Less than one second into the superb Belle & Sebastian homage “Eighth Avenue,” on Hospitality’s self-titled debut, there’s a tiny mistake—a botched guitar strum from a player whose grip slipped just so. Hospitality is a sharp, well-rehearsed guitar-pop collection, hardly the work of bedroom amateurs, so that chord sticks out: Like a pair of beat-up Chucks or a dog-eared book, it feels lived-in and personalized.
Hospitality is full of these moments, flashes of raucous, messy humanity trampling through otherwise flawlessly melodic songwriting. “Friends Of Friends” is a reminder that saxophone blurts had a role in rock decades before Hall And Oates, and then there’s the knowingly mock-punk way singer Amber Papini declares “I don’t care, I don’t care,” in “Betty Wang.” “The Right Profession” diverts a sneering lead guitar into the open arms of major-key arpeggios. Later, “Sleepover” goes unexpectedly bittersweet: “Let’s pretend we’re married,” sings Papini, a deft-tongued vocalist who sounds like Karen O with more 30 Rock DVDs. Like “Eighth Avenue,” “Liberal Arts” nods to Stuart Murdoch: It finds Papini gently chastising a dude-friend for idling away his semesters majoring in English and “fingering your girlfriend.” (Is she jealous? Is she rooting for him to make it to home plate? It’s left unsaid.)
Beyond the twee signifiers, Hospitality’s balance of happiness and melancholia gives weight to its soaring melodies. Mostly, the subjects of these songs just want to be loved. Hospitality is already well on its way.