The Soundboard Stereo – April 2019

It’s good to have a month like April every now and then, where the stream of new releases slows down a bit but there’s still enough quality to stop it from being a total wash. It’s true that there hasn’t been an enormous amount of fantastic releases this month, but the majority have ended up rather good, to the point where it could easily be seen as a stronger month overall in most years. As for May, it looks as though the flood of major albums is ready to pick up once more, but before that, here’s what’s been on The Soundboard Stereo this month…

Weezer – Raditude

No one needs a rehash of the long, confusing history of Weezer that gets rolled out whenever they do, well, anything, but their reputation as the most sighworthy band in rock is well known, particularly to the frustration of those who hold Weezer (The Blue Album) and Pinkerton in high regard. But while the infamous (and terribly covered) Raditude is far, far below the upper echelons of Weezer’s works, does it really deserve all of the flack it gets? Yes, this is Rivers Cuomo at his cringeworthy dork peak in tandem with some ridiculous decisions (Lil Wayne collab, anyone?), but the opening run of songs on this record hits the most irresistible spot with catchy pop songwriting so stellar it almost justifies the lyrics “You are my baby tonight, and I’m your daddy”. The real phenomenon is Can’t Stop Partying, a song clearly misunderstood – the held at gunpoint singing, the laughably sterilized beat, the aforementioned “Weezy and Weezer” declaration, all has to be some kind of social commentary we’ve all mistakenly taken at surface level for years. Devastatingly, it becomes increasingly clear that Raditude has no chance of redeeming itself as an underrated classic the deeper you wade into its dire second half (home to the sitar-led Love Is The Answer, perhaps the most confusing and face-contorting thing Weezer have ever done). To answer our earlier question, this album certainly deserves its fair share of ribbing, but at least put on (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To while you do it. • GJ

Choice picks: (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, The Girl Got Hot, Can’t Stop Partying

Various Artists – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse OST

It might be overdone to say it at this point given the mountains upon mountains of praise it’s received, but Into The Spider-Verse really is the best Spider-Man film. From a technical perspective alone it’s got a style that blows all of its predecessors completely out of the water, but for a film driven by character to the extent that this one is, there’s a richness and a vast spectrum that’s drawn from that makes pretty much every one immensely likable. But while they’re assessments that have prevailed a good few months after the original release, the soundtrack hasn’t really been given the same spotlight, and it’s not impossible to deduce why. It’s like Black Panther where the magnitude of the film itself took the attention away from an element that wasn’t as watertight as everything else, but there’s still a commendable few efforts here that make it worthy of praise. Sunflower still remains the biggest name here as Post Malone and Swae Lee take up the mantle of sentimental duet theme song from Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott, but that emotionality is something that seeps down into a surprisingly effective hook from Ty Dolla $ign on Scared Of The Dark, or Vince Staples’ widescreen closing moment Home. Elsewhere, Blackway and Black Caviar’s scene-stealing What’s Up Danger brings a perfect combination of eerie gloom and triumphant, snarling bombast, and Start A Riot and Elevate see DUCKWRTH and DJ Khalil respectively bringing a metallic energy in production that clearly wants to emphasise how cutting-edge everything involved with this film really wants to be. Missteps do occur – Nicki Minaj and Anuel AA’s Familia feels like a rather perfunctory way to wedge in a big name, and Juice WRLD’s Hide suffers from the whininess that’s proven to be the nail in the coffin for a lot of his music – but for the most part, Into The Spider-Verse’s soundtrack is just as contemporary and razor-sharp as the film it accompanies, not only as said accompaniment, but as a collection of tracks in its own right. It’s not quite as good as the film itself, but that’s a high bar to match anyway. • LN

Choice picks: Elevate, What’s Up Danger, Sunflower

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

2013 was an odd year in the charts in general, but was also home to Get Lucky, one of the most unconvential hit songs of the year and one of the most overrated successes of the decade. But Get Lucky sticks out on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories as well as the chart lists it topped, unable to display anything distinctly Daft Punk (as opposed to collaborators Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams, whom this song absolutely radiates) aside from the vocoder bridge-slash-background vocal. It presents the funk direction the duo drove towards with this record as just a mask, when really songs like Give Life Back To Music, Giorgio By Moroder and Beyond demonstrate just how effortlessly both the bobbing guitar and motif-led dance Daft Punk helmed in the 1990s and 2000s can blend. But plenty of the songs that make up the record’s tracklist just aren’t memorable or even really likable at all, which begs the question of was it really needed in 2013? Without a doubt the best track here is Doin’ It Right, a more quintessentially Daft Punk-sounding cut which perfectly balances cold robotic vocal lines and warmer singing from Panda Bear to effortlessly build texture using minimal instrumentation. It more than demonstrates their enviable prowess for song construction and their ear for new sounds, which is why much of Random Access Memories sinks rather than swims – the underbalanced songs simply aren’t innovative enough to stick out from their predecessors. • GJ

