There can be few things more satisfying in the life of a music fan than seeing a band rise from the ashes of their previous life. For Cambridge’s Lonely The Brave, it seemed difficult to imagine anyone stepping into the place of former vocalist Dave Jakes after he left the band in early 2018, but just six months later, they were back on stage with a new voice in the form of Jack Bennett – already known to some for his solo project, Grumble Bee.
Of course, since then, the world has gone a little bit mad but from the first release of new music in April 2020, Lonely The Brave have been offering glimmers of light in the darkness of a difficult year – and as the first album of their new era, ‘The Hope List’ is set to shine that light ever more brightly.
When it comes to making a statement, there’s probably no song that could do it better than album opener and comeback single ‘Bound’; taking everything you ever knew about moving, emotional music, and amping it up a notch (or twenty), this is a song that swirls with colour and life, and it’s a clear indicator of what’s to come in the 35 minutes that follow.
‘The Hope List’ is the kind of album that’s hard to describe without sounding like you’ve ventured into a land of hyperbole, but in this case, every single word of praise and admiration is more than deserved. Each song is painted with the warmest and richest of colours, and any fears anyone may have had that Bennett might not live up to Jakes’ reputation as a vocalist are instantly allayed – the depth of expression in Bennett’s voice is truly enrapturing, deftly moving from a gentle softness to all encompassing strength with an almost hypnotic grace. When paired with the mammoth choruses of songs like ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Keeper’, it’s an unstoppable combination that proves Lonely The Brave are still a force to be reckoned with.
This album is about more than just the big, soaring choruses though (even if we are irrepressibly excited about the prospect of belting these out in a live venue, one day in the future). From the stunning swells of ‘Chasing Knives’ to the dancing melodies of ‘Something I Said’, this is expansive, introspective, atmospheric rock at its finest – and the moments of quiet are some of the most powerful. Coming towards the end of the album, ‘Your Heavy Heart’ is the kind of song that can knock you sideways no matter how many times it’s played; Bennett’s vocals take centre stage, revealing every ounce of emotion with a heartrending clarity atop stripped back, echoing guitars. There can be no doubt, by this point, that Lonely The Brave are still every bit the band the band they’ve always been and more, moving forward into this new era with renewed purpose and strength. Even through the pain and desperation that underpins the lyrics of many these songs, there is – true to the album’s name – a hope that breaks through, and the end result is the sound of comfort, rather than negativity.
Closing with the haunting tones of ‘The Harrow’, it’s impossible to find yourself at the end of this album without having had every heartstring firmly tugged. These are songs you can just as easily sing along to at the top of your lungs on long summer drives as you can curl up by the fire to, soaking up every moment and feeling. To listen to ‘The Hope List’ is to be swept away on a journey, like golden autumn leaves dancing in the breeze – if there’s any album that can get us through whatever 2021 has in store, this is it.