Daniel Firmin plays a two-song set during the Mountainside Open Mic & Art Night at The Rookery on Oct. 31, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Daniel Firmin plays a two-song set during the Mountainside Open Mic & Art Night at The Rookery on Oct. 31, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Album review: You should hang out with ‘Buddies’

New release is winningly warm

Sometimes music syncs up perfectly with the time of its release.

That’s the case with the breezy and winsomely warm new release “Buddies” by Daniel Firmin, which is entering the world in wake of the recent summery stretch of Memorial Day weekend weather.

“Buddies” is a lean five-song EP-length effort that is simultaneously a taut collection of slightly offbeat indie pop and a shaggy dog hangout album, which makes sense given how the album came to be.

Firmin, a singer-songwriter from Fairbanks who now lives in Juneau, recorded it in Wattage Studios in Anchorage with his friend Chad Reynvaan after Firmin traded the favor of driving a trailer from Fairbanks for studio time.

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They then enlisted the talents of their friends, Anchorage musicians Kathryn Moore and Andy Tholberg, to provide extra instrumentation.

Those additional talents give “Buddies” its title as well as its sound.

While the bones of the release are absolutely in line with the sort of acoustic guitar-driven songs that Firmin performs live around the capital city, the additional musicians allow for some flourishes outside of Firmin’s usual live repertoire.

There’s also a palpable friendliness to the music that makes for an exceedingly comfortable listen.

The helping hands are particularly noticeable on the effort’s book-ending tracks “Next To Me” and “You’ve Got It All” which start and end “Buddies” in an energetic fashion.

“Next To Me” is an ideal opening song for “Buddies” as it begins as a jaunty, straightforward strummer before backing vocals, and a shimmering synthesizer drizzle enters the mix.

It’s sweet without being saccharine, catchy and over in 132 seconds. It isn’t a song that necessarily demands repeat listens, but it politely and firmly requests them, and it’s tough to say no.

The next three songs on the album — “Everything That’s True,” “All Around the Room,” and “I’d Still Love You,” — are less boisterous but offer a better platform for Firmin to show off his expressive voice. There’s an alt-country influence that will appeal to fans of Wilco’s first album or “Bobby” by (Sandy) Alex G.

“You’ve Got It All” closes the album with an uncut Pixie Stick of power pop sugar rush.

Whether that’s good or bad depends on how much mileage you get out of sub-2-minute tracks with “woah-oh” vocal fills, a Cars-like synth line and hand claps as percussion.

I’d go to bat for it as a well-executed retro rave-up with the same sort of slightly silly charm of “Soul No. 5” by Caroline Rose or “12:51” by the Strokes.

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I’m someone who was thrilled to find a $3 copy of the Cars’ “Candy-O” and has a real soft spot for way too many latter-day Weezer releases, so it’s a foregone conclusion that I’d enjoy it.

At first, it seems like less-than obvious closer because it doesn’t sound a whole lot like the rest of the album and boasts the sort of energy that typically designates a cut from either the first half of the album or a song strategically placed on Side 2 to keep things going.

However, it does sound like a handful of Alaska musicians having a blast, which does make it a pretty great summary of “Buddies” spirit even if it’s at odds with the release’s worthwhile sound.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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