Brand New Friend – ‘Seatbelts For Aeroplanes’

By Tom Walsh

The town of Castlerock is perched on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. For the majority of the year, it is battered by winds whipping off the Atlantic Ocean but there are those special days when the sun shines and friends gather to enjoy it’s beach. It is here where siblings Taylor and Lauren Johnson looked across the waters and dreamed of something more.

Armed with Taylor’s guitar – a reward following his GCSE results – and Lauren’s classically trained piano and vocal talents, Brand New Friend was born. While that ‘something more’ was originally playing to their friends in cafes, bars and venues around the town, their journey has accelerated beyond their imagination.

Adding bassist Aaron Milligan and drummer Luke Homs, the quartet have already won the hearts of their fellow countrymen and women alike and are attracting the attention of others across the water. Their infectious, youthful exuberance makes ‘Seatbelts For Aeroplanes’ an exciting and incredibly fun debut album.

Brand New Friend have a sound that reflects them as a band. Every track is dripping with the uplifting sentiment that has categorised the indie pop/pop punk genre for decades. The vocal tones of Taylor and Lauren provide a delightful contrast and even bear a few scars as they explain tales of failed romance and finding your way in the modern world.

Opener ‘Mediocre At Best’ is explosive as Taylor recites an internal monologue of finding love at a house party and then dealing with the creeping self-doubt of whether you are actually good for this person. It is an introspective start that sets the tone for the rest of the album, as the front man deals with the rollercoaster that is a first love.

There are stand-out moments on this adventure of reflection with ‘Milk Chews’ breaking from the conventional guitar-led pop punk ideals and instead pushes the percussion to the forefront. While lead single ‘Girl’ is the ultimate floor-filling anthem that has already raised eyebrows from figures at BBC Radio One.

Tender moments follow with ‘A&E’, an acoustic ballad, which deals with the choking situation where there is a realisation that a relationship has reached its end. However, whenever Brand New Friend dials it back they follow with another attack of riff-heavy power pop evidenced with Lauren taking the lead on ‘I Love You Goodbye’.

‘Seatbelts For Aeroplanes’ embodies what Brand New Friend are about. It is a joyful celebration of youthful aspirations that has an energy so contagious that will make even the most hardened soul crack a smile. They manage to bottle those sunny days by the Castlerock coastline to live them again and again.

TOM WALSH

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