plus very special guests
[Bella Union Records]
Brilliant double-header featuring Brooklyn’s HOSPITALITY who have an excellent second album Trouble out now on Merge and new Bella Union signing MY SAD CAPTAINS.
From the opening phrase of “Eighth Avenue,” guitar hooks are balanced with a cultivated melody. Papini’s singing has a wisp of an English accent via Kansas City (she learned to sing by imitating Richard Butler on The Psychedelic Furs’ Talk Talk Talk) and her lyrics create a moonstruck, even cinematic vision of New York City, where the band formed in 2007. The production by Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells) and band member Nathan Michel (guitar, drums, keyboards), who released his share of experimental “bedroom” pop, culminating in 2005’s The Beast (Skipp/Sonig), imbues the entire record with an intimate yet prodigious sound, layering period keyboards with horns, synthesizers, and treated guitars.
Hospitality the album has an overarching vision and should be listened to as a whole, though every song registers as a single. (Will Merge take a cue from Epic’s Thriller campaign and release seven singles? They should!) “Friends of Friends” could break the Hot 100 with its heavy intro, swingin’ breakdown, and horn riffs; “Betty Wang,” the lynchpin of their live set a few years back, is impossibly catchy, the story of one of Papini’s real-life colleagues at a financial day job; and “The Right Profession” is a power-pop burst of an anthem with Papini chanting the immortal line, “It’s hard to change!” (Isn’t it?) And “The Birthday,” with a sinuous, dissonant lead guitar, the lockstep rhythm of the drums, and Brian Betancourt’s nimble bass, wouldn’t be out of place on The Police’s debut record, but its epic coda makes it decidedly CinemaScope. Hospitality, while hearkening back to ’70s/’80s pop–both Elvis Costello and Kate Bush are influences–has an ambitious vision: its big promise is nowhere more evident than on the gorgeous anthem “Julie,” the album’s centerpiece which already sounds like a classic. The song’s lush, glorious build is coupled with lyrics inspired by Papini’s great-grandfather, a Pennsylvania coalminer.
Reprising some songs from a self-released 2008 EP recorded by Karl Blau (K Records) allows Hospitality to nod to its beginnings as a more lo-fi outfit; that early intimacy can be found in the arrangement of the cheeky and distinctly NC-17 “Liberal Arts.” And after patiently honing its craft, playing concerts (and gaining converts), Hospitality has reached what will be its first apex with many more heights to come; from their modest debut in a Red Hook row house, the band has evolved from four-track low-fidelity to a luxury five-star future.
My Sad Captains are the latest addition to the Bella Union family, bringing with them a third album that further defines their exquisitely tailored, subtly expressive and melodically radiant songcraft. Like the brilliant 1961 poem by the late Thom Gunn from which the London-based quartet takes its name, a sparingly deployed assemblage of words and emotions shows that less can be so much more.
The nine songs that comprise Best Of Times have an almost underplayed guitar-pop sensibility reminiscent of many classic indie bands of the 80s. But neither are they any kind of throwback, with suitably restrained and delicate shades of keyboards and a beautiful clarity of sound that’s distinctly 21st century.
The band was formed by Ed Wallis (vocals, guitar), Nick Goss (guitar, sonics), Jim Wallis (drums, keyboards, vocals) and Dan Davis (bass) and released early singles on Fortuna Pop! and White Heat before recording two albums for Stolen Recordings, 2009’s Here & Elsewhere and 2011’s Fight Less, Win More. But with Bella Union MD Simon Raymonde including the latter one in his Best of 2011 albums, it wasn’t long before they had signed to his label and were self-producing a third album at Bella Union’s studios in Hackney, East London before it was mixed in Portland, Oregon by Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus).
Best Of Times also mirrors the band’s visual aesthetic. Both practising artists, Goss (alongside his brother Phil) has done all MSC’s artwork while Davis has directed two of the band’s videos and a film they use on stage. “Self-sufficiency is important, from the artwork to producing the records,” says Wallis. “Perhaps we are an indie band in the old and true sense, kind of an English art-school band. For Best Of Times, we commissioned nine artists to respond to individual songs, which came back as a wonderful and eclectic range including screen prints, oil on paper and photo collage.” The set of nine works is an art book that houses the vinyl, in a limited edition of one thousand copies.
Strictly over 18′s, I.D. may be required.
AFTER THE GIG
Whelan’s Indie Club w/ Late Bar from 10:30pm or check out the bands playing The Midnight Hour in the upstairs venue (FREE ENTRY, 12am).