck in the endless revolving door of the I / IV / I chord change. 

But after they go to the IV chord the second time, I heard something refreshing.  The IV chord is an E Maj 7 (the song is in B), which begins a beautiful sequence of chromatically descending chords:  the E Maj 7 is followed by an E flat 7, then D Maj 7, and a D flat 7, all above a pedal point on B.  When the sequence is repeated, now with the bass providing the root notes, it resolves not on the I, but on the tonic minor with a raised 6, a very interesting decision. Nice stuff.  It’s like something out of the American Songbook. Good to hear an Indiepop band messing around with some pretty suave harmonies.  

This is just a taste of the pleasant surprises on this album. There are noisy guitar outbursts, squirrley synth riffs, and quirky rhythmic motifs, none of which last for more than a moment, always allowing the song at hand itself to be the focus.  And their songs, written by Amber Papini, are terrific: wistful or animated, idiosyncratic, kooky and hooky, sweet, but not naive.  Amber grew up listening to Cole Porter and Gershwin, so that’s probably where her ear for sophisticated harmony comes from.   

After a few listens, I kept thinking, where have I heard this voice before?  Then it hit me - Audrey Hepburn, which made me like Hospitality even more.

Eighth Avenue: