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REVIEW: EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE) – YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE FORGOTTEN

Band – Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

Album – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Label – Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf Records

The first two songs of ‘You will eventually be forgotten’, the second full length album by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), each tell the story of how both the members of the band were separately involved in near fatal car accidents. Thankfully they lived to tell the tale but imagine for a second if things had turned out differently. Keith and Cathy Latinen, the husband and wife duo that make up Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), are more responsible than most, both as this band and as owners of the Count Your Lucky Stars record label, for reigniting the fire in this once almost forgotten genre. Their tireless output, with their own bands countless splits/e.p’s & debut full length and the consistently brilliant records their label has released, has brought a lot of credibility to the current wave of emo, making it as popular as it is today. Without these two would I even be listening to any albums recorded after 2002?

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Which segues nicely into giving a nod to the guest vocalists that are featured on this record. One of the biggest bonuses from bands playing this type of music again is proving to some of the legendary bands from back in the day there is still a loyal, devoted audience out there for them. You can’t have missed that Mineral are about to embark on a massive reunion tour and I hope you haven’t missed that Braid have come back this year with an incredible new record. Both Bob Nanna of Braid and Chris Simpson of Mineral make an appearance here and with these comes a sense of triumphant togetherness. We die-hard emo fans have found each other and our reward? One hell of a beautiful new record by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate).

The weather is changing, it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in, autumn is coming. And what an album ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is to soundtrack this change in seasons. I always feel reflective at this time of year which has made me feel an instant connection with this record. The autobiographical nature of Keith Latinen’s lyrics, telling coming of age stories from his youth as well as asking questions about his own mortality really speak out to me as someone who, ever since turning 30, has started to question everything in life, constantly looking back at big turning points in my life wondering what could have been. All 11 songs here take on a linear approach, eschewing familiar verse/chorus/verse structures and preferring to take the listener on a journey propelled by the powerful story telling of the lyrics. Poetic tales of love, friendship, youth and companionship are told with such an attention to detail that I know feel, after numerous repeat listens, that I really know both members of the band personally. The album is the musical equivalent of those magical nights at the start of a relationship when you stay up all night talking to someone and in the morning you feel like you’ve known the person all your life.

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The lyrics to each song had been posted online in the weeks leading up to the album’s release, being a musician I normally find it takes me time to find a connection to the lyrical content of a song, usually long after I’ve fallen in love with the music. But in this case, the lyrics are strong enough to stand alone without already knowing the melody as a piece of work in their own right. So it was really nice to get to know the songs before actually being able to listen to them. Don’t let me take anything away from the music though, because musically Empire! Empire! are as strong here as anything they have ever released before. Gorgeous guitar tones and big thick drums compliment the vocals throughout, clearly the whole production here has been meticulously worked out with the band knowing when to hold back and when to let the feedback take over for added drama. Echoes of Sunny Day Real Estate’s ‘How it feels to be something on’ and Appleseed Cast, mixed in with Empire! Empire!’s own inimitable style make this a record to truly behold.

With the many songs Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have put out in the 5 years since their last full length, it would’ve been really easy for them to cobble together enough for a follow-up album. I’m really happy they have waited until they had the time to commit to making something completely new with the sole focus of making a new record. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a concept album of sorts, using moments in their lives to ask big questions about life and what is the real point of it all. Keith Latinen has experienced near death but not had any great epiphanies about what it all means (“My life did not flash before my eyes”), he has witnessed two people who, after a lifetime of devotion to each other, became so entwined that they passed away at the same time, even though they died 2 years apart (“It took 2 whole years to convince his body”) and is left to wonder if what he is doing is really worth it.

How do we ever know that? We can always look back, and consider what would have happened if we had done things differently but it won’t make any difference. As long as we do what we think is the right thing to do in the present tense then there shouldn’t be any regrets. There is a lot of love on display here for each other and the vast amount of love about to be showered on these two after the release of this perfectly amazing album should at least let them know that they are currently doing everything completely right.

Please don’t hesitate to listen to this truly INCREDIBLE record!!

You can stream/download/order the record HERE

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This is me with Keith and Cathy after their amazing set in Brighton, November 2012

Thanks for reading. xx

Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

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THE VAN PELT CAME TO LONDON, I WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN

This blog post wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had worked it out in my head completely different, in my head there was a happy ending. But things haven’t gone to plan, so, instead of Is This Thing on? Blogs 100th post being one of celebration, it is now one of utter disappointment and frustration.

