Album Review: Just Friends—’Nothing But Love’

Posted: by The Editor

In an age of alternative music where there is a growing dialogue on serious subjects, it’s becoming increasingly harder to find music that exists for the sole purpose of having a good time. That’s not to discredit the importance of the serious talking points that contemporary emo, punk, indie and hip-hop continues to tackle. But rather an observation of the lack of escapism in alternative genres. Just Friends have seemed to recognize this and are offering a solution with their highly-anticipated sophomore album, Nothing But Love.

The record follows 2015’s genre-bending banger of an LP, Rock 2 The Rhythm, and takes everything known and loved about Just Friends and expands on it greatly. The Californian group takes all of the best parts of Just Friends—the punky drums and guitars, the ska horns, the pseudo-hardcore vocals—and expands it into uncharted territory.

Adding influence from SoCal hip-hop, funk and at times smooth jazz, the group has completely blown their sound out of the water and created an immediate and recognizable identity that is separate from their contemporaries. Admirably, the band remains light-hearted in their lyricism, talking about self-empowerment as well as the empowerment of friends, family and relationships. The title Nothing But Love is a state of purpose moreso than just a title, encouraging the world to show “nothing but love” to those around them and to surround oneself with folks who follow the same mantra.

Nothing But Love is so musically diverse that it’s difficult to pin it down to one, singular genre. “Keep Up” is a great example of this, opening with a head-bopping guitar riff and then seamlessly transitioning into a ’70s funk break that calls to the work of Isaac Hayes, then once again modulating to an abrasive, unabashedly hard breakdown. Or take “Get Down,” a guitar-driven hip-hop song with an infectious hook and easy lyrics to sing along with.

The simplicity of the lyrics and immediate melodies helps the message come across clearly and uninhibited by intricate word play. Just Friends aren’t trying to fool anyone with the message of Nothing But Love, they’re making music that begs for togetherness. The relationship between the two vocalists helps create a dynamic that cuts over the heavy orchestration and glues it all into something that’s high velocity, high energy and highly artistic in its originality.

Soaring through some of the punkier tracks in the first side, the record is broken up by a humorous spoken-word track titled “107.7 KJFC.” Acting as a comedic break, this faux radio broadcast emphasizes the lighthearted nature of this album. It’s absurd and self-deprecating, even featuring a reference to scenecore overlords Attack Attack!, but it comes as a perfect break in the record as it moves into the B-Side.

The second half of this record follows the melding of genre, though showcasing the mellower side of the band. Sngs like “Bang My Line II” and “Faucet”give way for the horns to shine and let the guitar step back from the spotlight. The size of the horn section adds a depth to the music that is typically not found in alternative genres, outside of ska. However, these songs don’t play into the tropes of ska. Never will you hear a “pick it up” call or the chugging away of a Major 7th or Major 9th chord on the guitar. Rather, Just Friends are creating their own identity with horn-driven music and the second half of this record helps cement that.

Nothing But Love offers something for all to enjoy, but most importantly it offers a sense of escape in such a serious world. With all of the important conversation that has continued to grow in the alternative music community, it’s good that Just Friends offer an outlet to remove ourselves from that, even if just for a moment.

Just Friends have created what could very easily become an essential album in this scene, and are only going to grow from here. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great Phenomenal

Jacob Fishman | @jacobafishman

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