Friendly People – "Shake"

Friendly People’s first full length album, Shake, was released in December. It was funded as a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly nine thousand dollars. Full disclaimer: I am a backer. For some reason, I feel obligated to mention this fact, as if I am a salesman wanting to ensure he has all of his bases covered before he endorses a product. In some ways, it shouldn’t feel that way. I had previously written about Friendly People’s debut EP a few years ago, and had seen them play in Annapolis, unknowingly hearing many songs that would appear on this record. In a way, this was a method of purchasing music that had an even greater positive effect than normal–all of the funding went directly to the band.

Friendly People has no label–the band actually funded the recording and mastering themselves before turning to crowd-sourced funding in hindsight. For my thirty-five dollar pledge, I received a physical and digital copy of Shake, a t-shirt, a mug, and a print of their CD release show poster. For someone with no ability to attend that show in Boston, it’s a cool collection of items to get my hands on. While I had meant to write this review as soon as I received the digital copy last year, life got very busy, and receiving the Kickstarter items last week stirred my memory. Busy is no excuse.

Shake grabs a few songs from their debut EP and adds many more new ones. Generally, it sticks to the indie rock sound built from the EP, with generally non-distorted guitars (a few exceptions) and acoustic guitars featured in most songs.  It manages to feel more produced than the EP, while still maintaining a great sense of dynamics–shunning over-compression for raw vocals. Make no mistake – when it wants to be loud, it is. “Here We Are” is a great example of this – starting off rather quiet and layering additional instruments on slowly – something quite a few songs manage to perfect here. “Branches” grabs your attention with this effect as well–starting off with a simple guitar riff that builds into a sing-along chorus.

There are other notables as well: “Speak” evokes The Smiths, in a less jangly way than you’d expect. “The Rules” is a dreamy introspective acoustic closer. Overall, the album cements the band’s sound with a variety of songs that still end up feeling composed together. This isn’t an album full of ten versions of the same song–and that’s what has me returning for repeat listens.

Shake is available on Amazon and Bandcamp. Friendly People will be doing a stint at SXSW starting Wednesday, March 13th at Maggie Mae’s and is currently in the midst of an east coast tour. Take a second to enjoy the dual percussion from my favorite song off the album: “A Way Home.”