The Soundboard Stereo – June 2017

In terms of new music, June has been surprisingly quiet in terms of major releases. Sure, we’ve had new albums from All Time Low, Miss May I, Rise Against, Lorde and Halsey, but that’s a fairly exhaustive list, and whittle that down to those that were at least above average, that company thins out considerably. Still, this month seems to be our most diverse by a consider margin when it comes to outside listening, factoring in pop, indie, pop-punk, hip-hop and funk.

Taylor Swift – 1989

Thinking of the best pop albums of the last decade, Taylor Swift’s 1989 has to be up there. Representing the musical coming-of-age of a former country-pop princess who grew up in the spotlight, this album replaces the acoustic guitars and with polish and sparkle. Swift’s trademark coy and confessional songwriting is still very much present, but this time there’s a more focused and consistent narrative (Google the liner notes of the album if you’re interested) instead of baseless jabs at different people scattered across the tracklisting. She’s always been a personality who can easily transfix, but this album proves it in spades and be it during ballads like This Love or pure pop bangers like Shake It Off or How You Get The Girl, it doesn’t waiver one bit. If anything, it’s proved more through tracks like Blank Space or I Know Places which centre around topics like fame and showcase her newfound maturity, both personally and musically. Everything’s all tied together with plenty of ’80s influences, synths and sugar, and it’s impossible to ignore the likes of the dreamy Style or unchartered Swift territory of Out Of The Woods whether it’s on a deeper, career-analysing level or them worming their way into your head. Love her or hate her, this album kills. • GJ

Choice picks: Style, All You Had To Do Was Stay, How You Get The Girl

Mayday Parade – A Lesson In Romantics

AKA Mayday Parade’s one consistently good album. Some may argue that A Lesson In Romantics is little more than a product of its time – obnoxious songs titles; overwritten lyrics; a fixation with dipping into maudlin ballads – and even if it doesn’t entirely hold up, there’s a reason that this album is held in such high regard as it is. By taking Panic! At The Disco’s melodrama, Fall Out Boy’s insularity and Taking Back Sunday’s emo’s exterior, A Lesson In Romantics serves as a cross-section of mid-2000s pop-punk and emo with all the songs it needs to back itself up. For all the sunset-dappled nostalgia that flows through Jersey and Jamie All Over, there’s the swirling emotion of I’d Hate To Be You When People Find Out What This Song Is About and, of course, Miserable At Best, the piano ballad that sent a whole generation of teenagers uncontrollably weeping into their Warped Tour programmes. Pop-punk might’ve evolved into its current harder, more stoic state since, but A Lesson In Romantics is about as thorough and enjoyable a blast from the past is likely to get. • LN

Choice picks: I’d Hate To Be You When People Find Out What This Song Is About, Jamie All Over, Jersey

The Wombats – A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation

It seems crazy that The Wombats’ debut album A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation is ten this year – indie classics like Let’s Dance To Joy Division and Moving To New York are so timeless that it feels like they must be older. While the three-piece have honed their sound to a polished and keyboard-heavy one in their more recent career, lyricism is the selling point of their debut. Singer Matthew Murphy has always had a way with words, and his on-the-nose observations about life are at their most original on this record. He sings about experiences twenty-somethings will probably relate to – losing his friend in a forest, dates gone wrong and, er, having a crush on his doctor. This, plus some of the most optimistic-sounding guitars perhaps ever and full-band “ooh-ooh” backing vocals that have become as central to their sound as their instruments are, make this a truly original album that’s overflowing with personality. It’s easy to see why it’s so beloved even ten years later. • GJ

Choice picks: Kill The Director, Lost In The Post, School Uniforms

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2

After the curve of Relapse and Recovery that saw Eminem reach the bottom of the barrel in terms of ideas, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was the much-needed shot in the arm to see him retain his status as one of hip-hop’s greats. The positioning as a sequel to his seminal third album was initially met with apprehension, though the decision can easily justified, both in terms of references and callbacks made to its predecessor, and simply the volume of standout moments here. Influences of ska, country and old-school boom-bap are woven into Love Game, So Far and Berzerk respectively for colour and energy without coming across as stupid or hokey; the technique and wordplay on Rap God and Evil Twin are up there with Eminem’s best; the ominous prologue Bad Guy simultaneously serves as a sequel to the original’s harrowing Stan; an attempt to reconcile with his much-demonised mother on Headlights in a moment that pushes the Slim Shady character far to side in favour of a genuine human moment. So much goes on across this album, but there’s such care taken, and the point it sets out to prove – that Eminem deserves his place in the pantheon of hip-hop giants – is ultimately proven. • LN

Choice picks: Love Game, Rap God, Rhyme Or Reason

Sunrise Skater Kids – Friendville

If you’re aware of who Sunrise Skater Kids are, their inclusion on this list has probably raised an eyebrow. The project of YouTuber Jarrod Alonge, they’re a postmodern pop punk band – a parody of the entire scene. And honestly, album Friendville is utter genius. They manage to cover so many tropes of the genre and styles of different bands while still being funny and making great songs that stand up away from the joke. All The Old Things mashes up plenty of your favourite pop-punk classics while saying the bands who recorded them are, well, getting on a bit, Pit Warrior featuring We Came As Romans’ Dave Stephens takes the piss out of dickheads in show crowds, and you have to watch the lyric video for Trigger Warning online (you can probably guess what it’s about). Whether you find the joke funny or not, the craftsmanship of these songs are impressive enough to warrant a listen. Besides, where else are you going to find an acoustic song about Star Wars, uncomfortable singing about breastfeeding and a NOFX-style rager about piracy on one album? • GJ

Choice picks: The Catchy One, Friendville, Rain On My Parade

Bad Rabbits – American Love

As underrated as it gets and among the shining lights of the alternative-adjacent world are Bad Rabbits, the funk band that deserved to be superstars but haven’t quite reached that point yet. But taken under the wing of glassjaw’s Justin Beck and with the energy and roughened gumption of a punk act, they came out with American Love in 2013, the crossover smash that crossed over but never smashed. It’s difficult to see why as well, with it drawing on everyone from Luther Vandross to Gym Class Heroes on tracks like Get Up And Go and Dance Moves, and with the sort of charisma that icons are blessed with. Depth or intelligence mightn’t take up much space in Bad Rabbits’ wheelhouse (just look at the obscenely seedy Dirty for evidence of that), but American Love ticks every other box as a smooth, ridiculously infectious throwback that remains grounded in the timeless medium of great songs. To see Bad Rabbits continue to go by without picking up the recognition they deserve – especially after an album like this – would be tragic. • LN

Choice picks: Dance Moves, Sayonara, Dirty

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

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