Album Review: Lonely The Brave – The Hope List

In what is looking to be a year of some of the most stellar music releases in history, Lonely The Brave throw their hat in the ring to contend for record of the year with The Hope List, out on 22 January via Easy Life Records.

But The Hope List isn’t just any new rock record you need to check out. It’s the first without vocalist David Jakes, and the first new album in four years. So on top of those internal shock waves Lonely The Brave have had to conquer, the world hasn’t been too kind on all of us with economic crises, political chaos and not to forget a pandemic. And from all those pressure points, the Cambridge outfit have delivered a true diamond.

Often described as a mix of Pearl Jam and Deftones, we wouldn’t disagree this has changed on The Hope List. Some lighter tracks and heavier tunes all combined to a stunning mix of alternative rock. And it’s much more than back to old form, it’s higher grounds. Huge choruses such as Bright Eyes will have you close your eyes and wish you were in a field watching them rip through their set.

New lead vocalist Jack Bennett makes a stellar debut on The Hope List, bringing a fresh breath of air to the band’s sound without alienating the audience. The scruffiness of his vocals blends in well with the heavy riffs and soft melodies throughout the record. And thanks to the experience gained as a solo artist as Grumble Bee, Jack also became the band’s de facto engineer, mixer and producer, putting in the hard yards to bring songs to life, piecing them together like a complex jigsaw puzzle without a final reference image.

“There was no point in rushing things,” he says of the challenge. “My entire attitude towards the record was, ‘I don’t care what anyone else thinks, as long as the guys are happy with how it sounds.’ I just wanted to make sure it was the best record for them.”

“We obviously knew what Jack was capable of, but there was still an excitement about hearing what he would do with the songs,” says guitarist Mark Trotter, who alongside bassist Andrew Bushen, drummer Gavin ‘Mo’ Edgeley and fellow guitarist Ross Smithwick, had been busy writing, refining and perfecting the music for up to two years previous.

So alongside the previously mentioned struggles, the band also had to learn to work together again after all this time – and in the end The Hope List is born from struggle, but always having an underlying sense of hope as Jack explains:

“I thought these songs were all just gloomy and that I was whinging all the way through, because that’s what I do,” jokes the vocalist. “But in the end I found that every time I wrote something, the underlying message would always be that it’s not bad; things are going to be alright; there is always hope.”

The album’s opener Bound is melodically so filled with hope that it feels like the sunshine after a storm, like that massive relief we can all imagine feeling once this pandemic is over. Bound makes you want to go dancing in the street, yet lyrically it fills with despair and hopelessness. Something LTB do well across the record, combining desperation with a glimmer of hope.

Title track The Hope List is wonderfully descriptive, the opening line “all my songs reveal my pain, it’s such a shame” Jack sings. And throughout the track we get a deep look into his soul and that of the band. With just a light guitar melody in the background, the track finishes by slowly trailing off just like your thoughts trail off at night into the darkness.

Recently released single Keeper was accompanied by a beautiful documentary, filmed pre-lockdown in lieu of being able to film an actual music video. The documentary shows details about what exactly were the band’s “keepers” from a difficult last year for everyone. Additionally, Keeper was the first track the band wrote with new vocalist Jack Bennett.

Bassist Andrew Bushen said the following about Keeper: “Keeper was the first song we fully completed for the album and remains one of our favourites. It will always hold a special place as the beginning of the new chapter.”

Just as loud as the record can be, on the flip side tracks like Your Heavy Heart are stripped back, slow stunners that truly showcase Bennett’s grungy vocals. Towards the end it builds and builds before spilling over with emotion and melody.

With The Harrow Lonely The Brave leave us wanting to spin The Hope List on repeat again and again. To discover those new experimental sounds, fall in love with the melodies we know and love, and swoon over the majesty this record has to offer.

“There’s a song on here that’s the darkest I’ve ever written,” says Jack Bennett of The Hope List. “A lot of the record is metaphorical, but some songs are more direct. I can only write about what I care about and if that translates, that’s awesome, but if not, well, at least I’ve still written about something I believed in. But the songs can be about whatever they mean for personally. Hopefully they can inspire some positivity in the world.”

And that they sure will, The Hope List is above and beyond what we could have imagined this record to be and if the world needs anything right now, it’s HOPE.

The band will tour the record in April – with a number of dates already close to selling out, their London headliner was recently upgraded to The Dome:
11 April – Hope & Ruin, Brighton
12 April – Castle & Falcon, Birmingham
13 April – The Fleece, Bristol
15 April – J2, Cambridge
16 April – Academy 3, Manchester
17 April – King Tut’s, Glasgow
19 April – The Key Club, Leeds
20 April – The Bodega, Nottingham
21 April – The Dome, London