Brendan Maclean’s debut album has been a long time coming, but unlike most first full-length projects, this marks anything but his “proper” start.
Four of Maclean’s five EPs were released between 2014 and 2017, each launching off the previous to broach new sounds and ideas. It’s of little surprise then that And The Boyfriends continues this trend – beginning with its leading track and lead single “Hibernia”, which takes a match (or more accurately, flicks a cigarette) and burns everything to the ground, ready to start anew again.
The tracks that follow delve into self-evaluation and self-realisation, from the dry humour of “Not Too Stoned” to the winning earnestness of “Quiet Company”. “Sometimes let my best friends down / and sometimes know exactly what they need / a reputation I’m rebuilding and contriving”, he sings on the latter, with a directness that makes a string of appearances through the LP, often to deliver an emphatic second knock to the senses.
Maclean’s lyricism is as multi-faceted as ever – the album was written by him alongside Sarah Belkner – and these moments of straightforwardness only add another layer to the project, appearing unexpectedly to cut straight through the shifting, dream-like scenes both writers conjure, a wonderful example of the real and the abstract coming together to form something that’s undeniably both without being bound to either. This duality is captured beautifully on “Tenderness”, which depicts floating fragments of a life – or a life that could have been – before a heavy-hearted ending: “hunched over an atlas / I searched for you in Europe / but never found you”.
“Goes Without Saying” and “Layer On The Love” deal with these little internal conflicts as well, moments of unhappiness and understanding clashing without resolve – but strangely comforting in their honesty to the human experience. For an act whose career highlights have often been tied to boldness as much as brilliance, it’s testament to Maclean’s capabilities that the album reaches those same heights while allowing for softness and uncertainty. And The Boyfriends signifies an artist who’s found a new way to simply be – and while there’s no way of guessing what may come next, it’s turns like these that make journeying with him so rewarding.