Today, (16/08/2014), was supposed to be spent at the Excel centre in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties Jabberwocky festival, you may have seen (not that you could really miss) the fact that the festival was cancelled just 3 days before it was due to take place. I had bought my ticket earlier this year in March, primarily because of one band, The Van Pelt.

I couldn’t quite believe the poster for the event when I first saw it. It was a great line up with plenty of other bands that I would be really excited to see play live (Cloud Nothings, Metz, Pissed Jeans etc..), but the fact that the Van Pelt were named on there too made my jaw hit the ground. In fact, I was so surprised to see their name on the bill that I had to google them to make sure it was really THE Van Pelt playing and not some indie upstarts who had stolen their band name. As soon as I had confirmed enough to satisfy my suspicions that it was actually them, I bought my ticket. The price for the day ticket that I was about to purchase was a nice surprise too, £38.50 for the day! I would have been willing and was expecting to pay more, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought this. At the time I thought I was getting a bargain, in hindsight it seems like a big error of judgement on behalf of the promoters.

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After weeks of exchanging excited texts and messages with friends who were going and telling anyone who would listen that I was going, it came as a shock to find out ATP were pulling the plug. Jabberwocky was cancelled. Initial disbelief quickly turned to anger and frustration, which was mainly aimed at ATP themselves. How could this happen? How could they operate with this level of incompetency?? Why hadn’t this decision been made weeks ago?? The line up was stellar, unrivalled by other festivals this year so how could they fail to deliver?????!!!

What followed the statement from ATP was really bizarre to be caught in the middle of. The fallout from the announcement went in 2 directions, a massive argument about who was responsible to refund everyone and also a mad dash to find out if the bands booked to play Jabberwocky would still be coming over and playing somewhere. Pretty quickly a facebook group and website started up with the sole purpose to salvage something from this weekend. With the cancellation of the event being so close to the date it was supposed to take place, it made sense that most of the bands would already have their travel arrangements in place and were either in the UK or on their way here. If bands are coming then let’s get them shows to play and get them an audience to attend. When I joined the Jabberwocky fallout rumours Facebook group it was already a few hundred people strong and it was thrilling to see what was happening. The members of this group were disappointed ticket holders taking things into their own hands, sharing information about whatever they could find out trying to ensure that even if the event was cancelled, we weren’t about to miss out. The number of members of this group grew with lightning speed and didn’t take long to realise that things weren’t going to work out well.

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I scoured the page for news of a Van Pelt replacement show. It was quite nice to find out that this was a hot topic of conversation. People seemed desperate to see The Van Pelt, a lot more so than the other bands and combining this with the knowledge that they were already in Europe meant that a replacement show was inevitable. Taking my eye off the ball for a brief moment made me miss the announcement that they were going to play with Metz at The Shacklewell Arms for free. By the time I clicked on the link for the free tickets I wasn’t surprised to see they were all gone. As it turned out, they were taken off the bill for this show and rumours flung round that ATP had used a contractual obligation to not let them play (something which ATP have said is completely false). Instead they were now going to play on the Friday night at the Ace hotel at the cost of £11 a ticket. It wasn’t just the fact that by the time I found out about this that it had sold out that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt like my opportunity to see a band I thought I would never get to see play live had been snatched away from me. I had secured my place at the festival to see the Van Pelt 5 months ago and now they were going to play exclusively for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of whom you just know weren’t original Jabberwocky ticket holders.

Meanwhile, a very public argument had started regarding who was responsible to refund everyone who had bought a ticket. In the original ATP statement they advised punters that a full refund would be given from the point of sale, for many of us it was Dash tickets. Dash Tickets were very quick to respond to my email and to state publicly that they would not be responsible for the refunds as they had only offered software for ATP to use to sell tickets and that all money brought in from ticket sales had already been passed to ATP. Dash also wanted it known that they were looking at taking legal action against ATP for the handling of this. When Dash emailed me they included some terms and conditions that looked to prove that they would not ever be responsible for refunds, ATP have since come out to say that these terms and conditions were changed without their prior knowledge after the tickets went on sale and that they had not received any money from Dash for over 2 months.

Like most of the other disappointed ticket holders I vented my frustrations on various social media platforms and vowed to never buy tickets for an ATP event again. Since their last statement I have calmed down a bit and now don’t really know what to think and who, if anyone, to blame. ATP seem pretty genuine, even if they do have past form in allegedly not paying out and mishandling events. It’s not really in my nature to hate independent companies trying to organise really interesting events in the current economic climate. To be fair as well to ATP they have continued to release statements with advice about refunds, my last email from Dash had the heading ‘Your request has been deemed solved’. Things will probably blow over for them and I hope they do so. Look at Hevy fest for example, last year they were the complete laughing-stock of the festival circuit after cancelling last years festival because, even though they had been selling tickets for a number of months, they had never actually secured a venue for the festival. A lot of anger and hate was directed at them but as I type this, Hevy 2014 is taking place. People put their faith in them and seem to have been rewarded with 2 days punk and metal bands.

(The second statement from ATP can be read HERE)

As it turned out, The Van Pelt did play the show at the Shacklewell Arms this afternoon that had been originally announced the day after the festival was cancelled. So that’s twice they played in London within 24 hours and I was nowhere to be seen. Apparently the shows were insane. A friend of mine managed to get into the Friday night show and said the atmosphere inside the venue was ‘bordering on mania’, and the set was filled with classics such as ‘The Speeding Train’, ‘ABCD’s of Facism’ and ‘Yamato (where people really die)’. My friend said that on ‘Yamato…’ ‘the crowd sung the “aaaaah” backing vocals and the band seemed to love that!’ It sounds like it was an amazing show to be at.

The Van Pelt are a really special band, I have never once listened to them and not found something new or interesting about their songs and the way they sound. Their original two albums haven’t dated whatsoever. And their “new” record, ‘The Imaginary Third’, which was released on the Spanish label La Castanya earlier this year to coincide with record store day, sounds as current and relevant as anything else I’ve heard this year. I say new, the album was recorded when the band were originally together in the late 90’s and is made up of 5 songs that ended up on the Lapse’s first record and the ‘Speeding Train’ 7″. They are a band I first got into as a teenager that I haven’t stopped listening to now long in to my thirties. A band I thought I would never get the chance to see play live and now, as it turns out, seems to be correct. Although there is a rumour they might come back next year, they mentioned on a reply to a comment I left on one of their Instagram pictures that they were at least considering it. I can at least hold on to this hope.

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If they don’t my only encounter with Chris Leo (singer/guitarist The Van Pelt), as mentioned a couple of years back on this blog, will be when he shouted at me because beer got spilled on his amp at a The Lapse show in Germany. At least I have the memory of that night though, and a funny story I can always bore my children with.

The Van Pelt playing ‘Yamato (where people really die) in 1996

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com xx

 

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120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ‘emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Braid – No Coast

Band – Braid

Album – No Coast

Label – Topshelf Records

Last year on my birthday I got to see Braid play live for the first time ever. Today I wore the Braid t-shirt I bought at that show but had no idea that when I had randomly got it out of the drawer to wear for the day that this would be the day I would get to hear Braid’s brand new album, their first studio album in 16 years. It’s weird, a lot of bands have reformed in the last few years, some of which you are willing them to make new music and some you just wish they’d stick to playing the old stuff. Braid broke up at the peak of their career, they had just released the classic, genre defining album ‘Frame & Canvas’ and had barely had chance to bask in the adulation that creating such a masterpiece would reward them with before they went their separate ways. ‘Frame and canvas’ deserved a follow-up record and not just compilation albums, Hey Mercedes certainly did well to fill the void that Braid left but it was never quite the same so thank goodness Braid decided to give it another go and let us be even more thankful that the new album is really, really good.

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If you’ve ever wanted Braid to make a new album then ‘No Coast’ is definitely the album you were looking for, it’s Braid all over. It ticks all the boxes that you had in your head when you were thinking what a new Braid album should be like. Big riffs, check. Brilliant duel vocals, check. Huge sound, check. And plenty more besides. The only real surprise with this record is how fresh it sounds. 90s emo bands have been referenced to death over the last few years, so much so that if you see a new band listing American Football as their main influence it starts to put you off. But no one has come close to emulating Braid meaning that the trademark big emo sound that Braid have made their own remains as exciting and interesting as it did at the end of the last century.

‘No Coast’ eases you in gently with the slow burner ‘Bang’ but really takes off with the catchy-as-hell second track ‘East end hollows’. My ears really pricked up as soon as this song started, I really didn’t know what to expect with this record as I’ve learned from past experience not to build my hopes up too high with comeback records but ‘East end hollows’ really put me at ease. And from here on in you find that Braid have made a really brilliant record that can stand proudly next to its predecessor. The 3rd song and title track ‘No Coast’ is classic Braid, the vocals intertwine as the song strays between a staccato verse to a more upbeat chorus and then with what comes next, ‘Damages’, you not only have a song you’ll wanna hear again and again but you’re also now desperate for them to come back on tour so you can see them play these songs live at full volume. When Chris Broach screams ‘It’s a call to arms’ I want to be flailing my arms crazily around screaming the lyrics back at him from the pit below.

