The Soundboard Stereo – March 2022

March has felt a lot more stacked this year than usual, coming out with plenty of big releases and promising a lot more for the coming months. The best thing is that so many of them have been pretty great—Hot Water Music, Drug Church, Soul Glo, Proper., the list goes on. By comparison, April seems a fair bit quieter with the standout albums being in shorter supply, but the good stuff is still on the horizon all the same. Until we get there though, here’s what’s been on The Soundboard Stereo in March 2022…

Miley Cyrus in leather jacket with the album’s title engraved in rhinestones on the back

Miley Cyrus

Younger Now

The Miley Cyrus of 2022 seems like a universally loved public figure across the board. Currently sporting a rock-inspired image, always outspoken and at the fore of philanthropy, she’s reached a place where she’s unequivocally herself in all aspects of her public life. Musically, Younger Now was Cyrus’ public perception-changing 180, abandoning the in-your-face pop and twerking intertwined with her name in favour of something softer and in tune with her country roots, a side of her persona not really explored thus far (unless you count teenage anthems from her Hannah Montana days). It’s a much more lowkey and sunkissed record, focusing on themes like reconciliation, recentering and finding oneself, all funneled through the open book nature of Nashville. Lead single Malibu is a gorgeous piece of songwriting, peaceful and bubbling, never getting ahead of itself or overdoing it. The title track is a more triumphant version of this, coming to terms with growing up and embracing the person you once were. These songs aside though, there’s very little to appreciate on Younger Now. There’s a strange dichotomy at play – despite Younger Now being marketed as Cyrus’s most open, intimate album to date, it’s so devoid of any personality even when it really obviously tries to have some. As novel and cute an idea Rainbowland featuring Cyrus’ godmother Dolly Parton on backing vocals is, the song itself is a caricature of a caricature but played seriously in the delivery. Bad Mood becomes Cyrus’ take on an Imagine Dragons song in an attempt to shake up the instrumentation, and almost every ballad where emotion takes the reins fails to engage at all (I Would Die For You is easily the most detached the singer has ever sounded on record). As it stands, Younger Now is Miley Cyrus’ most recent misstep, completely reinvigorating her career with rock album Plastic Hearts. In terms of Miley’s narrative as an artist, this record was a necessary reset button after the chaos of Bangerz, but in terms of material, it’s one best left at the back of the shelf. • GJ

A cartoon family of skeletons sitting at the kitchen table of a house that’s half been destroyed.

Funeral For A Friend

Welcome Home Armageddon

Funeral For A Friend seem to be back in operation long-term now, albeit just as a live act for now. It’s hard to hold that against them given the legacy they’ve had and the role they played in shaping British post-hardcore throughout the 2000s, but looking over their later material especially, there are ideas there that feel far more fruitful than late-career coasting. Seeing them dip effectively into legitimate hardcore was a real thrill from the off, something that Welcome Home Armageddon ushered in with more aplomb than could reasonably be expected. Sure, there are still touches of their more standard melodic fare like Owls (Are Watching), but the genuine reverence paid to those older acts on Front Row Seats To The End Of The World or Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t was genuinely unexpected back in 2011. They’d always been played more as side flavours, if woven in at all, and their first stab at bringing them to the forefront still largely holds up today. The wham moment still comes from how unexpected this is; in the context of Funeral For A Friend’s work up to this point, an acceleration of this magnitude is nothing to scoff at on principle alone. It’s got all the tight, wiry energy and firepower of trad-hardcore with very few concessions made, something which the band would go on continue with on their subsequent releases, but never really to this extent. It remains a big, volatile blast of Funeral For A Friend at their best, and a testament to what elder bands not resting on their laurels can achieve. • LN

A portrait of Troye Sivan on a street

Troye Sivan

Blue Neighbourhood

Following the phasing out of the YouTube channel where he made his name, Troye Sivan’s first jump into making music was an ambitious one. Blue Neighbourhood was the full package, an autobiographical showcase of one of pop’s most promising new artists, discussing his home of an insular neighbourhood which he lived in as a young gay boy and would eventually leave. Blue Neighbourhood is through-and-through a 2015 album, not just because of its release date but its sound and feel, wearing its heart on its sleeve and soaking in every single emotion as fearlessly as possible. It’s all showcased through meticulously produced synthpop, hoisting the choruses of Wild and Youth up to anthemic levels but also boasting emotional levels like on The Quiet (the lack of touch-ups on its verse vocals adding a sharp contrast to the song’s clean production and a visceral nature to Sivan’s emotions) and Too Good, which descends into a wonderfully tasteful string section and guitar solo. It’s not just the core ten songs are a one-and-done in creating this world; the deluxe edition follows the very 2015 trend of intersplicing a considerable number of bonus tracks into the tracklisting rather than tacking them as appendices, these tracks being some of the more experimental on the record. There’s also the Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy of music videos accompanying the songs Wild, Youth and Fools, whichillustrates the tragic story of two childhood sweethearts and the adversity their same-sex relationship faces. The emotions of these songs, and everything else on this record no less, can be applied to anyone’s suburban woes, but Troye Sivan’s own personal spin makes for a spellbinding narrative even today. • GJ

