The Soundboard Stereo – October 2017

We’re finally at the tail end of the autumn release season and into winter where things will inevitably start calming down, but it’s not as if there’s been a shortage of great music to still be released, or indeed what’s been released over the last few weeks. October has had some genuine year-end contenders under its belt, and as the time to start formulating those lists draws ever nearer, there’s a lot of albums to take into consideration. Beyond all that though, here’s what we’ve been listening to over the course of the last month…

Papa Roach – Infest

Behind Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory in the stakes of “ridiculously massive nu-metal albums” is Papa Roach’s Infest, an album that managed to capture teenage angst better than most, given Jacoby Shaddix’s own history of domestic discord, losing friends and more that became so deeply embedded within its nu-metal context. It helps that so many of these songs have managed to withstand the test of time, too; Binge captures the very essence of Papa Roach while grounded to permanently relevant, brutal realism; the title track and Snakes may feel like throwbacks (particularly the turntable scratches of the latter which are very early 2000s) but are the absolute best kind; and there’s more of a chance for winning the lottery every week for an entire year than not hearing Last Resort on some sort of platform that plays rock music of any kind. It mightn’t be the most cerebral or complex album ever created, but between how much of this album has persisted to this day and the continuous heights that Papa Roach are still able to attain, Infest represents the birth of a force, and one that’s still nowhere close to being spent. • LN

Choice picks: Snakes, Infest, Dead Cell

Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Leaving the alternative world for a pop career often isn’t the most commended career move in music, but not many have pulled it off better than Gwen Stefani. Despite having only released three albums (so far) in her now-thirteen year pop stint, there are more anthems sprinkled around their tracklistings than most pop stars could even dream about having to their name. Debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is responsible for the vast majority of most 2000s pop fans favourite songs – Hollaback Girl, Rich Girl, What You Waiting For? – need we say more? It’s an album full of bratty, slightly juvenile pop (if the huge singles didn’t hint at that already). Sometimes it’s cringeworthy as hell, but it’s completely earworm-filled and the perfect mixture of sassy and syrupy sweet that it’s hard not to put her in the upper echelons of the pop stars of her era. It’s so 2000s that among the Lordes and Carly Rae Jepsens of today it would probably have much less of a chance of worldwide mainstream success (let’s not even talk about the endless cultural appropriation finger pointing that’d be directed at Gwen for her discussion of Harajuku girls and use of their cultural in her music videos). Love. Angel. Music. Baby. represents some of the best quirky pop of its time, and the slight chance that more questionable cuts like Bubble Pop Electric and Danger Zone were written with tongues firmly in cheeks are what has kept Gwen out of ‘guilty pleasure’ territory and into pop royalty. • GJ

Choice picks: Rich Girl, Hollaback Girl, Harajuku Girls

Lil Uzi Vert – Luv Is Rage 2

First things first – this album is most certainly not great, but of the ever-growing clutch of trap rappers having stupid amounts of success showered upon them, Lil Uzi Vert is probably the best of them by default. He’s not a mush-mouthed ingrate like Kodak Black or just a generally reprehensible human being like XXXTentacion, and while he still falls into the same musical trappings and lack of topical breadth as many of his peers, Luv Is Rage 2 (a sequel of sorts to his breakthrough mixtape Luv Is Rage) at the very least puts in the work to stand on its own. Going by the “vibe over everything” mindset of trap, there are cuts here which display some actual novelty in terms of production while still keeping to a very glossy baseline, like the Pharrell-assisted colour of Neon Guts or the impressive interpolation of Oh Wonder’s Landslide on The Way Life Goes. Even though Uzi’s braying delivery means that he leaves a lot to be desired as far as technical rapping ability goes, there’s appeal to be gleaned from here regardless. It’s isolated appeal, but when some of the competition don’t even have that, it’s at least something. • LN

Choice picks: The Way Life Goes, XO TOUR Llif3, Neon Guts

London Grammar – If You Wait

Based on talent alone, it’s no surprise that London Grammar have the ever-rising status they do. Stylistically though, it could be a bit more of an enigma to some people. Their most well-known songs, whose frequent inclusions on primetime TV soundtracks have boosted their audience massively, seem too slow and acquired a taste to shift huge volumes, according to traditional pop music criteria, anyway. But their debut album If You Wait is evidence enough against any doubts, and brought moments of genuine beauty to the charts. Really, classically-trained singer Hannah Reid’s stunning contributions are absolutely the star of the show, with contributions from Dot Major and Dan Rothman often almost minimalistic, designed to ebb and flow with whatever she sings. It’s a blueprint that works however much attention you pay to it – If You Wait is blissfully soothing and doesn’t demand focus on a lower volume, but with full concentration on both the obvious melodies and quiet background intricacies in tracks like Flickers and Hey Now, it’s a truly enrapturing listen. Of course, it’s not exactly for those who like their music a little more high-octane, but you like yours gorgeous and deeply textured, this is for you. • GJ

Choice picks: Sights, Metal & Dust, Flickers

Void Tendril – Ensnaring The Demiurge 

For as much of a shifting, unpredictable hotbed as metal’s underground is, it says a lot when a new band makes a real, profound impact on their first try. So enter Void Tendril, the two-piece who’ve done just that with a four-track demo that’s as confident in both its craft and its bloodthirsty intent as you’re likely to see. And this is unrelenting stuff, whether that comes in the penchant for crushing, funereal passages, the searing transition into black-metal fury on Shivering Residue or a vocal rasp that’s the sonic equivalent of having your own skin slowly ripped off. The fact they can keep it so compelling and enrapturing for a half-hour-plus runtime only adds to the overall impressiveness. On the other hand, the production can feel a touch muddy at times, but that’s really only nitpicking; considering this is only a demo, and a totally DIY one at that, Ensnaring The Demiurge is the sort of starting block that promises some waves are made in the future. • LN

Choice picks: A Crone’s Reptilian Eye, The Vampiric Embrace Of Flame

Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album)

We’ve discussed a few debut albums this week, but out of all of them, Weezer’s Blue Album is without a doubt the one that’s stayed in people’s hearts most. It’s quintessential Weezer (at their more musically consistent and credible side), documenting the ever-so-relatable nerdy and awkward stages all of us have gone through, however fleeting (or permanent, even) that moment may have been. From In The Garage gleefully talking about their happy place adorned with posters to eight-minute closer Only In Dreams discussing nerves about both talking to a pretty girl and dancing. There’s even relationship jealousy and subsequent possessiveness – all bases are covered. Really, it’s an album of contrasting ideas. Even those darker subject matters are presented in a chirpy, heart-soaring way. Such a format seems cool and effortless, but the lyrics are bumbling and the furthest thing from cool. It’s this tug-of-war of sounds and ideas that makes it the perfect album to soundtrack your teens and early twenties. By itself, the concept is already an irresistible one, and hearing generation-defining anthems like Buddy Holly, Say It Ain’t So and Undone (The Sweater Song) to go along with it are more than enough proof for the fact that the Blue Album is undoubtedly a classic one. • GJ

Choice picks: Buddy Holly, Surf Wax America, In The Garage

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

Leave a Reply