two and a half sides of the same coin

OK, well, um, yeah.

Fourth of July” is a song from X’s album See How We Are.

I’ve been listening to two debut albums and, in my mind, have set them up as polar opposites of one another.   Hospitality’s self titled album is wide-eyed and in its 30s and living in New York City.  Cold Specks’ I Predict a Graceful Expulsion doesn’t want to talk to you, doesn’t want to smile, doesn’t want to take off its coat, doesn’t want to tell its age, but press material will tell you that Al Spx (what a pseudonym!) is in her early 20s and lives in London.  What a difference those 10 years make.

Hospitality is an album which cleaned itself up before you came over.   It’s songs are brisk and punchy and lasting, and a whole host of other words you could use equally well to fake-describe a 10-dollar bottle of wine that everyone in the room is (ironically?) pretending cost more.   I promise you, I don’t mean that as an insult; Hospitality gets its chosen topics very right.  This is an album of struggles dealt with as though they were adventures.  “Liberal Arts”  is about being broke and directionless but stubbornly, messily hopeful.  “Friends of Friends”  chronicles the end of a relationship, but it’s chorus line of “I’ve got friends who are lookin’ out” doesn’t feel like a tell off (“I don’t need you!”), it feels like the meager steps forward one must take when things go sour. There’s something commendable this album and this band- despite the  insecurities these songs deal with, they’re played with utter confidence and a feeling of security.  Many bands have taken this stuff and mumbled it out; Hospitality’s Amber Papini sings with a voice that wants you to listen and to get it.   Sometimes you hear a song so instantly gratifying you know you don’t want to hear it again for a while for fear it will spoil.  It took me a while to take to Hospitality, but albums like this are my favorite kind of pop records, the ones that get better the more you listen.  Plus, they’re another band who make great music videos.

Julie”  and “All Day Today” are from Hospitality’s self titled album.

Cold Specks, on the other hand, are going through some of the same shit as Hospitality, but can do nothing but brood.  And, again, if that sounds like a knock on the group, think of how many amazing albums we would not have if complaining was banned in songs.   I Predict a Graceful Expulsion is very serious and either very angry or very sad, but in all cases is the adjective very is appropriate.  Recorded with the bulk of PJ Harvey’s band, this album strikes a similar miracle of seeming passionate and simultaneously frigid.

Sure, Al Spx’s lyrics sometimes fall apart under their attempts at seriousness.   “Elephant Head” starts with a line out of a 14 year old’s journal- “one thousand stillborn thoughts,” but a minute later she sing something as beautiful and touching as “I guess I’m just looking for a part-time lover/one with infinite regrets”.  You’ll forgive the occasional overstep on I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, because the  rest of the time, things are brutally good.

The album is spare for the most part, putting the focus on Spx’s voice and words.   The first will be with her forever.  At twenty three, she’s already 90 percent of the way there on the latter.

Elephant Head” and “Send Your Youth”  are from Cold Specks’ album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion.

Also, they made a movie about Ginger Baker, one of the best drummers in rock history.  It looks insane.

Also, more summer songs.  I might just keep posting these ’till fall.  Why not?

Molasses”  is from Oxford Collapse’s album Remember the Night Parties.

Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)” is from the Squeeze album Argy Bargy.

One comment

  1. Jenna

    I am definitely interested in these two albums. I have a weakness for female leads, and these two are so different in style; I love it.

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