Friends' debut album Manifest! is a loose-limbed, dancefloor-filling jam with songs that are tropically inspired, sweet-spirited, and fun. The record positions them as a Brooklyn version of the Tom Tom Club, easygoing and driven by hooky basslines. They are also influenced by slow-groove R&B, the anything-goes spirit of the B-52's, a bit of synth-y new wave, and a touch of modern Brooklyn reverb pop. Singer Samantha Urbani has a wonderfully slippery, slinky voice that slides around the melodies, crooning seductively one minute and wailing mournfully the next. She's definitely the focal point of the band, but the music is worthy of praise, too. Minimal arrangements, odd little inspired touches that pop up here and there, those killer basslines, and lots and lots of percussion help to make the songs sticky but also a little odd. Friends sprinkle their grooves with just enough weirdness to keep things interesting. The lyrics, too, are unusual and memorable, bolstered by slick rhymes and a satisfying amount of empowerment, odes to friendship and ghosts. Their previously released singles (the cute "Friend Crush" and the girl group anthem "I'm His Girl") are both here and are highlights; third single "Mind Control" is a hard-rocking stunner that would fit with the best of LCD Soundsystem or New Young Pony Club. The rest of the album is nearly as good, alternating between wall-rattling dance tracks ("A Light," "Va Fan Gör Du"), heartfelt and dreamy ballads ("Stay Dreaming," "Proud/Ashamed"), and moody ruminations ("Ideas on Ghosts"). The album holds together sonically like it was bonded by super glue, yet there's enough variation between the tracks to make Manifest! a very enriching listen that takes listeners to the middle of an excitingly sweaty dancefloor, keeps them company on the long cab ride home, and soothes them on the quiet morning after. Friends are equally good at conveying the mood and atmosphere of each, and Manifest! is the work of a very promising young band.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra