An album review I did for music website Soundblab for their ‘past albums’ section
A sumptuous summer cocktail of indie vocals, tropical percussion, funk basslines and guitar-driven riffs, Friendly Fires’ self-titled debut album is effortlessly cool. With a passion for classic house music – citing Carl Cox as one of their biggest influences – the trio from St Albans set themselves apart from other indie new kids on the block in 2008 and achieved both popular and critical success, with nominations for both the Brit Awards and the Mercury Music Prize.
Sweeping vocals delicately ease you into first track, ‘Jump in the Pool’, an album-opener with an aura of placid, beach cool built upon by percussion, guitars, synths and the continuation of gentle vocal hums. Tracks like ‘In the Hospital’ and ‘White Diamonds’ help demonstrate the instant indie freshness of Friendly Fires whilst on ‘Skeleton Boy’ trickling beeps and bleeps pepper the chorus and the verse’s electro riff is not far from those of old-skool 8-bit videogames, making it an obvious teenage dance floor anthem. Later on in ‘Photobooth’, the band pastiches this very generation: “You and me in the photobooth/ giving it panache and posing like we’re this year’s models.”
‘Paris’is the soundtrack to a holiday romance; it’s slick, sophisticated and sensual, just like the eponymous city, and lush female vocals make it all the more exotic. ‘Strobe’ is an intimate song that highlights not only their dance influences but also their more romantic qualities. Leadsinger Ed Macfarlane’s voice sounds naked and vulnerable making ‘Strobe’ a genuinely beautiful stand-out track.
At times, there are heart-rending lyrics on Friendly Fires that could indeed reveal it as a break-up record about an ex-love, but the building pressure in sexy harmonies and guitar riffs does well to create an immense pace and momentum to each track that is maintained throughout the album. This pace may hide the rawer qualities of Friendly Fires, but it makes their debut all the more contemporary.