The Soundboard Stereo – February 2022

February’s release schedule hopefully points towards what’s to come for the rest of the year—it’s been packed, but the vast majority of it has really shone. On the whole, 2022 has really impressed in terms of the quality of releases, from newcomers and established names alike, with March looking to have more of the same, especially from those big albums on the horizon. Until then though, here’s what we’ve been listening to on The Soundboard Stereo throughout February…

A painting of two people in a boat with the sunset behind them


We’re All Alone In This Together

Few British rappers are capable of matching up to where Dave is currently. Psychodrama laid down that notion a couple of years back, but there’s really no question about it now, not when We’re All Alone In This Together feels like a mission statement at a borderline unassailable level. There’s an immediate feel of boundary-pushing that’s being explored here, perhaps not necessarily in the sound, but the scale at which Dave is aiming for, and the platform at which he’s been given to do it. His recent showcase of In The Fire at the BRITs stands as a towering achievement, not only on this album itself as a sprawling, collaborative piece addressing systemic inequality from all angles, but also as a display of an artist being allowed to put forward these messages in a deeply mainstream space; this was on prime time, terrestrial TV, which would’ve been near unthinkable just a couple of years ago. But at the same time, Dave’s hitmaking prowess also speaks for itself, when Clash and Verdansk are already enormous, and there’s enough of a pull to bring in the likes of Stormzy and James Blake for support here. And on top of all that, We’re All Alone In This Together still feels focused, despite crossing the hour mark but rarely dragging or feeling overly self-indulgent. There’s a lot of space in these wide mixes to let Dave as an emotional presence resonate, but also to exalt a hip-hop persona that feels decidedly earned and lived-in throughout. Others may be more proficient with hooks, but Dave has a way of drilling down into a deeper level with that, on an album that sticks more readily and for much longer. Of course, none of that is news, more so just another drop in the ocean of critical acclaim this album has been awash with since release, but none of it’s wrong either. This does indeed feel like a landmark release, and considering the exact same thing was said about Psychodrama previously, expect even this to be topped next time. • LN

A drum kit and speaker with Fefe Dobson lying face down between them

Fefe Dobson


Paramore and Avril Lavigne are usually givens when up-and-coming pop punk princesses are asked about their influences. But while namechecks of Fefe Dobson don’t really resonate as much on this side of the Atlantic, her role in inspiring this new generation of rock stars deserves its fair share of credit. 2010’s Joy (at present, her most recent album) is Dobson’s most commercially successful album, and critics at the time noted it was the album where she sounded the most in control of the music she was making. Joy does follow the pop rock trend from the turn of the century of leaning a bit too heavily into the sickly sweet, with mid-tempo ballads making up a sizeable chunk of the record. Stuttering remains Dobson’s most streamed track, but its melodrama, instrumentation and onomatopoeic post-chorus haven’t necessarily aged the best. Where Joy is most successful is when it fully embraces the rock elements of Dobson’s sound (the side most popular today), notably on You Bitch, the raucous Watch Me Move or the stunning Ghost, which uses synthpop elements to really take it a level above everything else on the record. Joy in its entirety might not be the pinnacle of pop rock, particularly not in 2021, but the emotion behind it and the precedent it set makes it well worth checking out for those unfamiliar. If we keep our eyes peeled, perhaps Fefe Dobson will put out music showcasing a remodelled version of her sound and show all those she’s influenced just how it’s done. • GJ

A close-up of a peacock feather

Jimmy Eat World

Chase This Light

The beauty of Jimmy Eat World’s catalogue is that it never takes much work to find something incredible. It’s why they’ve stuck around as long as they have, avoiding any booms and busts that emo may have suffered since the 2000s, and elevated into becoming just an undeniably good rock band. That speaks volumes when Chase This Light doesn’t often get the same attention as Clarity or Bleed American, but can still go toe-to-toe with the vast majority of their field. There’s more of an acoustic focus at points, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world with how it blends for Carry You or Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues, where Jim Atkins’ comfortable vocal register flows through with impeccable ease. Meanwhile, there’s the huge, anthemic grandeur that characterises the band’s biggest works; Big Casino and Always Be speak for themselves, and Electable (Give It Up) and Firefight are the sort of lesser-illuminated deep cuts that really deserve the same sort of airtime. That’s true of the entire album, honestly enough; it remains a mystery why this as talked-about as others in Jimmy Eat World’s catalogue. True, it mightn’t be quite as immediate as what came before, but it’s more of the same big-hearted, big-lunged alt-rock goodness beneath that. If you’ve not spun this in a while, definitely do so; it’s more than worth it. • LN

