The Soundboard Stereo – September 2017

As ever, September has been swamped in high-profile releases from seemingly every major act on the planet, and what’s even more surprising is how many of them have actually been good. And with year end lists undoubtedly coming into view sooner rather than later, and October looking to be similarly stacked, it’s honestly anyone’s game at the minute. But away from all of that, we’ve still been listening around elsewhere – here’s what else has been in regular rotation throughout September…

Daft Punk – Alive 2007

When dance music blew up in the 1990s, it was just as, if not more famed for its warehouse-filling, drug-taking culture than what was playing through the speakers. Acts like Kraftwerk and The Prodigy were bringing dance to prominence in their own ways, but it felt like the genre was lacking a flagship outfit, one to elevate the beats from need-to-know basis venues to radio waves everywhere. Enter Daft Punk. The masked French phenomenon are a household name, and though recent years have seen a changed to a funk-laced sound and very few live appearances, they were once hailed as one of the most essential live experiences in music. Following the success of their 1997 Alive live album, they released Alive 2007 (in 2007, believe it or not), and it’s a perfect look into the live euphoria for anyone who didn’t get to experience it in person. All the classics – Around The World, One More Time, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – sound positively exhilarating with the cheers of thousands added into the mix. And aside from those, deep cuts like Aerodynamic get their chance to thrive in the performance setting, showcasing just how brilliant Daft Punk’s back catalogue is. Past the pangs of jealousy you get listening to Alive 2007, it’s an important record in Daft Punk’s discography, and truly helps cement their place as the dance giants they are. • GJ

Choice picks: Touch It/Technologic, Around The World/Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, One More Time/Aerodynamic

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues 

If there was a single album that could serve as an introduction to modern punk, it would be Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. This is a raw and real as music comes, a totally uncensored account of Laura Jane Grace’s struggle with her own identity and her gender transition. It’s recounted in graphic detail as well, from the experiences of bigotry and not being accepted on Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues, to crippling self-loathing on Fuckmylife666 and a feeling of otherness on Paralytic States that’s packed with the grounded, real-life pain that has to be experienced to be fully translated to page. But from that pain and confusion came a truly remarkable album, perhaps the most vital gut-punch of a punk album released in the past few years with Laura Jane Grace reintroduced to the world as a true icon, spitting venom and trying to articulate her own personal experiences. It’s not an easy listen – those first two tracks on their own are difficult to get through – but there are few albums with more to say, and that are more worthwhile with this one. • LN

Choice picks: Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues, True Trans Soul Rebel, Paralytic States

Turnover – Peripheral Vision

Every up-and-coming emo outfit seems to undergo a sound change these days – it’s like a rite of passage, and not one that always goes down well with fans. But sometimes, it’s universally accepted that the change was absolutely for the best, and that is 100% the case with Turnover. After filing down their rough edges, they released what can only be described as an opus – 2015’s Peripheral Vision. Delving into more mellow textures and embracing shoegaze wholeheartedly, this album is poetic, romantic, and painstakingly honest about mental illness. Above all though, it’s just a genuine thing of beauty that’s capable of transporting anyone to a place of total bliss straight from the guitar instrumental in opener Cutting My Fingers Off. The poetry and heart-rushing instrumentals attach to your heart and your head and it’s hard to shake them. It’s why the hopelessly lovesick Humming inspires such carefree euphoria in your entire body as you listen, and why Intrapersonal seems to lift any clouds hovering over your day with one play. The quiet beauty and positivity in the music and Austin Getz’s voice along with the balance of sunny and darker subject matter dealt with creates a perfect album, and it’s truly one of the best, most underappreciated albums released in not just their scene, but in alternative music in general. • GJ

Choice picks: Cutting My Fingers Off, Humming, Take My Head

Hands Like Houses – Unimagine 

The explosion of the latest wave of pop-driven post-hardcore has this album to thank, Hands Like Houses’ sophomore effort that has yet to be bested by any of their competition. Polished to a glimmering sheen though not lacking in power thanks to driving guitar work and Trenton Woodley’s powerhouse vocals, Unimagine represents a band taking their particular style to its smartest extreme, be it the soaring environmentalism of A Tale Of Outer Suburbia, delicate piano balladry on Oceandust and the skyscraping anthemia of tracks like Shapeshifters and No Parallels that have all the power and mass appeal of an act who should be making arenas their home by now. Even better, any gimmickry is kept to a minimum; besides a slicker production job, this is as straightforward as a rock album comes, reliant on great songs to get by and nothing else. Thankfully, Unimagine is a culmination of all of Hands Like Houses’ best songwriting impulses, and the fact they’re yet to best this just shows how much of an achievement this is. • LN

Choice picks: No Parallels, The House You Built, Oceandust

Sampha – Process

To put it mildly, The Mercury Music Prize isn’t exactly fawned over by the alternative community. But as our in-depth look into last year’s nominated albums showed, there is much more to the annual shortlists than the pretentious reputation preceding the title. But this month saw the triumph of Sampha, one of the best winners in years. His record Process marries soul, R&B, and real hard emotion, with grief from the recent death of his mother very much woven into the tracks. It’s raw, but not overtly so – see (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, the stunning piano ballad that makes the album’s inspiration the most obvious, but with beautiful rich instrumentation that it’s easy to fall into. Sonically, Process deals in super diverse sounds, but it never sounds thrown together or wrong. Sampha’s gorgeous voice complements Blood On Me’s intense instrumentation perfectly, and the total contrast of Reverse Faults’ mellow vocal pattern with its rushing synth background are just a couple of examples of interest from an album with endless little flourishes to notice. Undoubtedly one of the most deserving wins of the Mercury Prize there’s ever been. • GJ

Choice picks: Plastic 100°C, Blood On Me, Reverse Faults

Thomas Rhett – Life Changes

Life Changes, as its title would suggest, is the next stage of growth for Thomas Rhett, away from the slick country of It Goes Like This and whatever the hell Tangled Up was for smooth, grown-up acoustic pop. And, besides the god-awful EDM track Leave Right Now, this isn’t a bad effort, following very cutesy lyrical motifs about growing up, settling down and finding happiness with someone you love. If that all sounds a bit cheesy and mawkish, it really is, but it feels like Rhett knows that, playing down his delivery on the declaration of love to his wife on Unforgettable, the waltz cadence of Sweetheart and the inclusion of his father Rhett Atkins on Drink A Beer that just toes the line of being unbearably tart, but the sweetness ultimately works. It’s a bit of a milquetoast little listen that inevitably won’t have much staying power in the long run, but as far as pop songs with a bit of heart go, this suffices nicely. More than anything, Life Changes proves that sincerity and a winning smile can take you far, and Rhett has both in spades. • LN

Choice picks: Sixteen, Life Changes, Marry Me

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

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