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The Best Friends Group

When Everyone's Around

(Magic Marker; US: 4 Sep 2001)

The Best Friends Group is exactly what it sounds like: a group of friends getting together to play music. These friends are gifted indie-pop musicians who each have their own bands and endeavors. When Everyone’s Around is eight songs the musicians wrote together on a whim, while hanging out during a time when they all happened to be in the same town. In that way, it isn’t only made by friends, it’s a creation that came directly from friendship, from long-distance friends making a point of seeing each other when they’re in the same town.


The group consists of Andrew Kaffer (Kissing Book), Mark Monnone (the Lucksmiths), Pete Cohen (Sodastream), Kellie Sutherland (Architecture in Helsinki) and Dunky Jack. The members of The Best Friends Group all come from fantastic bands, but this isn’t one of those “supergroups” where high expectations are dashed because the result is too scattered or weak. When Everyone’s Around stands right up next to the recorded outputs of the members’ other bands. Like most of those bands, The Best Friends Group play pretty, heartfelt melodic pop, with a relaxed feel but also spunk and an air of fun.


The songs on When Everyone’s Around are about people and their lives, about how people fill the spaces in their days and how they interact with each other. Though the songwriting could by no means be called “ordinary”, the songs’ subjects are ordinary. They’re songs about real people, dealing with the things people deal with from day to day. After a beautiful instrumental called “The First Dead Leaves of Autumn”, the CD starts with “The Free Man”, where a man is fighting with the bills he has to pay.


Struggles with money are common to your average person’s life. Most of the other songs similarly deal with subjects that are omnipresent in the people’s lives: loneliness, boredom, arguments with loved ones, staying out all night drinking and then sleeping through the next day. A few of the songs focus especially on sadness, but do so in a very catchy, pop way, without falling into moroseness. The upbeat, jangley “Another Sad City” describes a city where “everyone’s carrying that same old frown” but no one ever moves away. “Any Kind of Pain” portrays a person who likes to feel down even when there’s no reason. The especially rocking “Sweet Little Ray” shares those songs’ melancholy airs, but centers more on people trying to work out their problems. In every case, there’s an honest portrait of people trying to get through their days, sorting out the complicated feelings that come with being alive.


“Those truly linked don’t need correspondence, when they meet again after many years apart, their friendship is as true as ever”, writes the group in the liner notes. The strength of The Best Friends Groups’ friendship shows in how easily they work together creatively. By keeping their friendship alive, they’ve not only succeeded in adding another fine release to their respective discographies, they’ve given birth to songs which will provide another type of friendship to listeners, giving them solace as they go through their days.

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine ErasingClouds.com, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


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