Choice picks: Give Life Back To Music, Lose Yourself To Dance, Doin’ It Right

Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights

It says a lot about how good All These Countless Nights is when Deaf Havana have released another album since it and this remains exponentially more worthwhile to revisit. Sure, Rituals had isolated moments of quality that admittedly have gotten better over time, but as an entire project, All These Countless Nights heaves with a weight that each of their albums had been building up to, and releases that energy in a heart-rending yet beautifully melodic and anthemic fashion. As always, there’s a level of depth that sets Deaf Havana well apart from their former Britrock peers, as James Veck-Gilodi ruminates on his mental health and alcoholism on a trip across America, with broken relationships and fading memories lying in his wake, done so with a sober earnestness that make tracks like Happiness and St. Paul’s hit so hard. It’s the sort of album where the slow burn yields the greatest payoff, though with the rousing opener Ashes, Ashes and the gnashing tension of Sing, there’s definitely an undercurrent that morphs into the far more complex band that Deaf Havana are, yet rarely get the credit for. And of course, it’s all relayed in beautifully organic terms, dappled with country and folk tones yet never losing sight of a stable rock edge within, something that makes the emotional centres of Seatlle and Pensacola, 2013 ring so much more clearly as excellent yet haunted moments. It’s simply a masterclass in taking meat-and-potatoes rock and turning it into so much more, and if the material that’s come is any indication, this isn’t something that Deaf Havana will be able to top very soon. LN

Choice picks: Pensacola, 2013, St. Paul’s, Happiness

Haim – Days Are Gone

The most refreshing (and often most successful) indie acts are the ones who are not just the most unashamedly themselves, but the ones genuinely enjoying making the music they do. This was the lifeblood of sister trio Haim’s hugely buzzed-about debut album Days Are Gone along with general media fistpumps involving girl power and Fleetwood Mac fandom; alongside lead singer Danielle’s mellowed-out voice are her impressive guitar lines, keyboardist Alana’s zesty and warm-toned builds and bassist Este’s characteristically danceable contributions. As boring and cliche as it might sound, this is an album so easy to both enjoy and come back to because of just how many moods it encompasses. Forever is a rose-tinted carefree summer, My Song 5 is a stomping and truly unique soundtrack to any booty-shaking one might want to do, while Let Me Go is a storming epic showcasing above all else the brilliant and in-sync harmonies Haim can do better than anyone else. Follow-up Something To Tell You saw the sisters experiment and mature with their songwriting in many ways, but Days Are Gone captures a carefree grin that not many others have been able to commit to record. A perfect listen with the sun coming out. • GJ

Choice picks: The Wire, Days Are Gone, Let Me Go

Jake Owen – Greetings From… Jake

It’s easy to look down on most modern country singers given that, in blatant, tactless appropriation of pop, hip-hop and R&B tropes that don’t even pretend to blend well with a country sound, they bring the criticism upon themselves, but Jake Owen has always had more to him than that. It might be little more than charisma and a winning smile half the time but that’s a lot more than what most of them have, but the fact that he’s often given decent to good material to work with puts on far higher ground. Granted, Greetings From… Jake doesn’t have the single excellent moment that’s characterised a lot of his releases to date, but organic warmth mixed with a pretty solid level of consistency gives this album some serious legs to stand on, even if a lot of the inroads it takes are towards more openly broad or silly material like Down To The Honkytonk or I Was Jack (You Were Diane). That said, he pulls it off well, and when that’s paired with some classic barroom richness on Ain’t Here To Talk or a seductive Latin flavouring and shockingly competent vocal performance from Lele Pons on Señorita (an unquestionably stronger effort than a shot Kid Rock on Grass Is Always Greener), these are moments which do have a lot to like about them overall. And yes, a lot of it is driven by Owen’s effortless charm and character, but it’s just another factor in an album that simply works through doing its best with what it has, and coming out stronger from it. It’s hardly a marvel or anything, but it serves as more proof that Jake Owen is a mainstream country singer getting by the right way, and commendable efforts like this make that fact even easier to appreciate. • LN

Choice picks: Señorita, Ain’t Here To Talk, Down To The Honkytonk

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

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