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.

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.

[Get ready for Pride 2019]

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.


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)

More in News

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Aaron Surma, the executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Juneau and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, leads a safety plan workshop Tuesday night hosted by NAMI and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. The workshop was a collaborative brainstorming session with Juneau residents about how to create a safety plan that people can use to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Study shows a rise in anxiety and depression among children in Alaska

Increase may indicate growing openness to discussing mental health, according to experts

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer addresses election information and misinformation during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)
With a week to go, officials work to clear up election confusion

Officials provided updated ballot statistics, fielded questions from reporters and clarified misconceptions about the current election cycle

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 21 new COVID deaths; cases down from last week

20 of the reported deaths took place from May to July

A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly streamlines process for marijuana establishment license applications

License applications will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration

Most Read