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‘No Coast’ is an album of real quality right to the very end, the songs released earlier from the split with Balance and Composure sit perfectly amongst some really enjoyable new songs. Although this is instantly recognisable as a Braid record, there are some differences I’ve noticed on the several listens I’ve already had. The biggest being that the lead vocal duties seem to be more equally split between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach, I think this works really nicely, they both sound great separately and even better when they sing together. Other things you hear on this record that you may not have seen on previous efforts include the sublimely grunge ending to ‘Climber new entry’ and the Jimmy Eat World-esque ‘Pre evergreen’

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The album closes in an epic rock fashion, with a mid tempo head nodder and the kind of song you’d expect Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters to end a record with when they were in their heyday. The record drifts off with the refrain ‘This is not a revolution’ and while the same can be said with this record we weren’t looking for Braid to reinvent the wheel. We wanted a classic Braid record that we could fall in love with and that’s exactly what they have delivered. I am blown away with how much I like this record, I hope you will be too.

You can stream/download/buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, as always get in touch here. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter and ittoblog@gmail.com

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REVIEW: TIGERS JAW – CHARMER

Band – Tigers Jaw

Album – Charmer

Label – Run For Cover Records

I don’t know if you can describe being woken up early against your will by one of your many children as having any benefits, but one of the benefits (If you can call it that) is that you sometimes find out about if something important has happened overnight ahead of time. Given the choice of lying in bed asleep or the chance to listen to the new Tigers Jaw record I can tell you what I would easily choose without hesitation. So my initial annoyance that my daughter, Indigo, was shouting at me to get up at 6am has been replaced with complete gratitude that I now get to sit here listening to ‘Charmer’, while little Indi tries to figure out how to walk, (she just turned 1 by the way).

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The reason a download code for this record was there to greet my bleary eyes this morning was because someone had leaked an inferior version of the album online. Bands these days generally don’t care about illegal downloads and file sharing, instead accepting that as just the norm nowadays, but if you’ve put a ton of effort in to making a new record and then someone leaks an incomplete version of it that doesn’t sound the way you intended, that’s gotta piss you off. Reacting in the best way possible, Tigers Jaw and Run For Cover made the record immediately available on bandcamp to download for $5 and sent out codes to everyone who had pre-ordered the record. I had pre-ordered, of course I had, this is the most highly anticipated record of 2014 and I may have only had one listen through at the point of this paragraph but I can tell you that it doesn’t disappoint.

Tigers Jaw have had a weird couple of years with members leaving, uncertainty about the band’s future and a bizarre mini online backlash when it was confirmed that they were going to continue as a two piece. I couldn’t understand why some people had seemed so upset when they assumed the band had broken up to then being outraged that they were going to continue. I was so happy to hear that Tigers Jaw was staying put and a new album was on its way and so were my whole family. Out of all the bands that I’ve forced my children to listen to by way of having control of the car stereo on long journeys, Tigers Jaw are the one band we can all completely agree on. On the rare occasion that I give them any choice in what we listen to Tigers Jaw are their first choice, 3 of my 4 kids know all the words to their songs and Indigo, being 1, just likes to have a little shimmy in her car seat. I can’t wait for them to hear this because I know they’ll love it. Tigers Jaw, although now a two piece, recorded ‘Charmer’ with all 5 members and it stands proudly with their other full lengths as an instant indie, emo classic.

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‘Charmer’ leaps in to life with ‘Cool’, the unmistakable downbeat pop brilliance that you’ve come to expect from this band is here in all its glory. One song in and you’re already excited with the knowledge that you’re going to love this album. Tigers Jaw are one of the few bands of the last few years labelled as emo that have an original sound, immediately recognisable as their own. Instead of just throwing back to the great bands of the 90s, Tigers Jaw in their own little way push things forward. Superbly sombre, insanely catchy and just downright beautiful. Songs like the single ‘Hum’ and ‘Distress Signal’, which is my favourite Tigers Jaw song ever since it appeared on the ‘Mixed Signals’ comp a while back, totally set this band apart from the rest. Having been disappointed by a few releases that I assumed I was going to love this year, ‘Charmer’ goes a long way to restoring my faith in this genre.

I clearly have a lot more time to spend with ‘Charmer’ and I am extremely excited to do so, to have it on repeat and discover things about it that I may have missed on to start with but I can already tell you that this is love at first listen. This is a genuinely brilliant album, it has the potential to make the band even more huge than they are already and who could begrudge them that? They are the nicest people making near perfect indie rock. Other tracks that have leapt out at this early stage are the energetic ‘Nervous Kids’, the beautiful ‘Slow divide’ and the album closer ‘What would you do’ complete with Morrisey-esque vocals. Can’t wait to find out what will leap out next, go and download it now!!!

You can download ‘Charmer’ HERE

Thanks for reading. Come say hi, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or on twitter @alex_itto

 

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INTERVIEW: BEEZEWAX

I have been a massive fan of Beezewax ever since their debut album completely blew me away as a teenager in the 90s. They played locally several times in the late 90s/early 00s and every time was incredibly special. The band recently announced a mini UK tour which kicks off in less than 2 weeks so I caught up with singer/guitarist Kenneth Ishak to discuss the tour and his memories of UK tours past. Enjoy!

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IS THIS THING ON? – I first saw you when you played the tiny cardinals cap in Canterbury and instantly fell in love. It must have been 1998, what do you remember about that first uk tour?

Kenneth Ishak – Hey, glad you were there!
Well, I think that was our second UK tour, i can remember that show bit I can’t link it to any other shows, but the first and second tour in the UK was just a big change for all of us. We didn’t have that sort of scene at home, we were compared to many bands we had never heard about- we didn’t know what emo was. We were basically 4 kids who had hung together growing up- listened to dinosaur jr, hip hop, we were definitely not part of a scene except for our norwegian label LaNuGo which was a hardcore punk label.
Yeah, in Norway people didn’t care but we had just started anyways but got to go to the UK right away to tour with Spy Vs spy, they were the greatest band and people- we became pretty good friends and influenced by them. I almost puked before our fist show, we were on after them- they were so amazing and i had never heard anything like it- i was in shock! Then we had to play. But then people sang along to our songs, i sorta understood that whatever it was we were doing, people were into it.

ITTO? – I bought ‘A dozen summits’ at that first show on cd for £3, later someone told me that you’d made a mistake with the price and I’ve felt bad ever since. Is that true?

KI – Haha, we never felt bad- we just figured, lower the price and sell more. I remember in Manchester the whole crowd got in line after we played, yeah everything really fell into place for us on those first tours.

ITTO? – The other times I saw you were all in Margate at the legendary Lido. You had a big following here, what are your memories of Margate and did you get a similar response throughout the uk?

KI – We did, nice! We know there were at least some people there who liked us- someone told me they played a couple of our songs at practise even. I have many great memories playing at the Lido- especially one show that was packed and just really loud, probably one of my favourite shows ever. Last time we played there Stian our drummer was sick, and to be honest- we were not the same band, but yeah- there was a great crowd but we did not deliver so i am glad to come back. It will be our first show in 7 years so there might be a couple of fuck ups!

ITTO? – You’re playing Margate again as part of a UK tour in May with one of the most exciting uk bands at the moment, Playlounge, how did touring with them come about?

KI – It was just our label that did a little research- seems there are people discovering our older records, people who were 4 or something then- anyways Playlounge seemed to be into our stuff, and we sure like them so we asked if we could play some shows together, and they were into it. I am sure we will be blown away!

ITTO? – Have you got anything special planned for these shows? Will you be playing songs from all of your albums?

KI – Nothing special, to be honest- I don’t know what will happen but we have had fun during rehearsals.

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ITTO? – Do you have any plans to come back again yet?

KI – Yes, this fall we hope to cover places we couldn’t get to on this little tour.

ITTO? – And finally, what is your favourite band that you’ve ever played with?

KI – Again, Spy vs Spy, we have played with plenty of bands in different countries but nothing made a bigger impact i think.

ITTO? – Thanks Kenneth!!

