Blaenavon – ‘Everything That Makes You Happy’ review: next-gen indie heroes come out swinging on album two

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Created in fraught circumstances, the band’s second album is a testament to strength and community in tough times

Blaenavon singer Ben Gregory has described the band’s second album ‘Everything That Makes You Happy as “an optimistic response to a difficult time”. In a note shared to fans at the start of the year, the frontman detailed that he’d been hospitalised due to a “stress-related breakdown”, and a number of tours were later cancelled across the year. “If you are in pain, there is always a way forward,” the note concluded. “Take a second to ask if your friends are ok. Please don’t push them away,.”

Announced only a few days before its release, ‘Everything That Makes You Happy’ takes this mantra and creates a record that finds strength in vulnerability, turning darkness into a weapon that they wield brilliantly. The emotional intensity of the album’s creation comes bursting out immediately, with Gregory’s passion thrusting opener ‘I Want You’ forwards.

The band’s debut album ‘That’s Your Lot’ covered every corner of the indie spectrum, taking cues from the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees on a debut that marked them out as an indie band for a new generation. ‘Everything That Makes You Happy’ takes these foundations and sees the band expanding their horizons, pushing the sounds to their extremes. ‘Catatonic Skinbag’ is the biggest straight-up single they’ve yet written, while slowly blooming ballad ‘Quiet In Your Heart, Alone In Love’ is the most moving they’ve penned yet, punctuated by a majestic string section.

Lyrically, the album traverses pain, recovery and past mistakes. On highlight ‘Never Stop Stirring’, a song indebted to jangly ‘90s indie, Gregory sings, “If you never stop running, you won’t get ill”, side-eyeing a former version of himself (in the statement accompanying the announcement of the album, he writes: “In an industry so challenging, I pushed myself too hard and relapsed, returning to hospital for a short time”).

Playing out as a journey in the same way that the real-life circumstances around the album have, the album concludes with its title track, which travels from a fidgety beginning towards a surging, anthemic finale that feels like an opening to a new era.

It’s OK to make a fuss,” Ben sings, letting in a vulnerability that allows you to move forwards. By the time the track and album end in a torrent of guitars and Ben’s repeated wail of the album’s title, the journey feels complete, leaving behind an album that stands as a testament to strength and community in tough times.

Details

Release date: October 25
Label: Transgressive