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Up-and-coming indie outfit Blaenavon have arrived with their first full-length album, ‘That’s Your Lot’, and it’s certainly a sign of things to come…
The young lads from Hampshire have slowly been cultivating success on the indie circuit, with their calm, calculated guitars and Morrissey-esque vocals that have caught the attention of the New Music Express and other mainstream music outlets alike. Having released a trio of EPs dating back to 2013, their new album shows a clear confidence and self-affirming boldness that compliments their instrumentalism well. In a similar vein, their sound is particularly polished and is at its striking best on ‘Prague ‘99’ and ‘My Bark Is Your Bite’ in particular – this is undoubtedly impressive coming from a band who are at such an early stage in their career. They even go as far as to channel the spirit of the late Jeff Buckley on their track ‘Swans’, with guitar licks and wispy vocals that would be perfectly at home among the tracks of Mojo Pin itself. Similarities like this are in an abundance on ‘That’s Your Lot’, though not in a way that exposes their sound as a mere mimic, but in one that demonstrates their great understanding and appreciation of what has come before them.
Lyrically, Blaenavon are refreshingly self-aware and once more akin to The Smiths, they aren’t afraid of displaying their own vulnerability. This pays dividends and only further establishes that their musical maturity reaches far beyond their years. For example, on ‘Let Me See What Happens Next’, a harrowing piano ballad, the lyrics ‘Take a look at my face // I’ve been dying for you’ are a haunting confession that is rich with emotion and feeling. The similar cries on the eerily brooding ‘Let’s Pray’ desperately profess ‘Maybe I hate you, ’cause you’re just like me // And I need to sleep // But won’t you promise that you wake me, when there’s not long left?’. These lyrics are a persistent reminder of the hardships of life and the difficulty of emotional despair. This helplessness and longing permeates through the album and leaves a melancholic feeling that was difficult to shake.
Despite the clear strengths of the album, it is not entirely without fault. It’s a project that I’m sure the band were hoping would push them into indie-superstardom, but despite their clearly polished and refined sound, they fall short like many artists do in releasing an album that is just too homogenous. The lack of noticeable diversity track-by-track is what really leaves the album within an arms-length of the dizzying heights of a true masterclass. Even though there is a mixture of piano ballads, immensely loud instrumentalism and also catchy indie-pop, their sometimes painfully similar delivery leaves much left to be desired. This is a criticism, though not one to be fully disgruntling; their sound is very clearly their own with the blend of outstanding instrumentalism, vulnerable yet confident vocals and an understanding of an array of different styles which demonstrates a musical understanding that even bands on their sophomore releases struggle to achieve. Unfortunately, their lyricism (though in places excellent) is sometimes inherently lazy or at the very least premature, though this is something that will get better in time. Apart from these certainly fixable discrepancies, ‘That’s Your Lot’ is a great debut for a band whose clear message is that they have arrived and aren’t going anywhere but up from here.