The Soundboard Stereo – March 2017

Here at The Soundboard, we listen to a lot of music. Even away from the regularly scheduled reviews, there’ll always be something that we’ll have on. So in our new feature The Soundboard Stereo, we’ve chosen a handful of albums we’ve been listening to in the last month to point out and give a few thoughts on. There’s no genre limitations or criteria – as long as we’ve heard it this month, it’s fair game to go here.

All Time Low – Don’t Panic

With the lukewarm reception to Dirty Laundry understandably putting a dampener on the hype for All Time Low’s upcoming album Last Young Renegade (even if the title track is at least a bit better), it’s worth remembering that their back catalogue contains its fair share of gems, with Don’t Panic being perhaps the most under-appreciated. It’s difficult to see why too – it served as a marked return to form with a meatier, organic sound after the pop-rock stumble of Dirty Work, and while it reconfirmed that All Time Low still don’t know good single choices when they’re staring them in the face (For Baltimore and The Reckless And The Brave aren’t exactly bad, but when there’s So Long Soldier and If These Sheets Were States waiting in the wings, a revision is advisable), it’s rare you’ll find this band sounding as focused and purposeful as they do on here. A track like Outlines ousted any notion of a band losing their touch, and Backseat Serenade is yet to be bested by any of their subsequent singles in terms of drive and vigour. Nothing Personal still remains All Time Low’s watershed moment, but rarely have they sounded as invested or fired up as on this album. • LN

Choice picks: If These Sheets Were States, Backseat Serenade, Outlines

Transit – Joyride

Transit’s 2016 breakup hit me hard. Aside from being a personal favourite for years, they’re one of, if not the most criminally underrated pop-punk band of the last few years. If you’ve never heard of them or still need convincing of this fact, final album Joyride should be the record to change that. Despite receiving sub-par reviews at the time of its release in 2014, I truly believe it has ‘modern classic’ written all over it. Sure, it’s not reinventing the wheel, but Transit’s ability to change any mood to euphoria within minutes of putting on one of their records is increased tenfold here. Youth is a topic at the very core of Joe Boynton’s always relatable lyrics, and it’s wrapped in a gorgeous package of summery, dreamy guitars and a dash of carefree naivety. Grinning at anthem for adolescence Nothing Left To Lose or feeling your heart want to burst out of your chest at Saturday Sunday’s shout-along chorus is going to happen whether you want it to or not. For fans (me especially), campfire singalong closer Follow Me’s final line (“this is my love song, this is how it ends”) is especially cutting considering Joyride’s place in their career, and it retrospectively shifts the tone of the record in such a beautiful way. Importantly though, Joyride manages to exact the same vibe in all twelve tracks while still harnessing an irresistibility that stops it ever getting stale – something pop-punk bands who’ve been around for ten or twenty years still haven’t mastered. In a genre that’s gotten so overcrowded with rehashes and copycats, Joyride hammers home just how far creativity goes. Transit’s forays into swing-punk and splices with emo here (and how well they pull them off) all but show how they were one of the best. Theirs is a voice the scene is missing greatly. • GJ

Choice picks: Nothing Left To Lose, Summer Dust, Follow Me

Ed Sheeran – ÷

For all the acclaim it’s been getting, this is an extremely flawed album – it frequently treads in par-boiled, pedestrian territory that’s all too often a mainstay in Sheeran’s wheelhouse, it becomes bogged down with uninspiring ballads like Hearts Don’t Break Around Here that refuse to stay for even a minute, and the whole thing is currently fighting an uphill battle with overplay that it’s bound to lose. But at its core, ÷ paints Ed Sheeran as one of the more human pop stars around, be it in the goofy yet endearing Celtic jam Galway Girl, the slick R&B tinges of New Man or the pained, muted tribute to his late grandmother on Supermarket Flowers. On its own, ÷ probably stands better in pieces than as a whole unit, and it seems very likely to be the catalyst for a future career shift to the path of a singles artist. But there’s enough choice cuts here to at least bring some colour into a dour mainstream landscape, and Sheeran’s efforts for at least trying are respectable if nothing else. • LN

