Monday, August 13, 2012

Friends - Manifest!

The alternative to the alternative Brooklyn- band Friends released their appropriately named debut album Manifest! last June. After a long period of catching shows across Europe and America, fans finally get the chance to be able to sing along to songs other than the already timeless hits “I’m His Girl” and  “Friend Crush”. On top of that, if you order directly through Rough Trade you can hear the brilliant cover of Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo”, found on the exclusive bonus disc.

Some think that debut albums are definitive due to artists having control of production, rather than record labels breathing down their necks... Friends’ multi-instrumentalist Nikki Shapiro weighs in, saying that “debut albums usually are the best, because it’s like the honey moon period of a band. Everything is fresh and exciting”.

As it is exciting for bands to experience something new, so it is for fans to wait and hear how everything turns out on home stereos. My belief is that the best albums aren’t the best because they’re comprised of the most amazing tracks, but because the tracks work together, creating a whole. I had high expectations of Manifest!, but somehow the first few spins didn’t knock me out. Embarrassingly, I felt disappointed for feeling disappointment.

When asked about his general thoughts of the overall recording process, Shapiro thinks Manifest! would have been “way better” if it was recorded in the first couple of months, but they were too busy touring. He further explains “it was definitely over-thought but I think it came out ok.  Recording should document a special moment in time. The best recording captures a genuine mood or vibe. It's not easy to do. Over-thinking things take you out of the moment. Dancing is a perfect example of that.”

Is it also over-thought or even over- expected in the minds of the fans? Maybe. What I found to be disturbing is that even though Friends are known for mixing genres, there are drastic jumps from style to style between the songs. At first I heard some lovely feel-good pop, and then suddenly forced angst-disco. This is the bump on an otherwise smooth ride.

Of course albums that don’t hit me immediately have the potential to grow (in most cases!), and become favorites in the long run, opposed to those which I love right away, but then get bored easily with.  Since the first impressions, Manifest! has definitely grown on me, but weirdly enough it’s happened when the music is turned off. There’s something about singer Samantha Urbani’s lyric writing that creeps into your mind in its all simplicity and straight-forwardness during those hours when you’re alone with only your thoughts.  I’m sure everyone can relate partly to what she’s singing about, and if not, then at least learn something about themselves.  For example the album’s last song “Mind Control” can easily be considered an anthem for today’s liberals. Just listen to the track below to hear why.

2012 has been an amazing music year so far, and I have the feeling it will get even better with so many anticipated albums set to be released. Only time will tell if Manifest! reaches the very top of my list. Either way, it’s admirable how Friends have gained success in such a short time. Having read this article about why 99% of indie acts don’t get signed, I just had to ask Shapiro what he believed the key factor to Friends’ success was. In his own words:

Pure luck. I mean that. There are so many great bands out there that no one knows about. Also, success is subjective. Money and fame should never be the goal. That stuff is just a byproduct of making good work or sometimes bad work. Sometimes recognition too soon can stifle the natural progression of an artist. Don't ever believe the hype, kiddies. It's a killer. Just make killer art for yourself first.

Until the next time Friends releases something new, hold holy only what you want.

many thanks to nikki shapiro for sharing his honest thoughts. and time.

No comments:

Post a Comment