Many songwriters have mulled over the rootlessness of their 20s, but few describe it with as much wit and wistful sentiment as Hospitality's Amber Papini does. A Brooklynite by way of Kansas City, Papini documents nostalgia for her youth as a way to address the angst of reinvention — and, ultimately, to celebrate coming into your own and accepting who you want to be.
Throughout Hospitality's superb self-titled debut, the songs take tiny snapshots that depict the intricacies of New York and the complicated feelings that come with life in transition: getting a "real job" ("The Right Profession"), the inside jokes and reassurances between friends ("Betty Wang"), getting over lost love ("Friends of Friends") and aimless time-killing out of boredom. "Watch the computer, sit by the telephone / Waiting for hours, video games, books on the bed," Papini sings in "Eighth Avenue."
"Eighth Avenue" also highlights Hospitality's greatest skill: offsetting weighty notions with bouncy arrangements and taut pop hooks. At the song's center is Papini's warm, embracing voice, which shyly flutters just above a mix of treated guitars and vintage synthesizers. But, thanks to the rich production of Shane Stoneback and Nathan Michel (who plays guitar, drums and keyboards), Hospitality's songs find a happy middle ground between cute and sharp-edged, intimate and exuberant. There are enough breezy harmonies, crisp guitars and lilting bass grooves (courtesy of Brian Betancourt) to get listeners doing their very best Snoopy dance. Still, "Eighth Avenue" occasionally sprawls and bursts with joyful noise — a winning combination that makes Hospitality's first record a delightful palate-cleanser full of sweet, memorable moments.