Friends – Manifest!
As is the way with the music industry, hot, trendy new bands are lauded for their cutting-edge freshness and hip new musical outlook. As soon as the debut album comes along, though, the knives are out for the hipster poseurs trying too hard to be cool and not focussing on the tunes. Brooklyn-based hipster band du jour Friends, however, just about manage to side-step the flak thanks to their solid and largely consistent debut album Manifest!
The singles that made their name last year are all present – ’Friend Crush’, I’m His Girl and ’Mind Control all still sound pleasantly fresh, cool and brilliant, but Manifest! isn’t just an album of filler around their breakthrough singles though, thankfully. ’Sorry’ has a beautiful hymnal opening before breaking down into a slightly ramshackle but charming melody. While ’Home’ features a throbbing bass line and a brilliantly angsty vocal line from singler Samantha Urbani: “You don’t deserve me now / You lost the best thing that you ever found” – take that mystery love cheat!
There’s another dominant bass line on ’A Thing Like This’, but framed with a carefree pipe melody that, along with Urbani’s bouncy vocals, makes for a great pop song.
There’s a real mix of influences on show in Manifest!, which are held lightly together with a general funky approach that runs through the album – mostly via the ever noticeable bass lines. Usually ‘eclectic’ albums can get a bit trying – but Friends keep this one together quite well and keep each track quite loose and airy so that each idea is given enough space to develop before the next one comes in. The exception to this is ’Ideas On Ghosts’, perhaps the most complete and ‘fully formed’ song on the album – and also one of the best.
Amongst all the restless ideas, the stand out star of the show is Urbani, who controls the downtempo funk on songs like ’Ruins’ expertly – and totally puts Katie from the Ting Tings in her place at the same time!
Inevitably – a debut album with so many disparate influences and ideas flying around is always going to have a few missteps and underdeveloped songs. ’Proud Ashamed’ and ’Stay Dreaming’ never seem to know what they are or where they’re heading, while ’Va Fan Gor Du’ tries a bit too hard to be uber-cool.
Despite being a bit top-heavy and losing a bit of cohesion at the end, ’Manifest’ is a strong debut album that marks Friends out as a cut above the usual hipster ‘try hard’ bands. Listen to Manifest! here (if you have Spotify):