by Abbie Jones (@abbiejones11)
No Friends' songs pilot a nocturnal wasteland in which anxieties aren’t tense and frantic, but slow-building, and all-consuming. The Hudson valley-based quartet, comprised of Jack Barham (guitar/vocals), Stephen Appel (guitar), Tim Wells (bass) and Ben Opatat (drums/percussion), have evolved their sound on No Friends, pushing the band’s familiar experimental slow-core sound into new territory. No Friends' debut self-titled LP is a judiciously paced and artfully arranged album, recorded and mixed with Rafi Carleton and Christian Billard (of Turnip King) in Port Washington. Following a series of singles and EP’s, No Friends features the band’s familiarly dreamy, ambient sound while hitting a sweet spot between wallowing and self-possession. The eight-track album is a collection of long, ponderous songs that stretch like gauze--slowly unwinding as these melodies sweep into their slow surge and provide an intimate glimpse into self-reflecting endeavors.
“Cry Fest” —equal parts of Codeine’s intricacy with ghostly guitar scales and heavy drum hits. Is a song full of small moments made grand and meaningful by means of careful, generous songwriting. “What do you do when your feeling’s aren’t real/Seeing things in the dark/Never felt so good before” Barham sings over and over, as his vocals ring out in a way of processing and owning every single thing that happened to you. It’s a song swooning on the brink of dawn, delirious with a feeling of discovery. Conveying a space for self-reflection, each song on the album unveils a deep feeling of want, of grasping for something just out of reach. “It Hurts” starts softly, lulling hypnotic guitar part’s rock back and forth as Barham paints visions of grandeur. He sings softly while trying to navigate a space for solitude, “Desire is hurtful/But if I touch it will fulfill me/I will watch you from afar/something out of reach” as the song crescendos into a bleary but melodically-attuned simmer.
Songs like “David Attias” build from a basic beat, as Barham examines his own fears and haunting experiences, he sings “It’s cold on the Inside/I’m scared you’re not real” while consoling listeners with the soft plumes of their reverberated guitar lines that billow and purl. No Friend’s have the preternatural mastery of arrangement and dynamics, an instinct for when and how to pick the exact right moment to lift the volume a bit, to accent a repetitive moment with slow-mo percussive explosions or a fuzzed out guitar. “Street Magic” opens with a airy melancholia, as lilting hypnotic guitar parts rock back and forth. Barham maps out his emotions, “So I will save all my photographs of you / and I’ll have all the same dreams if you want me;” nuggets of memory nestle in the space between Barham’s bright chords, providing structure to a memory that feels far richer than those mere flashes.
Streaming the premiere today, the quartet’s debut release craft’s unique listenable moments throughout that make it a pleasure to keep returning for more. Listen to No Friends below, and order the record via Sleeper Records.