Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Beans on Toast 'Survival of the Friendliest' is the Album That Will Make You See the Silver Lining

Essex folk artist, Beans on Toast's (Jay McAllister) new album ‘Survival of the Friendliest’ is the breath of fresh air album that we’ve needed for the last two years. When headlines are nothing but political incompetence, COVID news and general threats to basic human rights, it’s uplifting to hear music telling us there is a brighter tomorrow out there. 

‘Survival of the Friendliest’ is the 14th studio album from the folk singer, continuing the  tradition of releasing an album on his birthday, December 1, every year since 2009. He stated he “poured his heart into this album” on Instagram, with messages of hope, peace, opportunity and the beauty and power of nature. These songs really inspire you to believe the messages of pure Sagittarian optimism.

Beans collaborated with his previous bandmates, Blaine Harrison and Jack Flanagan for writing back in the beginning of 2021, in direct defiance of a dreary winter lockdown they focused on silver linings and greener grace, even when it seemed so far away. As for the music, even though it’s light to give more attention to those lyrics (and rightfully so), we hear from a group of different musicians. Such as Sarah Telman on backup vocals and strings, Rosie Bristow on accordion, Adriano Rossetti-Bonell on saxophone and Graham Godfrey on drums to compliment the Beans on Toast guitar and vocals.

The inspiration for the title came from Dutch philosopher Rutger Bregman’s 2019 book ‘Humankind - A Hopeful History’. This book examines the resilience and positivity that people are capable of when faced with a crisis. It’s clear that this was a message the singer needed to spread to encourage listeners during dark, unpredictable times. 

This is an album all about the lyrics. The opening track ‘Beautiful Place’ is an uplifting, dance guitar jam about how despite the hardships in life, the world is beautiful and full of possibilities. In just the first minute of the album, we’re reminded that we have always made strides together past the wars of the world. It’s a perfect starter, the type of sound that gets you excited and makes you feel like running in a field or dancing. Followed with ‘Stones’, a softer, almost love song to the permanence of things like stones along a beach, a drop of water and the moon. These lyrics are filled with imagery that allows you to smell the ocean or feel the cool air of a night looking up at the stars. Blowing you right into the fun, almost campfire sing along of ‘Blow Volcano Blow’, a song about the interconnectedness of nature and fate. Together, these opening three songs affirm that despite hardships our lives are in our own hands and by embracing this and the beauty of our surroundings we can achieve anything we want.

The stompy ‘Not Everybody Thinks We’re Doomed’ continues the life affirmations with some trite lyrics like “The world has always been wild and unpredictable / That’s half the fun of it” as a bit of reminder to the pessimist that not everyone is so sad like they are, and maybe they wouldn’t feel so bad if they remembered that good things are out there and “Listened to your heart ignore everything else”.

To throw in some contrast, the haunting and lovely ‘Tree of the Year’ laments the falling of an old tree and compares it to the seasons of life, with the violin to add to the heartbreaking feeling of the lyrics. Followed up perfectly with the slow ‘Humans’ saying that there is balance between the hopelessness and the hopefulness in life, all while also telling us that the human species is insignificant compared to the rest of the world. The more political number ‘The Commons’ continues these feelings with a modern day example talking about ancestral land stealing leading to a privileged society dominating today partnered with fokly guitar, drums and even a bluegrass banjo.

To bounce back and leave the listener on a happy note, ‘Let’s Get Married Again’ fills you with just pure awe; it'll make your heart hurt. Then ‘Apples’ returns to the multiple uses of the trees, including a thought provoking spoken section from Dizraeli pointing out all the things the trees have provided us with, shelter, food, entertainment and reminding us that these things are not guaranteed since “We cut them down / Faster than we plant them.”

‘Ready for Action’ is an almost reggae sounding tune about the “Endless search for a better tomorrow” leading to the conclusion of this album with ‘Love Yourself’. The lyrics are just as you expect them paired with a majestic drumbeat and violin to close this beautiful album. 

This album is filled with such beautiful imagery and lyrics that create a space that makes you feel like you're safe at home next to a fireplace or looking out on the ocean. It just gives you a sense of the main character, warm and fuzzy, dancing feelings. It is a soundtrack for when you feel a little in love with yourself, someone or the world or if you’re feeling a little down to remind yourself that the world is full of beautiful sights to see, wonderful people to meet and love to be had.

Beans On Toast belts out the message, knowing we’ve all suffered so much with changes and loss over the last couple years but tells us that we can’t let it get us down forever. We must remember to take our lives back, be a little ridiculously optimistic.

So just let yourself go along for the ride, don’t worry about the rest.

Hope Orr


Image: ‘Survival of the Friendliest’ Official Album Cover

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