Few American cities are romanticized quite like New York, a place filled with tough people in tough neighborhoods living tough lives and somehow, despite all the grit and grime of the big city, making it all work. Adding to the pantheon of albums about the Big Apple, Skaters make their debut with Manhattan, an album of songs about the city and its seedy underbelly. With a sound that feels like a more modern take on the kind of post-punk and new wave that was pioneered in the city over four decades ago, Skaters embrace the sounds the city helped to put on the map as a central part of their tool kit, evoking the languid cool of the Strokes. The problem is, it often feels like Skaters are a little too into the city, tripping over themselves to make it clear that they're living in New York and writing songs about New York. Where the Strokes simply used the city as a conduit for their sound on 2001's Is This It?, Manhattan hits the nail on the head again and again with field recordings of cab drivers and people trying to decide if they want to get a condo, leaving the listener feeling more like a tourist than a local. While Manhattan has plenty of fun moments, it often feels like you're reading someone else's love letter, with Skaters professing their undying affection for a place that listeners probably don't have the same connection to. Fortunately, Skaters' knack for writing infectious melodies often offsets their enthusiasm, so although Manhattan is an uneven record, its bright spots still have capacity to shine like Times Square.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney