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The Friends sound is tricky to pin down. There’s a lot of bolshy, tropical-sounding percussion snuggling up to rumbling, funky basslines, a potentially scratchy combination that’s softened by their pop melodies and girl-groupy backing vocals. Think ESG bumping rumps with Tom Tom Club in a downtown disco while Blondie look on with aloof approval.
However, Manifest! couldn’t be mistaken for a mixtape called something like Cool Sounds of NYC: 1980-83. Friends are too fresh and too fond of tossing something unexpected into the broth. There’s a 1990s RnB feel to the melody of I’m His Girl, while A Thing Like This has a hook that recalls The Jackson 5. Other tracks nick tricks from New Order, Pretenders and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Magpies they may be, but Friends always seem to end up sounding most like Friends. It helps that they have a singer as charismatic and versatile as Samantha Urbani: she sighs, she sort-of-raps, she even yelps like Lene Lovich. Her forte, however, is affecting the perfect blend of sexy and yearning: the way she sings the word “intimate” on Home could give a nun a hot flush. – Nick Levine of BBC