After blazing out of Bushwick in 2011 with two buzzworthy singles, a reputation for turning live gigs into spontaneous DIY parties (and vice versa), and a bio built to withstand the most cynical indie-blog cred-vetting – Brooklyn’s Friends will release their debut album Manifest! June 4th on Lucky Number.
The album was produced by the band – singer Samantha Urbani, multi-instrumentalists Lesley Hann, Matthew Molnar, and Nikki Shapiro, and drummer Oliver Duncan. They recorded its twelve tracks between last summer and this spring with engineer Daniel Schlett at Strange Weather studios in Brooklyn.
Manifest! aims both to live up to and to defy the promise of those singles – “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl” also feature here – over the course of a thirty-eight minute long player. “Va Fan Gor Du” is a rowdy, swear-y rebuke to the come-ons of passenger-side hanging scrubs (and a longstanding set-closing live killer). “Sorry” floats in on a breezy rush of instantly familiar tropical pop. “A Thing Like This” is gorgeous and groovy, a love letter to a bygone era when they used to write ‘em like that all the time.
But then “Ideas On Ghosts” gets all existential up in the party (“I don’t know how to die … But when I have to, I will try to do it right”). It would be a total buzz-kill, but for the bass and drums’ insistence that – as we’re all dying anyway – you might as well go out shaking your ass. “Ruins” is art school minimalism – angular guitars, Burundi breakdowns, primal yelps – and it shouldn’t sound this sexy or this catchy. “Stay Dreaming” is a transcendental moment. A melodic bassline, slow-build guitar, and restrained drum fills provide the delicate bed for a moment of vulnerability from Ms. Urbani: the party girl after the party, just her and her plus one. “I really want you sometimes/Awake I don’t know what to say.”
Yet the album’s climax still surprises. The anthemic “Mind Control,” mixed by Paul Epworth, sums up the seditious streak of Manifest! The musical choices are brazen even by Friends’ standards: superfly bass, slinky synth, crybaby wah, bongo solo, group chants. Lyrically, it also might be the Friends manifesto, were it not for the strong possibility that Ms. Urbani is taking the piss – poking good-natured fun at her band’s indie image and at our indie standards.
“I don’t want to rule or be ruled/I just want the right to be cool/However I chose to do what I do/Wherever I choose to be or with whom/Hey, I don’t need your money, I can grown my own food/I don’t need your beauty standard, I can be my own dude.”
In context these lyrics are perhaps too over-earnest to be taken at face value. Urbani and Friends know how to bring the fun, even (especially) when it’s at their own expense. There’s no Constitutional “right to be cool” clearly – not even in Bushwick – or else everybody would be cool. And every debut album would sound this subversive and self-assured. And really what would be less cool than that?