The Soundboard Stereo – May 2019

On the whole, May has been a fair bit quieter than maybe anticipated, and that’s fine. 2019 has already been inundated with plenty of great albums, and to see the usual summer lull coming in a bit earlier than usual is no bad thing. It puts the onus on the acts who are coming out with new music to really step up to compete with festival season, something that is already well underway with our recent trip to Slam Dunk definitely influencing a couple of picks for this very feature. So with that in mind, here’s what’s been on The Soundboard Stereo in May…

New Found Glory – Radiosurgery

New Found Glory’s status as a pop-punk institution can’t be disputed at this point, but the fact that they’ve been able to keep up that momentum to continually release quality is even more impressive. Given that 2017’s Make Me Sick is probably their first release to date that can be counted as a real dud is a great track record by anyone’s standards, but when 2011’s Radiosurgery can easily be seen as one of their best albums nearly fifteen years into their career is the sign of a band who still have plenty to offer. And make no mistake, this is an album that, in the grander context of New Found Glory’s greater discography, goes unfairly overlooked, and it’s hard to really figure out why. The concentration of hooks is arguably among the strongest here of all of their albums, boosting an already fantastic concoction of pop-punk energy and verve that, with tracks like Anthem For The Unwanted and Summer Fling, Don’t Mean A Thing, stand so strong and resolute amongst the genre’s greats within the 2010s. Sure, it’s not like this is breaking the mould for this band, but it’s more of a reaffirmation of New Found Glory’s greatness in pretty much everything it does, whether that’s the pulse-pounding melodic sugar rushes of the title track and I’m Not The One, or the noticeably youthful duet with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on Caught In The Act with a chorus that’s been impossible to dislodge ever since it initially released. It gets so much right that it’s all too easy to call this one of New Found Glory’s most underrated albums to date, and when it’s as consistently good as this, that’s a real shame. • LN

Choice picks: Summer Fling, Don’t Mean A Thing, Anthem For The Unwanted, Caught In The Act

Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

2015 saw music purists everywhere fall over themselves in shock when Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion was released. Disbelief that the same person who released worldwide bubblegum smash Call Me Maybe just three years prior radiated from every glowing review of her unashamed confessional pop earworms. Freshly-released follow-up Dedicated is a more modern version of things, integrating interesting vocal effects and (admittedly diluted) chart dance frameworks into the glittering synthpop formula that gained Jepsen the cult following she has. These are more subtle offerings than what she’s put out in the past, allowing both aural landscapes and lyrical concepts to bubble and build rather than hitting you in the face with a bright-coloured lovesick paintball. The singer is more theatrical in her deliveries (the glorious Want You In My Room sees her play a cheeky temptress while her breathiness on No Drug Like Me more than invokes the feeling of being under the influence) and as lowkey kooky as ever – who else would think to write a sexy song about Popeye using He Needs Me from the 1980 film as a base? While Emotion is still probably most people’s CRJ record of choice, Dedicated will not only keep her existing fans sweet, but stay in minds as a perfect example of organic artistic evolution. • GJ

Choice picks: Julien, Want You In My Room, Feels Right

P!nk – Hurts 2B Human

P!nk’s journey through her career up to now has mirrored that of a lot of similar pop-rock starlets from the 2000s, namely enduring the genre’s mainstream crash through adapting and subsequently gutting so much of the appeal they had. Even down to the spiralling lack of traction until relatively recently with various underwhelming resurgences, it’s easy to put P!nk in the same sort of holding area as Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne who’ve had to endure the same numerous false starts, but at least Hurts 2B Human shows some signs of getting back on the right track. It’s not like it’s a great album given some of its wilder shifts and comfort in defaulting to bland pop tropes, but it’s at least good to see P!nk being defined as a true presence again, falling so easily into poised yet fluid vulnerability on the titanic indie-pop of Walk Me Home or the gorgeous piano ballad Love Me Anyway with Chris Stapleton, but also bringing a sense of playfulness and light with the pops and whirrs of (Hey Why) Miss Me Sometime and holding her own against Cash Cash’s glistening EDM production on Can We Pretend. Indeed, having P!nk return as such a defiant force of personality is what this album ultimately banks on to work, which arguably feels like the reason that the occasional lesser cut like Happy feels left in here, as if to wring out whatever possible benefit is even in the vicinity of it. But even with tracks that don’t quite feel up to scratch, this is still a solid album, if only to show that P!nk still has a very real, very present appeal that hasn’t been sanded down in the vein of so many of her contemporaries. It’s not great, but the best moments here are definitely worth checking out overall. • LN

