Hospitality, the newest member of the Merge family, and its self-titled full-length debut are hard to pin down because they arouse comparisons to so many different musicians and styles.
Before the opener, "Eight Avenue," is even over, one is reminded of early '00s twee, the angular structure of Deerhoof and at times the theatrical vocal deliveries of Joanna Newsome and Satomi Matsuzaki.
This all changes on the next track in line, “Friends of Friends,” which digs in with an effervescent bass line and saxophone section. Here leader singer and songwriter Amber Papini seems to sing in a more natural tone.
She sings of New York City and transitioning to adulthood — topics that aren’t particularly engaging if only because they’ve been done so much lately; however, Papini writes in a clear, descriptive manner that makes me anxious to hear her tackle more original topics.
The music on Hospitality feels so carefree. One minute “Betty Wang” is sailing along like a semi-nostalgic Tennis song and the next there’s a spastic guitar solo. One of Hospitality’s go-to tricks is to take a quiet song like “Sleepover” and suddenly make it aggressive, but It doesn’t feel calculated. It feels spontaneous. It takes a lot of effort from talented musicians to get music with this much variety to sound effortless.
The pay off is that the album sounds alive. There’s an exciting sense that these songs won’t be the same the next time around and it makes Hospitality a satisfying listen.
Hospitality is out now on Merge Records. The band will open for Tennis at Local 506 on March 9.