Skunk Anansie’s members with Skin’s face right in the camera

Skunk Anansie


When you look at the waves a band like Nova Twins are making today, it puts into perspective how ahead of their time Skunk Anansie really were. Primarily that’s down to the presence of frontwoman Skin and her influence on the band, as a black woman fronting a rock band during a period of ‘90s Britrock that was overwhelmingly white and male. But even musically, there’s something about Skunk Anansie’s older material that feels more transgressive, in part because it needed to given the climate, but also simply for how vital this could be in comparison to so much else. The fact that Stoosh opens with a song called Yes It’s Fucking Political is a clear tell straight away, of just how much more barbed Skunk Anansie were at the time, and how, to their credit, they’ve tried to keep it up across the years. It’s never since been as rock-solid as Stoosh was though, buoyed on the strength of singles like Hedonism (Just Because It Feels Good) and Twisted (Everyday Hurts) to show a range and rawness that, at the time, was virtually unparalleled in their particular field. Sure, it’s aged a bit now—in that it came out in 1996 and what hasn’t aged in that time?—but it still hold up remarkably steadfast for the most part, grasping the real alternative soul of the ‘90s and doing a lot with it that still has descendants running today. It’s only when you take a step back that you realise how deep some of Skunk Anansie’s influence seems to run, and how they don’t really get the due credit for pushing that envelope as early as they did. • LN

A portrait of Sam Fender

Sam Fender

Hypersonic Missiles

It’s all too easy to sniff at the latest so-called ‘rock god’ seemingly handed untouchable status by critics; such labels are doled out far too often by indie journalists salivating over any new act that sounds remotely like Oasis or the Arctic Monkeys. While current it boy Sam Fender has all of the rogue-ish, guitar hero charm of such acts, he has plenty more to bring to the table – one listen through of his 2019 debut album Hypersonic Missiles shows just that. There’s an everyman quality Fender brings to songs like the title track, a song completely on the money when it comes to describing the state of the world at the moment. At the same time though, Fender is completely aware of how small a fish he is, a moderately successful song a changed society does not make. Hypersonic Missiles also showcases Fender’s innate skill for storytelling, which is arguably where this album is at its most engaging. The Borders is a highlight even without a chorus, plunging the listener into a tale about childhood friends turned dysfunctional family members, a Springsteen-esque instrumental driving the listener forward in time with the characters and intrinsically tying the two parties’ emotions. Even the more simplistic songs are striking; Dead Boys (about male suicide) is among the most lyrically sparse tracks here but the most emotionally potent, while Will We Talk?, one of the few love-centric songs, is pure joy. When the points Fender makes are this engaging, the lulls (like the cluster of slower, often love songs at the back end of the record) fall further than one would expect. That said, Hypersonic Missiles (and follow-up Seventeen Going Under)shows a colossal talent, one that’s switched on and necessary for today’s rock music. • GJ

A cowboy looking out over a wasteland.


Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies

In the early 2010s, Volbeat were presented as a real breath of fresh air for metal. They had their roots planted in territories of Metallica and classic metal, with the spirit of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll that crossed over to average out into distinct flavours of punk. But as the crossover flames began to rise, that more distinct side of their sound diminished more and more, and Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies felt the brunt of it arguably the most. It’s worth saying that they’ve improved a lot since, and this still isn’t awful for what it’s trying to do, but when this set the stage for a portion of Volbeat’s career that was rather lethargic and stagnant overall, it’s worth calling out. As a straight-ahead metal band, there’s at least a bit of crunch in where they’re going, and the fact that Lola Montez has been the most prevailing song to come from the album—one of its most rollicking, fittingly—shows that there’s still some application to that old style, even if it can mostly be found in the Old West motif that’s a papered-over tissue here. But in a length that you really feel after a while and a cover of Young The Giant’s My Body (which would be the start of a mini-trend of bafflingly leftfield covers from Volbeat), the bloat brought on by the allure of the mainstream was all too noticeable. Both it and its successor Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie are the odd ducks in Volbeat’s catalogue in hindsight; where their course correction has become more noteworthy now, a pair of meandering, ho-hum pivots into straightforward metal would imply anything but. • LN

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

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