Amber Papini’s world is full of doors, locks, and keys. Half the tracks on her band Hospitality‘s self-titled debut LP make mention of these things, either their presence or, more significantly, their absence. Take “Liberal Arts”, an appropriately languid tribute to mapless post-graduate ennui: “So you found the lock/ But not the key that college brings/ And all the trouble of your B.A. in English literature/ Instead of law, or something more practical,” Papini wryly surmises over a tamped-down electric riff and shuffly drums, showing her hand as the most promising recent graduate of the Tracyanne Campbell school of cardigan rock. (In non-metaphorical reality, Papini studied at Yale.)

This album is about the comings and goings that can consume a certain kind of twentysomething’s life, about fuguing and settling and sometimes not being able to tell one from the other. This album is also very fun, perhaps because, as Papini has wandered into her 30s, she seems to have realized that none of that really goes away, it just gets easier, or at least starts to seem bearably silly. In these songs, quietly groovy drumbeats turn fully danceable in the flick of an instant, shimmering Afropoppy guitar rains down like confetti, whole brass sections seem to barge in and sneak away and climb back in through some window.

Papini’s voice is funny — kind of a knowingly prim brogue, one that would seem painfully affected if it wasn’t so clear she’s in on the vamping. As the press-packet story goes, she taught herself to sing growing up in Kansas City, Mo., via repeated listenings of the Psychedelic Furs’ Talk Talk Talk. But that doesn’t quite explain the darling strangeness of her voice, its sweet, rubbery petulance. It sounds more like she’s channeling Hayley Mills duetting with Hayley Mills on “Let’s Get Together”, that song from The Parent Trap, the 1961 Disney movie in which Mills stars as teenage twins, separated at birth but reunited at summer camp, trying to trick their divorced parents into getting remarried. This preposterous plan at one point involves a musical number, the British Mills singing on one side as a West Coast tomboy, struggling to make sense of all the r’s, and on the other as a clipped Boston debutante with a Mid-Atlantic lilt. Papini’s voice falls somewhere in the funny middle space between the sisters’ harmonies, whatever Midwestern drawl she might be shoving aside yearning from the wings, hand in hand with Mills’ Londoner tendencies; she even punctuates a few of her own lines with a prodding “yeah, yeah!” that almost precisely echos the entirely unsubtle “Let’s Get Together” refrain. All Mills got out of the song was a No. 8 Billboard hit and a politely-ignored novelty LP. By all accounts, Hospitality should fare a bit better.Pitchfork


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