Choice picks: Galway Girl, New Man, Supermarket Flowers

Creeper – The Stranger

There’s nothing I can really say about Creeper that hasn’t been said already. The entire narrative of stunts and detailed context surrounding their music is completely fascinating; it’s shocking that more acts (not just in rock music but in general) aren’t doing a similar thing. Perhaps even more shockingly, I only opened my eyes to all of this in the last few weeks. The Stranger is my personal favourite of Creeper’s EPs. It showcases every aspect of their premise – the epic grandeur of The Secret Society, raw emotion in Misery (the best rock ballad of the last few years?) and heart-racing punk euphoria of Astral Projection – in the most self-assured, gifted way that most bands releasing EPs could only dream of imitating. With this EP and the ones before it, Creeper have achieved more than anyone could have expected from an outfit so early in their career. Immaculate debut album Eternity, In Your Arms’ release is sure to propel that further, but it’s The Stranger that seems like the unofficial fire-starting match to me. While previous releases Creeper and The Callous Heart radiated the same star-power quality, The Stranger is in a totally different career-shifting league. Eternity, In Your Arms is sure to be seen as Creeper’s breakthrough record, and The Stranger is bound to be their most underrated release in the eyes of many future fans. • GJ

Choice picks: Valentine, Misery, Astral Projection

Cobra Starship – Hot Mess

Yes, it’s silly, yes, it’s gaudy, and yes, half the time Cobra Starship sound like they have no idea what they’re doing, but few album titles encompass what’s inside as perfectly as this one. This is ‘guilty pleasure’ personified, the kind of thing that flimsily-described ‘alt-pop’ wishes it was – vibrant, colourful and an absolute riot from start to finish. Compared to his work as pop-punk frontman in Midtown, the argument that Gabe Saporta’s move to something as flagrantly shallow as this is a step down, but factor in the showy horns and solo of Nice Guys Finish Last, the neon synth-funk of Wet Hot American Summer and the successful slice of club-pop that is Good Girls Go Bad that, against all odds, managed to become something of a hit, and any shortcomings concerning a lack of depth are quickly overshadowed by how monumentally fun of a listen this is. Cobra Starship’s eventual breakup following a string of lacklustre releases was ultimately inevitable, but Hot Mess still stands as their magnum opus, and most likely the pinnacle of what this sort of thing can achieve. • LN

Choice picks: Wet Hot American Summer, Nice Guys Finish Last, Hot Mess

Fall Out Boy – Folie Á Deux

A lot of my March was spent rediscovering the work of pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy (they’re mostly dead to me afterwards), and while Folie Á Deux never did enough to take the title of Favourite Fall Out Boy Album away from Infinity On High, it was definitely pushed a lot closer after a revisit. Fall Out Boy are a band who never follow a set song template for the duration of an album, and Folie Á Deux could be the perfect example of this in action (other than the pop headfucks that are Save Rock And Roll and American Beauty / American Psycho – again, does saying new Fall Out Boy are a shadow of what they once were even need saying?). Sure, they have the modern rock classics (I Don’t Care), sass-laden stompers (Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bet, Tiffany Blews) and soul-drenched piano ballads (What A Catch, Donnie) most bands can churn out plenty of. But do those other bands make room for baroque string and scat outros, unfathomable synth keyboard intricacies and cameos from, er, Debbie Harry, Elvis Costello and Lil Wayne? Folie Á Deux showcases Pete Wentz at the height of his lyrical genius, blithely discussing his band’s then-rising profile and the accompanying trials and tribulations. Patrick Stump’s incomparable voice delivering Wentz’s sharp observations in the most expressive and ear-pleasing way possible is a match made in heaven, and it’s a crying shame that this format had to be tampered with at all. Call me stuck in my ways, but Fall Out Boy should definitely ditch their pop ambitions and go back to writing Disney sound-alikes about taking Benzedrine. • GJ

Choice picks: Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes, Tiffany Blews, 20 Dollar Nosebleed

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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