It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but for what feels like the 100th time in 2021 a brilliant new release is about to drop. This time coming in the form of Blanketman’s debut EP National Trust. Ah yes, Blanketman. In such a short space of time they have constantly surprised (whether good or bad) with their music. However, now it has been the first time in their discography where I knew what was coming. A fucking charming debut.
It seems that despite the inevitable boredom and melancholy brought on by the last year, Blanketman have been able to produce an EP full of shining indie rock tracks that get stuck in the head straight away. This is all the more impressive when talking to frontman Adam Hopper, finding out the band have “Done a lot of the writing remotely. 6/7 songs on the EP started out that way, they were all written over that first lockdown period. A lot of the pre-production was done via zoom, which is a harder way of doing things, but Luke Smith (producer) was great.” Something I agree with. His mixing is noticeably incredible, especially on the rhythm sections that never fail to inject every song with a bouncy optimism.
The EP opens up with Beach Body, the first single released (and for good reason). This track is Blanketman at their punkiest, with driving guitar and bass performances mixed in with brilliant vocals. Alongside this, it still manages to keep Blanketman’s witty charm in the simple lyrics that (when shows return) are begging to be screamed back at the band. Track Two, Leave the South, also released as a single, in contrast to Beach Body has a far more relaxed, cheerful feel to it. Again it showcases the bands grasp of how to make great indie songs with quintessentially British lyrics, and is another real highlight.
Then we move onto the song that stands out the most for me, Harold. I had never thought of Blanketman as a band that would produce a song like this, but I am so glad they did. Yes, It still has an underlying instrumental brightness that is consistant throughout the EP, but here it pulls off comfortably to the level where the song cuts the deepest in their entire discography. With lyrics describing personal fears and sleeping troubles, paired with a vocal delivery like nothing I have heard from the band, this showed me an outstanding other side to the band I had no idea was there, with instrumental whispers of shoegaze and 80s indie music.
Track 4, Dogs Die in Hot Cars is another charming song. Lyrically warning of the dangers of having a dog on a hot day, with the howls in the chorus serving as a call to arms for all canine lovers. It’s not a high point on the E.P. admittedly , but Blanketman’s trademark charm still pulls through nicely, with jangly guitar riffs that cut surprisingly deep for what it is.
Blue Funk is next at track 5, featuring brilliant drums and bass that are arguably at their best here. With this track Blanketman seem to have struck a close to perfect balance between the melancholic Harold and the pseudo-optimism, and joy of Leave The South, culminating in some aggressive (or at least as aggressive as Blanketman can be) vocals from Hopper.
National Trust again is another short indie banger, dreaming of escapism from a dull northern existence. Despite the song being the shortest here, it just stands to prove that good things come in small packages. What surprises me at this point is that with each song you never hear much ground being retrodden from earlier EP cuts. National Trust and Leave The South can in theory be walking very similar paths, but they are both brilliant songs in their own different ways. With National Trust showing Blanketman in their purest form. The Tie then finishes the EP. Though arguably the most forgettable here, it’s still great fun to listen to and as always is brilliantly mixed.
When I spoke to Hopper about the evolution of the bands sound, he had this to say: “I think it’s just a natural progression. Most of the songs on the EP were written and recorded in a particular time and moment so it felt right to group them together. We’ve by no means left any of our older material behind though, it’s likely our next release will have more brand-new material AND some old favourites.” The criticism I have levelled at the band over the past year or so has become a sort of Pokemon evolution in reverse, becoming smaller and smaller with each new release they put out, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Here’s to many more years of Blanketman, whatever direction they go, because they’ve shown with this that regardless of what sound they shoot for, they can pull it off.
National Trust will be released via Pias on Fri March 19th