What I'm listening to: Friends
This Brooklyn fivesome takes its name from a Beach Boys' records...and crafts funky-fresh jamz perfect for summer grooving
What I’m listening to: Friends
Kate Bracaglia, Philly.com Music Blogger
This Brooklyn fivesome takes its name from a Beach Boys’ records…and crafts funky-fresh jamz perfect for summer grooving
Brooklyn’s Friends came together during the infamous NYC bedbug infestation of 2010, when Lesley Hann and Oliver Duncan found themselves victim to the lil’ buggers, and were forced to crash with Hann’s bff since second grade, Samantha Urbani. Urbani, a longtime songwriter who mostly kept her compositions private, due to crippling performance anxiety—had already been workshopping a few tunes with pals Nikki Shapiro and Matt Molnar. When Hann and Duncan arrived, the fivesome holed up together and started jamming. Six days later, Friends was born.
It’s appropriate that a band named Friends was brought together through the bonds of friendship—even if they claim to have chosen their moniker from the 1968 Beach Boys records (famously referred to by Brian Wilson as his favorite Beach Boys record.) It’s appropriate too that their first single deals with the topic of friendship—on the wonderfully funky “Friend Crush,” Urbani croons to a new acquaintance, “I want to be your friend; I wanna ask your advice on a week day; I wanna plan something nice for the weekend.” From now on, this tune will be my ringtone for every cool new chica I exchange numbers with at JB’s.
The success of “Friend Crush” —plus an array of high-energy shows (“We really threw ourselves into practicing almost every day, and playing 2 or 3 shows a week, only because we loved what we were doing so much,” explains Urbani to Stereogum) quickly helped the band built hype, leading to the release of their debut record, Manifest!
Manifest! is, in simplest terms, a pop record—teeming with catchy melodies, slinky synths, and infectious, skull-burrowing beats. And yet, it’s also so much more—drawing on influences from funk to R&B to Tom Tom Club-style new wave.
“We all have pretty eclectic taste in music—we all love different things—punk, post-punk, Kraut rock, prog, disco, Afro beat, soul, r&b, new wave dance, dub … but we all have a strong love for straight up pop music too,” explains Urbani further. “We have a lot of fun bringing all these genres together and building them into pop songs.”
The record kicks off with “Friend Crush,” before transitioning into the breezy, summer-y “Sorry”: a tropical romp through minimal instrumentation and Urbani’s gleeful vocals.
Percussion plays an important part throughout, providing a playful backdrop for Urbani’s capricious purring. “Home” layers breath-y crooning over a base of tropical bongos—while “Ruins” starts minimalistic, all tribal beats and sexy groans, before adding layers of guitar and building into a frenzy that would make Karen O proud. “Va Fan Gor Du” is a sexy, hip-hop-inspired banger that reminds me of early New Young Pony Club—while closer “Mind Control” is an all-out, disco-inspired rager that will surely be a staple at summer Making Times.
And while “Mind Control” is pretty killer—my fave track has to be single “I’m His Girl,” an anthem for all the cute, confident girlfriends out there (Represent!) “And I can be proud that I’m his girl, because I know I am good all by myself,” chants Urbani over hand-claps and wood-blocks. Funky? You bet. Empowering? Oh yeah. Which is exactly what I’d expect from my Friends.
Manifest! is available now on Fat Possum Records; or stream the whole album for free via The Guardian.
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