The Soundboard Stereo – January 2018

With the annual December lull taken up by year-end lists coming to a close, 2018 has begun surprisingly active on both ends of the spectrum of quality. Things only look to be getting more hectic as the year goes on as well, and with the return of The Soundboard Stereo for 2018, we’ll once again be documenting what else we’ve been listening to throughout the year. So with that in mind, here’s what’s been on the Stereo this month…

Eminem – Revival

If Revival proves one thing, it’s how much of a fluke The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was in terms of Eminem’s modern canon. Whereas that album was quick-witted, genuinely funny and actually felt like it fit in Eminem’s previously illustrious career, Revival is a return to the rapper’s modern tropes that we all know and tolerate. Rock samples make a return with little to no impact, cement-cracking beats that don’t fall into any particular sub-genre come crashing down, and any attempts to come across as serious or worldly are shrouded in a general feeling of ambivalence. It doesn’t help that, in general, Revival feels like it doesn’t have a clue of how to properly manage itself in the best way – Remind Me and In My Head incorporate their samples so lazily and effortlessly; Heat is an embarrassing, cringeworthy attempt at provocative comedy; and the overcrowding of sizable pop artists to play chorus machines feels totally counterintuitive to the persona and ethos that Eminem has worked so hard to establish. That’s not to say it’s without merit – River and Bad Husband are comparatively solid at fitting the serious mould with Framed doing the same for the lighter material, and Castle and Arose serve as a genuinely excellent closing pair that show that Eminem hasn’t completely bottomed out as an artist yet both in terms of creativity and technical skill. But that’s a tough notion to sell for the majority of Revival, an unforgivably flabby effort for an artist who should be doing much better at this point. • LN

Choice picks: Arose, Castle, Framed

Deftones – Koi No Yokan 

Deftones are the masters of the balancing act, putting out consistently brilliant albums that manage to be toe-curlingly heavy and stunningly beautiful, often even at the same time. 2012 opus Koi No Yokan might not have graduated to the ‘quintessential’ status albums like White Pony have, but it’s far and away the best example of their wonderful dynamic shifts from their career thus far. Chino Moreno’s vocal contributions are the Swiss army knife of modern metal, going from soaring and powerful on Swerve City, erratic and frenzied on Leathers, soft and swirling on What Happened To You? and everything else on the songs inbetween. And it’s not just vocals that make this album the art it is. Stephen Carpenter’s guitars and Frank Delgado’s keyboards are both intrinsic to the pulls and tugs of Koi No Yokan, possibly because theirs are the two elements most at odds with each other in Deftones’ soundscape. It’s a perfect marriage of sounds, with one often pulling away to let the other have their moment, as well as seamlessly blending together to create multi-dimensional epics like Tempest. This album is an essential listen for metal fans, fans of the atmospheric boundaries they push their brand of metal into, and anyone who focuses on the craftsmanship of a record. • GJ

Choice picks: Poltergeist, Entombed, Tempest

The Maine – American Candy

If a lesser band had made the transition between albums that The Maine did from Forever Halloween to this one, they would’ve most likely royally botched it up. But in sanding back the rougher, wizened edges of its predecessor, American Candy sparkles with the exuberance that any great pop-rock album should, but factoring in the wry intelligence that The Maine have only gotten better at, the end result comes close to masterful in its genre. Because, for the sugary exterior clearly influenced by The 1975 and other pop-leaning indie in that vein, The Maine explore the dark crevasses of millennial existentialism, whether that’s the stock put in the vapidity of outward appearances on Same Tie, Different Suit and My Hair, the world that’s collapsing around us on Diet Soda Society and even the dark clouds building in one’s head on (Un)lost and 24 Floors. But as the sunny pop-rock jam Miles Away and the surging alt-rock of English Girls and the title track prove, this isn’t an album that shies away from a great big hook or ten, and it can carry them out with the gusto of a band who know they’ve hit they’re stylistic peak and are embracing it. It’s a moment The Maine have yet to best and will likely struggle to for the foreseeable future, but American Candy serves as a lasting reminder of just how good a pop-rock band can be when operating at full capacity in every regard. • LN

Choice picks: American Candy, English Girls, Am I Pretty?

Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

It’s been two and a half years of people saying “what, the Call Me Maybe girl?” at tracks from Carly Rae Jepsen’s pop masterpiece E•MO•TION, and that shock still hasn’t got old. Emotion is a completely undeniable album from start to finish, immersing listeners fully into a modern musical romcom. Across the twelve tracks Jepsen is infatuated, whether that sentiment is requited or not, and you feel every flutter of the heart and bit of yearning with her. In a feelings sense, it’s pretty cut and dry, but musically there’s so much to respect. These songs are hugely accessible, but still admirably creative and layered – so much so that the likes of Boy Problems and huge single I Really Like You will be stuck in your head for days. A song like Warm Blood, which sticks out from the rest of the album as being the one not-quite-radio-friendly song, has to be commended for being so innovative and absolutely hypnotising from the word go, and a sound that is completely unique in terms of female pop stars today. E•MO•TION is completely drenched in the ’80s, and brilliant uses of saxophones and keyboard motif details make the whole thing incredibly difficult to not feel any kind of warmth towards. It’s such a shame the ‘Call Me Maybe girl’ tag could, and probably has tainted some narrow-minded opinions of her, because E•MO•TION is undoubtedly one of the best of the best in terms of pop albums this decade. • GJ

Choice picks: Run Away With Me, Boy Problems, Let’s Get Lost

Various Artists – Bright OST

So Bright turned out to be the confused genre-clash of a film that everyone expected it to be, and unfortunately its soundtrack sees very little changing. Granted, the lack of fantasy creatures inserted into a gritty cop drama and the heaviest of heavy-handed racial undertones are automatic pluses, but just like Will Smith’s human and Joel Edgerton’s orc, the whole premise seems to be slapping today totally mismatched performers on a single track and hoping something works. Limp pop-rap concoctions courtesy of Logic and Rag’n’Bone Man’s Broken People and a particularly anaemic effort from Machine Gun Kelly, Bebe Rexha and X Ambassadors on Home are prime cuts of boilerplate soundtrack fodder, while forgettable indie attempts from Bastille, Alt-J and Portugal. The Man don’t fare much better at trying to patch everything up. High points do raise their heads sometimes – the Migos and Marshmello collaboration Danger is necessarily stylish and bombastic, while the double-take-worthy pairing of D.R.A.M and Neil Young does live up to some kind of expectation on the swirling Campfire – but really, everything about Bright as an idea is encapsulated in Sam Hunt’s laughable closing cover of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land – it’s awkward, unworkable and just overall unnecessary. • LN

Choice picks: Danger, Campfire, That’s My N****

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

It’s impossible to dislike Fleetwood Mac. Their penchant for utterly irresistible sparkling melodies and instrumentation at their very best and a beaming singalong at their worst is reason as to why, and why album Rumours is often regarded as a classic. The more simplistic songs scattered among its tracklisting like Never Going Back Again or Oh Daddy, while never lacking character, do slip beneath the radar in terms of memorability. But aside from that, it gets pretty close to perfect, as any record that’s home to The Chain, Go Your Own Way, Don’t Stop and Dreams has to be. Deep cut Songbird is a particular highlight, with piano, acoustic guitar and Christine McVie’s vocals making for a perfect lovesick trinity. Across the album, the consonance between band members both vocally and instrumentally is the main draw. Everyone in Fleetwood Mac is an equal, whether it be in contributing behind the scenes or audibly, and it really separates them and this album from many of their peers. The Chain really is the model Fleetwood Mac song in that sense, with its flawless harmonies, enrapturing vocal lines and thundering climax. This is a band with their own unique, distinct sound, and an album that’s never repetitive or stale. Rumours has catchy, it has heartfelt, heaps of personality and iconic songs galore, and that is the reason it’s held so steadfast in the last forty years of music. • GJ

Choice picks: Go Your Own Way, Songbird, The Chain

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

Leave a Reply