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How to Make Friends

FM Belfast

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Album Review

Kicking off with the swagger and sass of "Frequency," and falsetto lyrics about someone being their "designated driver" over a crisp, punchy arrangement that's half-classic electro and half-classic EBM, FM Belfast come up with How to Make Friends, an album that takes bored-youth-seeking-kicks clichés and turns them into something just a little twisted. If the basic model of "21st century act reclaims synths from the '80s" is equally well established — there's very little on the surface that would distinguish the Icelandic act from any number of similarly minded acts in the U.K., the U.S., or many other spots — there's still something purring along in most of these songs that feels enjoyably off. Rather than embracing sparkly overload or queasy psychedelic disruption, FM Belfast lock down call and response vocals and observational lyrics with almost brutal rhythms — "Tropical" may well be the least likely song to possess such a total, the only aspect suggesting a random playfulness being a sweet melodic part up against flatly sung words. At the same time, while the lyrics might not always be entirely sunny, there's plenty of straight up joy to be had with the arrangements on songs like "Synthia" and "Par Avion," so it's not like How to Make Friends is simply po-faced through and through. Still, there's a forced moment where the band takes on Technotronic's pop-rave confection "Pump Up the Jam" and turns it into a slow and all-too-stiffly sung hotel-lounge swoon — the idea is cute, but ten seconds is all one needs to get the idea.

Biography

Formed: 2005 in Reykjavík, Iceland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Icelandic electro-pop group FM Belfast made their album debut in 2008 with How to Make Friends. Founded in 2005 by Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson and Lóa Hlín Hjálmtýsdóttir, the group expanded in 2006 with the addition of Árni Vilhjálmsson and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason (the latter of the experimental electronic group Múm) for a live performance at that year's Iceland Airwaves festival. The size of the group varies from performance to performance, with anywhere from three to eight members comprising FM...
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How to Make Friends, FM Belfast
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