The story of Blaenavon’s debut album might be quite easily told: three teenage friends who entered a school talent contest, posted their songs online, and sprawled their way through early gigs, gathering a devoted fanbase and critical acclaim as they went. A band who, after the juggle of exams, EPs, record company attention, have finally delivered a debut album that is sumptuous and thrilling and brave.
But it is also a story of a more complicated time, a coming of age of sorts, of 12 intensely personal songs that explore friendship, sadness, hope, love held and lost, and all the confusions of youth in a world that is slowly revealing itself. And perhaps more than any of this, it is a story of a band that stand many feet taller than their peers, a band to help define a generation, whose songs provide the anthems for this time.
To see Blaenavon live is to be struck by a sense of invincibility, and even at their earliest shows — even when they played their first London gig at the Barfly in 2012, they were infused with that same pluck and spirit: “We weren’t scared,” McMillan says. “We didn’t really rehearse, we just rocked up, had a couple of illicit pints and four minutes before we went on stage thought ‘Shit, what songs are we going to play?’ and wrote a setlist out."
Blaenavon are a different band now to the one they were at the beginning. No longer slapdash schoolkids making it all up as they go along, they have an ambition and sense of purpose now, a desire to go further, bigger, better than before. In this collection of songs, in their stunning live shows, the sheer force of this band seems undeniable. And in Gregory, it is impossible not to see the kindling of one of rock’s great frontmen, an artist coming to recognise his band is destined to be something special.
Lauded by DIY for their “hypnotic pop”, Anteros are the left-field outfit everyone has their eye on.
Fronted by Laura Hayden, the four piece outfit have everyone in heart-eyes over their sound. New single The Beat is a slinky power pop cut that glitters with synths and a brazen resolve to keep on dancing.
DECLAN MCKENNA (DJ)
Kamran Khan realised that he couldn't be alone in the outside world. He just had to bring his bedroom with him. His parents' Beach Boys records, a dog-eared U-Bahn map and a framed picture of his favourite leather baseball cap - sadly no longer with us - are all there as he braves the stages of London and Berlin. Fake Laugh is the moniker of Khan's alternative pop/rock outfit that began as a solo project in his bedroom in 2013 but continues to blossom into a frantic and hearty live incarnation. Whilst on record Khan retains crisp control by playing all the instruments, his intimate songs, of daydreaming and discord, can turn wild when caught live with his four-piece band.
Tirelessly writing and recording whenever he can, Khan's 2016 has already seen him release the energetic, apologetic and fuzzy 'Ice' EP, as well as the bubbly trepidation of double A side single: 'Mind Tricks/Birdsong Lullaby'. Affecting the listener beneath the hooks, Fake Laugh is known to ambush you with a cutting take on self-doubt. The 'Ice' EP that "sported some of the sharpest melodies he’s penned to date"(DIY) resonated beyond its carefree chorus. Fresh from radiant performances at this year's Visions and Great Escape festivals, Fake Laugh has also been catching their breath from shows supporting Girlpool, Genghar and Ducktails.