Choice picks: Love Me Anyway, Can We Pretend, 90 Days

Royal Blood – Royal Blood

It doesn’t feel like many rock acts in the 2010s had a success story as rapid as Royal Blood. A trickle of inescapable singles and eventually their self-titled record dropped in 2014 had a seismic effect on both mainstream ‘guitar music’ and the duo’s career, putting them at the helm of sold-out Academies up and down the country. On Royal Blood, Mike Kerr’s bass is beefy yet still polished enough to appeal while his vocals flit from slinking to belting (Little Monster being the poster child for all of these things coming together perfectly). Plus in tandem at full capacity, he and drummer Ben Thatcher create a true force to be reckoned with in terms of both volume and muscle. But as solid as most of this album is, looking back its success does raise the debate of rock music being stale, or to fit the cliché, dead. This album was hugely popular, something their impressive live reputation certainly played a part in. But aside from thundering solos and some brilliant vocal hooks (we dare you to not have fun singing along to Figure It Out’s verses or Out Of The Black), musically does Royal Blood really offer anything other than the rehashed best parts of bands like Led Zeppelin and Queens Of The Stone Age? In the short term, it’s a good time, but in hindsight it’s just more evidence that rock naysayers need to look a little harder for the genuinely interesting bands rather than reverting to the past. • GJ

Choice picks: Figure It Out, Little Monster, Loose Change

As It Is – okay.

As It Is are heading in some very different directions nowadays than what they’d previously been accustomed to, and while The Great Depression produced an initial thrill upon release, its star has ended up falling rather quickly. Its predecessor, on the other hand, only seems to be getting better with age, as okay. actually serves as the nexus between bracing pop-punk anthemia and darker undercurrents that they’ve been struggling to balance recently. It’s definitely present in the mental claustrophobia of the title track or the stalled-out relationship recounted on Patchwork Love, but As It Is prove they can succeed at darker turns while leaving this formula relatively intact, like on the barren soul-searching of Soap, or vocalist Patty Walters’ utterly gut-wrenching tribute to his grandfather on Austen that still remains one of the very best songs to be released in 2017. It’s still an uneven listen, sure, but when okay. hits its highs, it sees a band firing on all cylinders in a way they’d never accomplished to such a degree before this, and that they’re yet to replicate today. The preoccupations with letting the dark undertones overtake the melody have ultimately proven too much for As It Is to make good use of, and considering they got the balance pretty much perfect here, it’s worth hoping they realise how the balance can be redressed sooner rather than later. • LN

Choice picks: Austen, Patchwork Love, Hey Rachel

Tom Rosenthal – Keep A Private Room Behind The Shop

The popularity of male singer-songwriters is at a definite peak at the moment – one can’t move for acts like Lewis Capaldi, George Ezra and Ed Sheeran. All three might have their shining moments but none can legitimately be called ‘innovative’ (although Sheeran seems to want to make moves towards that label with his upcoming collaborations album) and like with many genres, a little digging can unearth acts providing the innovation this corner of music is craving. Enter Tom Rosenthal, who has been doing this since his brilliant 2011 debut record Keep A Private Room Behind The Shop. Guitars, pianos and ukuleles are his partners in crime, but intellectual catchiness and quirky use of vocals make songs like Away With The Fairies totally weird and wonderful. Innovation aside , …Behind The Shop is an authentic album – Rosenthal isn’t setting out to be a musical saviour of some kind, just a producer of creative songs that just come naturally to him. He presents a number of songwriting personas on this record, none of which feel forced or lacking in comparison to any others. He excels at both beer-soaked shanties and songs in Take Care’s vein – one of the most beautifully crafted melancholies you’ll have heard in a long time. Such songs’ effectiveness seem incomparable to the more twinkly cuts as well, and the naive grin of the instantly-loveable Forgets Slowly is just as memorable. Narratively, he’s an impressive force too. Six-minute epic The Boy isn’t the most exciting thing in the world but is reminiscent of Will Varley’s prowess in such an area, plus the more quirky Toby Carr’s Difficult Relationship With Tuna or Karl Marx In The Bath. Artists that make you ponder, cry, dance and grin across just one album ought to be celebrated more, and those who do it to practically no fanfare like Tom Rosenthal are a special breed indeed. • GJ

Choice picks: Forgets Slowly, Away With The Fairies, Take Care

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

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