A Valentine’s Day gift from Xtra Mile Recordings – Northern Irish alt-rockers Brand New Friend’s sophomore release entitled ‘A Cure for Living’ is a frantic and energetic 7 track EP which highlights the strides the band have made since 2018’s ‘Seatbelts for Aeroplanes’.

This release starts with a bang; ‘She Always Comes Up Smiling’ hit this reviewer as a throwback to the strands of pop-punk from across the Atlantic that I grew up listening to. In modern terms, they harness the power of The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball, which is no bad thing at all. The lyrics compliment this feeling, telling of the desperate feelings and wishes to be forgiven that I’m sure we can all empathise with from some point in our collective pasts.

Lead single ‘The Letter A’ follows the opener with an increase in tempo, a dirtier sounding riff and pounding drums. The theme of love and life in the modern age is continued with this track as a young man tries to win back a lover after breaking their heart, without having much luck. Call it melodic punk, call it power pop, whatever it is Brand New Friend are doing it at its best, and the feeling of young unrequited love gives this track a sense of reality; you can feel the emotion coming from Taylor Johnson’s distorted delivery.

The firm grasp the quintet have on this sound is further exemplified in following track, and latest single, ‘Stop The Days’. This track typifies the sounds of summer playlists that BNF created with their earlier work. Less power-pop, more Strokes-esque guitar sounds, soaring hooks and the feel-good factor throughout, despite the obvious melancholy remaining in the lyrical theme.

The pace increases even more with ‘The Karma Party’, and Taylor is joined on vocals by sister and band co-founder Lauren Johnson on ‘Nothing Stays The Same’; the moment I was waiting for throughout the first four tracks. It does not disappoint, with the siblings complimenting each other beautifully after a teaser of an acoustic intro makes a sharp turn into the band hitting us in the face with a full on soaring rock track which may just be the jewel in the release.

The sounds of desolation continue via a different medium with ‘You Can’t Know Everything, I Don’t Know Anything’ – a fragile and intricate acoustic minute-and-a-half which lyrically, is Johnson at his best as he tells of finding ‘the one’:

She said that maybe we were born in the wrong time
I said ‘Yes, you’re probably right’,
Why did she always settle for silver?
She just shrugged
And I said, ‘You’re better than that’

What Brand New Friend have done with ‘A Cure for Living’ is creating a piece of art that may (already!) stand up as one of the finest releases of 2020. This is a tremendous EP blending a range of influences and styles with a fantastic outcome. Going on from here, the standards have been set very high indeed for the next full-length album. If you do nothing else this Valentine’s Day, show yourself some love and pick this up. It may break your heart, but you’ll have a good time regardless.

Pre-order or stream ‘A Cure for Living’ here – https://brandnewfriend.lnk.to/acureforlivingEP

*Review by Rob Escott

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