Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meeting Friends

A few weeks ago when I was visiting Benny in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, some heavy weather afforded the opportunity to cruise around on the internet and look for entertaining videos. I happened across this video, which is an episode of MTV's "Weird Vibes" featuring the band Holy Ghost! as hosts. There are a few reasons this video succeeds: the whole funky 90s aesthetic is actually executed pretty well here, hitting a nice balance between the use and abuse of nostalgia; Holy Ghost!, in addition to being an awesome band, they are genuinely funny; their dads are pretty cool too; oh yeah and the music and music videos are rad. One song and video that caught both my and Ben's immediate interest was "I'm His Girl" by the band Friends. Neither of us had heard of Friends before, but we were both immediately hooked by the sauntering bass line and the empowered percussion. (Percussion should never be marginalized.) The video is as catchy as the song - roughly speaking, it is about being young and cool and living in New York City. Also, it's about being young. And hip. In New York. Sounds sweet, right? No, not really, but it actually is somewhat satisfying to watch - it is clearly part of the ~~~NYC Scene~~~ without shoving that scene too far down your throat.

Friends - I'm His Girl

The song hearkens back the sort of girl-power rap and R&B of the early 90s. A sort of modern feminism that affirms both sexual equality and girliness. There's a certain confidence necessitated by this kind of social order, and it's on clear display in this song. From the first drum hits, to the bass line, to the vocals that become increasingly choral and rappy, to the slithering hi-hat shuffle that comes in about halfway through -- there's confidence from the get-go, but it gets stronger, gets reinforced by each added element in the song. The song features an almost-silly breakdown with somewhat spoken vocals that would, I think, be awkward 9 times out of 10. But here, it works, and that is a true accomplishment.
I had no expectations that this band would have much to offer beyond that one song. Despite how much I love it, it does seem like it's almost teetering on the edge of being too much of a wink at the listener -- "the 90s were awesome, right?" If that's what they're going for, maybe they just got lucky that the song is great in its own right. But then I listened to a few of their other tracks, and I realized, this band is doing something seriously right. They are able to blend together aspects of R&B, hip-hop, funk, pop and choral music without sounding much like any of the constituent parts. There's definitely a feeling of 90s nostalgia, but not too the extent that I feel like I'm listening to a gimmick or a kind of memory masturbation.

As of now, I only have 4 songs from Friends, but I think they're all pretty great. I believe I read that they have a full-length LP in the works, but I'm not sure if or when that will be released. It's a release I'm quite excited for -- I think that the band has loads of potential and I'd love to see what a full album would sound like. Until then, enjoy what they've put out so far - it's really, really good. And if you're so inclined, I can't think of a better instance of buying the EPs (or t-shirts or whatever merchandise) if you think the band deserves it. Support independent music, yo. Check out the other tunes below:

Friends - Friend Crush

This is a rather sultry song, with a wicked synth line. Again, a cool music video. The song and video alike have a very hazy, dream quality to them, without sacrificing catchiness and sing-alongability.

Friends - Feelin Dank

This is the song that cemented my belief that this band did not just get lucky with "I'm His Girl". It still features the rocking drums and dance sensibilities, but also trends more towards the choral end of the spectrum versus the hip-hoppiness of the other songs. The harmonies are just great, and hint towards the huge potential that this band could tap into. And one thing I haven't mentioned is that the lyrics, in this song as well as the others, are pretty good.

 Friends - My Boo

This is a cover of some 90s R&B song. It's probably my least favorite track of the bunch, but I wouldn't call it skippable. By its nature, it's the most 90s of their material, but they also put their own touch on it, with the more complicated rhythms and the awesome synthy solo at the end (is it an effected glockenspiel? I'm not sure, but it absolutely jams.)

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