Kidrockers featuring Hospitality and Ex Cops
Kidrockers presents some of NYC's finest new bands, including DIIV, Widowspeak, Caveman, Hooray For Earth, Reputante and Hospitality. At Kidrockers, bands perform original songs in a way that is both authentic and kid-friendly. Hosts Seth Herzog (Jimmy Fallon, Sweet) and Craig Baldo bring hilarity and interactivity to these all ages family rock shows. "We love to hear great new music -- and so do our kids." says Kidrockers founder Beth Lorge. "We want to create an opportunity for kids and parents to discover artists and get to see them play live in a fun, safe and comfortable environment."
The angular, intricate, and intelligent compositions of Hospitality signal a sophisticated new pop voice. Singer Amber Papini’s idiosyncratic songwriting and incisive lyrics coupled with the band’s rich arrangements on their self-titled debut explore youth, New York, and the bittersweet commingling of past and present in a way that feels just right, right now.
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.
Other Music Recording Co.'s first release of 2013 comes from the label's very first signing, Ex Cops, whose debut single launched the imprint last April. Formed by Brian Harding (formerly of Hymns) and Amalie Bruun (formerly of Minks), the Brooklyn band was born in 2011, issuing a short-run, homespun CD-EP of hazy, lo-fi recordings featuring Harding's opaque bedroom-pop songwriting juxtaposed with the duo's sun-kissed harmonies. Two of the tracks, "You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb" b/w "The Millionaire," were soon released to the world on vinyl as OM-001, and the pair continued to write new songs while simultaneously playing more live shows, now working as a proper five-piece rock band, with the addition of good friends Kai Kennedy on lead guitar, Leif Young Huckman on bass, and Sam Bair on the drums. Keeping a handful of Ex Cops' early sessions in place, the newly expanded lineup took to the studio to record this full-length with John Siket (Blonde Redhead, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, etc.) sitting in the production chair, the resulting True Hallucinations a mind-altering pop pill that maintains the intimate mood of the original group's sound, but now presented in widescreen Technicolor.
Harding's songs are effortlessly catchy, built from a timeless blend of gentle, somnambulant harmonies, chiming guitars, and loose swinging rhythms. You can detect influences ranging from vintage British and New Zealand indie pop (imagine the Chills covering Nick Lowe during "James"), to Factory Records atmospherics ("You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb"), and closer to home, a little Velvets/Feelies jangle ("Broken Chinese Chairz"), along with a good dose of classic power-pop and the guitar-heavy sound of Teenage Fanclub ("Ken," "Separator"). Yet in spite of this list of influences and precursors, Ex Cops' music is very much their own, sounding at once both classic and modern, their sugary pop songs enshrouded in a unique psychedelic haze. Coming in at just over 30 minutes, the album never overstays its welcome, but living up to its name, True Hallucinations will linger in your head, making for a pop trip that you'll return to again and again.
Hosted By Seth Herzog and Craig Baldo
SETH HERZOG is the warm-up comic and appears on sketches on Late NIght with Jimmy Fallon. His long running weekly show "Sweet" is a staple of the downtown alternative comedy scene.
CRAIG BALDO performs at colleges, festivals and and clubs throughout North America and has appeared on NBC, Comedy Central, VH1 and Showtime.