Friends – Manifest! (Lucky Number)
June 26, 2012 by Daniel Gill
Cool is a strange word; a word with two meanings. A word that is over used, and maybe overrated. It’s a word that’s synonymous with music, especially buzz bands and fresh artists who appear on every websites’ ‘best bands to look out for this year’ list. It’s a word that is synonymous with a certain city as well, New York. This is a city which has spawned acts like Jay-Z, the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- all names which have an edge of coolness about them. Another band which has seemed to join that list is Brooklyn based indie hipsters, Friends, a group which may on first sight look like a bunch of misfits who once worked for the local YMCA. Fortunately with no camp undertones or ridiculous gimmicks.
‘I’m His Girl’ boosted them to buzz status all over the World Wide Web. It was the smooth bassline the sexy tones of diminutive starlet Samantha Urbani that really made listeners think “wow, this is pretty… cool”. The band had a look about them as well, it was that anti- fashionable, sweaty look, like they’ve spent far too long in a hot studio doing band practise. It was the New York look, the cities lifestyle, romanticism and coolness which seems to pour out of the bands’ music as well as their image.
There’s an aura about Urbani and her lyrics which suck a listener in. Lyrics like “I wanna be your friend” and “I want you to come over to my house” give off a seductive vibe from the lead singer. She has the prowess to captivate a listener using lyrics like these, especially when sang in that sultry voice she has. It’s a unique style which can see her sing the bluest of blues (‘Ideas on Ghosts’) and then the jazziest of up tempo numbers (‘Va Fan Gor Du’).
The strangest part of this debut is the tropical sound the band produce in a lot of the songs. Coming from Brooklyn, known for its cold concrete streets and high rise buildings, Manifest! seems to replace these stoney avenues with lush greens and sparkling waters. The use of claves, maracas and all kinds of exotic instruments sometimes dare to attempt to put this album in a world music section of an entertainment store, but that New York imagery that Urbani plasters over songs using her alluring song writing craft keeps the album within its city limits.
It’s album highlights which keep this album from being great, it seems that the band never seem recreate that magic from the single ‘I’m His Girl’. It’s not that the rest of the tracks on Manifest! are bad, it just seems a lot of energy and passion was used for this hit, and not enough creativity was saved for the rest of this release. ‘Friend Crush’ is a charming opener and ‘A Light’ is as dreamy as Urbani’s voice, but they still fall short to the hipster anthem which gave them their big break.
Manifest! shows this is a group of friends which have come together to make promising uptempo indie music, but without a real purpose to it. It’s a fun album for the summer days thanks to the tropical feel, and the band’s lead singer gives the album its cool slur which thankfully resonates through the whole album. The problem is that coolness can only go so far as Manifest! lacks that little bit of creativity which sparked Friends’ musical explosion in the first place. Plenty of style, not so much substance.