A boy in swimming trunks jumping mid-run

Circa Waves

Young Chasers

A successful debut in indie circles can often mean one of two things. Either the sound presented is so unique and game-changing that the artist in question has to be showered in critical praise, or it’s not bringing anything new to the table, but captures a feeling that’s so undeniable that the record becomes a people’s champion, setting the artist up for the rest of their career. Young Chasers, Circa Waves’ 2015 debut album, fits neatly into the latter category. Helped along massively by biggest single T-Shirt Weather, it’s a record that has become synonymous with joy-filled summers and TV festival coverage, the guitars peppy and feeling like they can travel for miles, along with screams of the album’s huge choruses ringing out over fields at sunset. It also bottles youthful exuberance in its purest form, the album’s title track only just tipping over the two-minute mark and marrying raucous fun and a sweet, heart-soaring chorus effortlessly. Young Chasers’ is not a formula that will appeal to everyone, but for those it does wrap around its little finger, it will long be a summer classic for as long as pure, youthful joy wants to be remembered. • GJ

The Roman numeral III with prints of black and white birds flying inside and around it

Billy Talent


For a lot of people, III represents the beginning of Billy Talent’s downswing, where the wiry punk of old was becoming increasingly less barbed, and the radio-rock tones were beginning to sneak in in earnest. That would only get more prominent through the years and really came to a head on this year’s Crisis Of Faith, but it’s still worth remembering that Billy Talent have always been excellent throughout it. Granted, any hostility towards III isn’t as great as what some will ultimately face, which stands as a testament to how fundamentally solid Billy Talent are, and how even in a more approachable form, they’ll still dish out Rusted From The Rain or White Sparrows to clobber anyone over the head who believes that this sort of move is synonymous with losing it. The bass and guitars steal the show as always; Ben Kowalewicz’s yelps still have an urgency despite some turned-down tempos (something which isn’t as big an issue as some might hinge on); and the album as a whole courses by the ease of a band who know they’re the best around, and are looking to wring out the absolute most from that fact. Plus, it still has hooks for days right from the off with Devil On My Shoulder, that’ll open out into the bracing gusto of Saint Veronika or the venomous lashes of Sudden Movements. Amid all of that though, the growing pains are evident, though most of that can come with hindsight in seeing how they’d be ironed out for subsequent releases, and when the only tangible flaw to speak of is that ‘it’s not quite as good as what came after’, that’s hardly something to throw a tantrum over. Even today, this still rules, and it most likely always will. • LN

A sleeveless denim jacket with the album titled overlaid across it

We Are The In Crowd

Weird Kids

Weird Kids remains We Are The In Crowd’s most fully-realised album, adding the right level of bite and personality needed to level up the homegrown, sickly sweet image of debut Best Intentions. The kinks from their debutare worked out – the lyrics less awkward, the guitars smoother and more traditionally pop punk rather than pop punk band practice, and the new format that saw former co-lead vocalist Jordan Eckes take a backseat to let Tay Jardine front the band mostly by herself fits, the occasional times like Manners where he does pop up a nice surprise. The Best Thing (That Never Happened) is arguably the band’s first show of real, visceral emotion – any prior songs surrounding conflict or hurt never felt tangibly angry like that song does, and it feeds into the rest of the similarly-angled tracks on Weird Kids. Manners (a song that could have mimicked a We Are The In Crowd song of old) feels revitalised, while Attention feels defiant in its otherness but also desperate in its needs for a change. There’s real weight in this record’s exploration of grief, but the delivery reverts back to comfortable, wishy-washy territory that make them musically forgettable. That said, Weird Kids as a whole was a career-making step forward for We Are The In Crowd, and hopefully their recent reunion sees them making music with just as much of a spark as Weird Kids had. • GJ

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

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