Who It Is: Just Friends – Rock 2 The Rhythm; Open Door Records (2015)
What It Sounds Like: A pop punk band that recruited a horn section
Just Friends’ newest LP Rock 2 the Rhythm is easy to listen to, but harder to classify. Combining the brevity of a typical Joyce Manor record with the unabashed personality of Reel Big Fish, the Pleasanton, California septet falls somewhere between pop punk and ska without pledging full allegiance to either genre.
The album is filled with big, brassy horn interludes and guitar melodies with pop punk sensibilities. Sam Kless’ raspy, passionate vocals sound uncomfortable at first, but they make sense in the context of the rest of the album. Just Friends make music that is probably best enjoyed shouted in a cramped basement filled with kids unearthing dance moves typically reserved for a Streetlight Manifesto show. The music will conjure nostalgia for those who grew up playing Tony Hawk’s line of Pro Skater video games, myself included.
While most tracks on Rock 2 the Rhythm end before they seem to find their groove, “Bad Weather II” is a highlight that splits the ten-track album in half. The band slows down to catch its breath and as a result produces one of the more emotionally-driven tracks on the album. “I guess I’ll go rot now / From the things I found out / Stick my head in the ground now / And I won’t come out,” Kless sings over sparse instrumentals, before the full band springs to life.
What Rock 2 The Rhythm lacks in lyrical depth, it makes up for in sheer charisma. Drawing form a multitude of influences and styles, and paying homage to genres often forgotten today, Just Friends created an album with more than a few memorable moments.
You Should Probably Listen To: “Bad Weather II,” “Graduate”
Overall Rating: 7/10