On the whole, July has provided a lot to get excited about in terms of new music. It’s not been a stacked month by any means, but with the quality of returning key players on a clear upswing, and a number of newcomers dishing out potential star power by the truckload, there’s been a lot to like and be encouraged by overall, with August looking to follow in a similar vein. For now though, here’s what we’ve had on The Soundboard Stereo this month…

You Me At Six – Take Off Your Colours

Tickets for the Take Off Your Colours ten-year anniversary tour flew out this morning, shocking no one. It’s an album that has a place in the hearts of so many rock fans – those for whom You Me At Six were a gateway into the genre, those whose messy rock club nights were soundtracked by Jealous Minds Think Alike or relationships by Always Attract. But listening with more seasoned ears, it’s perhaps not so good an album to warrant a tour by itself. Aside from the five deluxe tracks, it’s a record that gets very samey before the end, and bogged down with odd, clunky lyrics. Where Take Off Your Colours does succeed is in its huge, easy to sing to choruses, and perhaps strangely, its equally well-done bridges. Take something like the aforementioned Jealous Minds Think Alike, Save It For The Bedroom or The Rumour, songs (like almost every track on this album) which all have parts tailor-made for stadiums. This is the part You Me At Six have rightly carried through to their more mature, far superior alt-rock sound that has indeed allowed them to headline arenas, and with songs like Forgive And Forget and Loverboy in the world, the pop-rock guise doesn’t feel right at all. Despite all this though, nostalgia and those huge singalongs should make this anniversary tour a resounding success, with seeing Josh Franceschi and Gossip reunited absolutely one for the You Me At Six history books. • GJ

Choice picks: Call That A Comeback, The Rumour, Kiss And Tell

Kendrick Lamar & Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album

On its own, Black Panther is a very different film to Marvel’s usual fare, steeped in tradition and an Afro-futurist art style that’s a different kind of dazzling than another superhero film, and that seeps down to its soundtrack as well, curated by Kendrick Lamar to effectively fuse textured African tribalism with modern hip-hop’s glitz. The results actually turn out fairly solid across the board too, particularly with artists who have more discernible emotive range, like SZA on All The Stars or Khalid on The Ways. There’s no shortage of gritty full-on hip-hop either, like with Vince Staples’ Opps or SOB X RBE’s Paramedic!, capturing Kendrick’s vision of an imposing, urbanised landscape, something that’s only ever done better on his own tracks like King’s Dead, or his collaboration with Travis Scott Big Shot. There’s nothing too transgressive or innovative her – its lineage does ultimately fall under the Disney umbrella after all – but for a film as culturally significant as Black Panther, it deserves an equally powerful soundtrack, and more often than not, Kendrick achieves that. • LN

Choice picks: Opps, Big Shot, Pray For Me

Arcane Roots – Blood & Chemistry

If you read our review of 2000 Trees Festival earlier this week, you’ll have seen our point about Arcane Roots existing somewhat between genres. Last year’s full-length Melancholia Hymns taking them further away from the Britrock label they’ve been branded with, but with 2013 release Blood & Chemistry, such a grouping made slightly more sense. That’s not to say that there’s radio-friendly hooks and clean vocals galore here, but the best songs on here lie predominantly on that side of the spectrum, with the oddness and heaviness sprinkled throughout songs for effect and drama. Triptych, whose leading riff is super intricate but still manages to be beefy, resides with the screamed verses of Second Breath and soaring anthemia of Resolve. Arcane Roots are also band whose songs which last upwards of five minutes never feel like a drag, with Slow and particularly stunning closer You Keep Me Here flowing through different tempos, textures, dynamics and vocal styles effortlessly. Blood & Chemistry encompasses so many musical qualities while never getting too much or overthought, and though their best release to date is probably one more recent, this album is a great starting point if Arcane Roots have slipped under your radar. • GJ

Choice picks: Resolve, Belief, You Keep Me Here

Stone Sour – Audio Secrecy

It’s been well-established at this point that Stone Sour are a singles band and pretty much always have been, but what was the more hard rock-leaning offshoot to Corey Taylor and Jim Root’s Slipknot dayjob eventually produced Audio Secrecy, lining up bigger, more outwardly muscular and arena-ready fare that would go on to be their bread and butter from then on. And yes, even here this is overlong, uneven listen that feels more like a precursor to a better attempt in a similar field on House Of Gold And Bones Pt. 1, the likes of Say You’ll Haunt Me and Digital (Did You Tell) are undeniable as far as straight-up hard rock singles go, and Hesitate and Miracles build on an already strong foundation of ballads that Stone Sour had established on previous releases. It’s a turning point, sure, and littered with flaws that Stone Sour are yet to fully rectify to this day, but Audio Secrecy is arguably the first instance of this band growing into their best side. Maybe one day they’ll actually get the whole way there. • LN

Choice picks: Say You’ll Haunt Me, The Bitter End, Miracles

Charlotte Lawrence – Young

If Paper Magazine’s recently published ‘100 Women Revolutionizing Pop’ list demonstrates anything, it’s that 2018 is undoubtedly the year of the female pop artist. Among the most impressive inclusions is 18-year-old LA native Charlotte Lawrence, who, with her circle of fellow model friends and picturesque Instagram feed, is bound to become a figure of aesthetic inspiration for plenty. On Young, her first release proper, she more importantly seems set to single-handedly redefine the term ‘teen pop sensation’. This EP positively radiates star appeal, and Lawrence is a duck to water when it comes to slinky, instrumental drop-centric pop. Just The Same and especially stellar standout Sleep Talking are absolutely sure to get anyone moving in the most cool-girl way they can, while a truly impressive grasp of songwriting makes particularly Wait Up and I Bet worm their way into your brain. But a surprise on here is Everybody Loves You, a beautiful piano ballad midway through the tracklisting which is the best showcase for Lawrence’s eloquence in getting her emotions and thought processes across lyrically. Honestly, because of the wealth of female solo pop artists making their names right now, there’s a real chance for this, an EP by a young, mouldable star who in no way has reached her final form, to fall under the radar. But mark our words, on the run-up to her debut album, you’ll be hearing the name Charlotte Lawrence a lot more. • GJ

Choice picks: Sleep Talking, Everybody Loves You, Just The Same

Mark Kozelek – Mark Kozelek

As stony and immovable as Mark Kozelek comes across – and judging by his material with both Sun Kil Moon and the Red House Painters, has always come across – there’s something so resoundly fascinating about the rambling, layered stories he delivers in his pessimistic, curmudgeonly way, and this self-titled album is no different. Granted, it takes a certain degree of mettle to get through an hour-and-a-half of barebones indie-folk that puts Kozelek’s stories right at the front, but there’s something so captivating about the references and details that twist and turn through This Is My Town and Weed Whacker, booned by enormous track lengths that only highlight the raw, unedited rantings of Kozelek as a narrator. It does get a bit much sometimes, to the point where this barely feels like music as opposed to especially purging diary entries, but the lack of artistry is more a feature than a flaw, and even if Kozelek is a tough nut to crack from a narrative perspective, his tales are rarely boring, and his presence is rarely less than entrancing. • LN

Choice picks: Weed Whacker, This Is My Town, The Mark Kozelek Museum

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

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