Just Friends have always pushed the boundaries of emo music, but the addition of Brianda Goyos León’s vocals and hip-hop stylings gives them ground to push a whole new brand of their brass-heavy indie rock. Nothing But Love is exactly what its name describes, full of unflinching love for both self and friends, hearty ‘fuck you’s for the haters, and the optimistic acceptance of bad times that one needs to move past them.

Exploding out of the East San Francisco Bay DIY scene with fellow emo favorites (and long-time friends) Mom Jeans and Graduating Life, Just Friends are starting to enjoy attention outside of the die-hard cult following they built over the last few years, which they solidified when they signed to scene favorite Counter Intuitive Records. The friendships that helped them get there are evident in the record, with credits to a host of members of other local bands (along with Boston rapper Caliph and a University of Miami concert jazz band).

Defying any specific genre label, Nothing But Love darts from punk breakdowns to soulful hooks and back not only between songs, but within them. With such complicated arrangements and a member count approaching double digits, adding a second singer to the mix seems like a recipe for disaster – but the dynamic between León and founding vocalist Sam Kless instead acts as an adhesive, granting an overall narrative to the controlled chaos of so many moving parts.

Setting aside for a moment the mastermind-level orchestration (as well as brilliant production by guitarist Ryan Ellery), Nothing But Love is the record 2018 needed solely on the merits of its outlook. It’s not only almost aggressively positive, but fun – rather than getting bogged down with complicated concepts and clever points about society, the album relishes in friendship, providing a soundtrack for the good times even as it offers solidarity in a difficult world.

  1. Just Friends – Nothing But Love
  2. Illuminati Hotties – Kiss Your Frenemies
  3. Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
  4. Graduating Life – Grad Life
  5. Snail Mail – Lush
  6. Hit Like a Girl – What Makes Love Last
  7. Justin Courtney Pierre – In The Drink
  8. Typesetter – Nothing Blues
  9. Sidney Gish – No Dogs Allowed
  10. Silent Planet – When the End Began

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