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Brand New Friend is an indie-pop / alt-rock five-piece from the North Coast of Northern Ireland. This Valentine’s Day saw the release of seven-track EP ‘A Cure for Living,’ the band’s first extended release since their debut album ‘Seatbelts for≥øAirplanes’ in 2018. The EP highlights the growth and development of the band’s distinctive sound, personified by the addition of seventeen-year-old Logan Johnston on bass guitar.
Much of the bands last two years have been spent on the road, headlining Belfast’s Limelight and supporting such artists as Snow Patrol and Frank Turner.
The EP starts quite literally with a bang. The infectious drum riff by Luke Harris sets the tone for the opener; She Always Comes Up Smiling. With a title inspired by an early unreleased Liam Gallagher song and a sound more reminiscent of the Atlantic sounds of Modern Baseball and the Front Bottoms, this first track is a love song at its core. With lyrics such as, ‘She always comes up smiling, she’s always on my mind,’ yearn for a lost lover, with no lost love.’ It is an uplifting start to an otherwise less optimistic album.
Following this is the punkier, more raw lead single ‘The Letter A,’ lead singer Taylor Johnston’s Northern Irish accent shows through here, his raw and honest vocals chronicle a not wholly successful attempt to win someone back. Melodically, the song is loud and guitar-led throughout. It is an anthemic, genre-bending single that personifies the meteoric rise of Brand New Friend since their 2018 debut.
The melancholic lyrical themes flow naturally into the third track, ‘Stop the Days,’ almost directly contrasting from the vibrant, guitar-driven instrumental. The song is reminiscent of indie bands of the 2000s, without losing the distinctive coastal sound of the group.
‘Nothing Stays the Same’ follows, and in my opinion, this is the band at their best. With reflective, sentimental lyrics, Taylor dwells on a love lost, in the context of the passage of time. And while this has the potential to verge into the cliché, it is tactfully avoided by a building to a full band spectacle of a chorus, led by Aaron Milligan’s guitar. The sound provides a nod to General Fiasco’s 2010 single ‘Dancing With Girls,’ providing a respectful reflection on their Northern Irish indie predecessors, without losing its coastal edge.
The penultimate song is the ninety-second ‘You Can’t Know Everything, I Don’t Know Anything,’ a stark contrast to the heavy angst of ‘Nothing Stays the Same,’ this song opens with the lyrics ‘She said that maybe we were born in the wrong time / I said: “Yes, you’re probably right.” It is beautiful, honest and mature, and marks a shift from the bubblegum pop of their 2018 debut. If the previous song is the band’s musical best, then surely this is their lyrical best.
Drawing the twenty-minute journey into the band’s post-breakup existential journey to a close, the band’s parting gift is synth-led single ‘Plastic Flowers.’ With Johnson siblings, Taylor and Laurens’ haunting, heart-breaking lyrics splattered over an unforgettable somewhat synth-pop somewhat indie-rock instrumental, ‘Plastic Flowers’ provides the climax the whole EP has been building to.
A Cure For Living is a thematic exploration of the kaleidoscope of feelings coughed up by love and loss in the modern age, and one which the three Johnson siblings, Aaron and Luke should be very pleased of. There are amazing things to come for this band, and you should catch them before the crowds.