The Soundboard Stereo – July 2017

We’re deep into the summer lull now as far as new music is concerned, and honestly, that downbeat tone seems to have driven much of July. Obviously the tragic passing of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington has been a pertinent factor, but when the majority of what’s been released over the last few weeks has been alright at best and jaw-droppingly horrendous at worst, it’s hard to say that July has been a great month for music by any stretch. Still, here’s what we’ve been listening to amongst all that for something of respite…

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

 Despite being embroiled in a battle with David Guetta for the past few years over who can make the most generic EDM crowd-pleasers possible, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is a harsh left turn for Calvin Harris, operating on lush synths, sparse guitars and basslines and all the good vibes in the world for a summer-soundtracking nu-disco / funk album. And even though the similar tones and motifs can blend into each other in some of the more hazily-defined cuts, the sun-kissed grooves of Feels, Heatstroke and Skrt On Me are totally irresistible with the right weather and the right beverage. What’s more, Harris has actually got a grasp on guests the maximise the appeal of the instrumentation, pulling together heavyweights of modern hip-hop and R&B, and in the case of Migos (Slide), Young Thug (Heatstroke) and Lil Yachty (Faking It), given them a far more lush, exponentially enjoyable canvas than would often by the norm for them. It’s all incredibly lightweight and unburdened by heavy concepts, but for this sort of ultra-listenable, immersive summer album – especially one from a producer who is really only dipping his toes into these styles and tones – that’s all totally fine. • LN

Choice picks: Feels, Heatstroke, Cash Out

Marmozets – The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets 

Prior to their debut album’s release, Marmozets were one of the biggest whirlwinds in new British talent. Their collective age being a major selling point in the rock press, they were mathy and frenetic with bags of promise. But based on those first EPs, no-one could have predicted The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets. This was radio-friendly Marmozets, and unlike a number of other bands who’d made the same move, the energy and personality found in earlier releases hadn’t been compromised one bit; Why Do You Hate Me?, Love You Good and Move, Shake, Hide have more bounce and vigour than most bands could ever convert to audio form. But be it those songs, genuinely emotive ballads (the epic Captivate You and Back To You and stark Cry are all moving in their own ways) or EP throwbacks like Vibetech, everything on The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets seems completely fresh and exciting even three years later. There still isn’t anyone quite like Marmozets in music right now. And if they’ve achieved all of that with their debut, their second-record (release announcement being teased right now) is sure to be something else. • GJ

Choice picks: Captivate You, Move, Shake, Hide, Back To You

Deaf Havana – Old Souls

For all the times that Deaf Havana have been lumped into the smooth, clean Britrock circles, Old Souls saw them forge their own divergent path, and excel at it at that. Taking in soul, folk, blues and country into a style of alt-rock that’s notorious for being co-opted wholesale instead of built on, Old Souls was the turning point for a band that would go unfairly neglected within their scene, but floated right to the top of the pile in terms of quality. The heartland stomp of Boston Square and Subterranean Bullshit Blues pack in true texture and grit, and with James Veck-Gilodi’s poignant, powerful songwriting on the likes of Saved and Caro Padre, Deaf Havana almost singlehandedly became a real force in British alt-rock with this album. All These Countless Nights earlier this year might just have fallen short of this, but this is the sound that would define Deaf Havana for the rest of their career. • LN

Choice picks: Subterranean Bullshit Blues, Everybody’s Dancing And I Want To Die, Saved

Taking Back Sunday – Taking Back Sunday

Objectively, Taking Back Sunday’s discography is viewed as quite a chequered one. Their classic album Tell All Your Friends and commercial breakthrough Louder Now mark a peak in quality many view as missing in later releases. While everything post-2006 definitely isn’t completely devoid of merit like popular opinion would suggest, there’s certainly more filler present to back it up, 2011’s self-titled album is no exception despite the promising reunion of the band’s Tell All Your Friends lineup. But prior reputations aside, Taking Back Sunday definitely has its highlights – soaring cuts like Faith [When I Let You Down] and This Is All Now make it almost sad that this band don’t have the platform they once did. But these standouts, while they save the record from being too average, are surrounded by forgettable tracks that certainly drag it all down. It’s impossible to bring Call Me In The Morning or Who Are You Anyway? to mind when you’ve heard near-perfect rock love song You Got Me and stomping, shouty El Paso in the same forty minutes. This record (along with the two that follow it) evidences Taking Back Sunday’s stance as a brilliant singles band – why their concert setlists are mostly golden – but not quite at the level to create another classic album, at least for a while. • GJ

Choice picks: Faith [When I Let You Down], This Is All Now, You Got Me

Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

Frank Turner’s grassroots rise from underground post-hardcore hero to folk troubadour has been storied, but England Keep My Bones represents his finest moment to date, the ultimate turning point with singles like Peggy Sang The Blues and If Ever I Stray that saw the wider world finally begin to take notice. Especially as a writer too, this is an album where Turner fires on all cylinders, spanning the damaging vices of both himself and his loved ones on I Am Disappeared and If Ever I Stray, whimsical fables about middle England on Rivers and English Curse, and, as ever, his love of music on I Still Believe. That love of music is what fuels this entire album in its embrace of folk and acoustic music, but in a manner that takes any sort of populism and crowd-pleasing nature to its zenith. It says a lot that these tracks are still amongst the highlights of both Turner’s live and recorded oeuvre, especially given the consistency that has become his calling card at this point. • LN

Choice picks: I Still Believe, Wessex Boy, I Am Disappeared 

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Pretentiousness may go hand-in-hand with their name in the eyes of many, but Pitchfork-championed phenomenon Bon Iver have much more than their reputation to offer. Debut album For Emma, Forever Ago is their magnum opus (so far), despite their self-titled follow-up earning them Grammy glory galore. Recorded mostly in a Wisconsin cabin following a breakup and a bout of illness for singer Justin Vernon, For Emma, Forever Ago is minimal and beautiful. Stunning famed track Skinny Love is the perfect representation of everything this album is, both emotionally and artistically. Acoustic guitar and Vernon’s hushed, fragile vocals are the basic framework for the nine tracks, but extra decoration like the use of Bon Iver’s trademark vocal layering laced through is skin-prickling, especially during The Wolves (Act I and II)’s climactic build-up. For Emma, Forever Ago is a rare snapshot in terms of genuinely raw indie recording. Of course people develop and move on, but there’s something disappointing about hearing the telling cabin echo around this makeshift album and remembering that everything Bon Iver do now is uber-polished and in a real studio. Sometimes it’s just raw emotion and not shiny production that makes a great album, and Bon Iver’s debut is the 2000s poster child for that. • GJ

Choice picks: Flume, Skinny Love, The Wolves (Act I and II)

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

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