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Beezewax will be playing the following shows this May:

May 22nd – Margate, The Bracket

May 23rd – London, Birthday’s

May 24th – Brighton, The Hope

May 25th – Portsmouth, The Registry

Is this thing on? is putting on the Margate show, please come down if you’re in the area. Here is the link to the facebook events page for the show – https://www.facebook.com/events/1425538981029584/

Thanks for reading. Get in touch here, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or twitter @alex_itto

 

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REVIEW: PLAYLOUNGE – PILOT

Band – Playlounge

Album – Pilot

Label – Dog Knights Productions

It’s around this time of year that I start to wonder what album will be the soundtrack of my summer. What album, for years to come, will always remind of awesome memories from these upcoming summer months. I know you shouldn’t force these things, overthinking everything is a bit of a habit and tends to take the edge off spontaneous moments but I can’t help it. Ever since the long hot summer of 1997 when my best friend got his first car and we spent the whole time driving around listening, pretty much exclusively, to 2 tapes he had in the car, ‘Everything Sux’ by the Descendents and ‘sublime’ by Sublime. Now, I haven’t listened to Sublime in forever but ‘Everything Sux’ still gets regular plays and always takes me back to being 17 and enjoying the freedom having a car brings with it. An early favourite for what will be my soundtrack of this summer has to be ‘Pilot’ by Playlounge and let me tell you why.

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The first time I listened to this album was in my car on a stupidly sunny day so from the word go I had a summery vibe going on. But the music itself is so upbeat and catchy that it would’ve given me that same vibe had it been cold and miserable that day. Playlounge are loud, their guitar sound is as distorted as it could possibly get yet their songs are full of melody and poppy happiness. Like the way Dinosaur Jr can manage to be unfeasibly loud without being classed as heavy. Their grunge heavy sound has a lot in common with Dinosaur Jr, it’s so great to hear a new band that you can say reminds of great grunge bands past without having to label them as ‘nu-grunge’ or lazy Nirvana rip offs. ‘Pilot’ starts with a blast and doesn’t back down one bit until all 10 songs have reached their completion.

‘I am a lion’ kicks the record of with thumping drums, you’re drawn in by the hazy, dream like vocals and when the guitar literally doubles in sound you’re completely sold on this Brighton 2 piece. They then follow this punch in the guts with a massive right hook, ‘Skulls’ is catchy, infectious and will make you happier than most songs you’ll hear this year. The rest of the record follows a familiar pattern which in now way gets stale or old, Playlounge play amazingly good, grungey noise pop and don’t feel the need to introduce gimmicks or other elements. And, hey, when they’ve got their sound absolutely nailed as good as this why the fuck should they??

I’m pretty convinced that I’ll have this record on constant repeat all summer long and far beyond that too. They seem to pretty much be constantly on tour so make sure you go and see Playlounge slay it live. I get to see them live this week and cannot wait to go all out crazy to their incredible noise!!!

You can buy the album HERE

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Thanks for reading. Come say hi: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog.com, twitter @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

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REVIEW: COSMIC THOUGHTS – S/T

Band – Cosmic Thoughts

Album – S/T

Label – DLPR Records/Hot Salvation

Cosmic Thoughts have satisfied a need I’ve had for the last few months. I have been so blinkered on one musical genre that I’ve come close to burning out and with a few disappointing releases in the last couple of months I was searching for something different. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never stop writing about emo bands this is an emo blog after all, I just wanted to be blown away by something different to cleanse the palate as it were.

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Where I’m from in Kent, in the South East of England, there has always been, well for as long as I can remember, a strong tradition of very, very good local bands and right now seems to be no different. Boasting ex-members of local favourites November Coming Fire and Kid Pang, Cosmic Thoughts have built a solid live reputation around these parts, albeit with a different sound and direction to what came previously. And now they are backing this up with release of their self titled debut full length LP, An album worthy of a lot of time and attention.

Following up the ‘Live demo’ cassette released last year, Cosmic Thoughts have delivered something a lot grander in scope and sound with this record. Brilliantly recorded by the scariest man I’ve ever met on a boat on the Thames, Cosmic Thoughts have you hooked from the opening solid drum beat and thumping bass line of ‘Decayer’. It’s this combination that provide a really solid backbone to the record, the rhythm section is there as a constant throughout the record allowing the jangly guitars and synth room to breathe and play around. The vocals are low in the mix giving the record a psychedelic feel, they are used like an extra instrument rather than a focus or limelight stealer which is a nice touch.

The album is made up of 7 songs, most of which are past the 5 minute mark but none out stay their welcome. Each song is given time for its ideas to be explored and none of which is wasted. The repetitiveness of the drums get your feet tapping, the thick bass drills into your head and the guitars, synth and vocals open up your mind, it’s a sound that’s very hard to resist. Whether it’s the 80s feel of ‘Test Dream’, the punkier edge of ‘Saint Jude’ or the beautiful ending to ‘No Youth’, the results are all the same, this is a quality band that have made a quality album.

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Looking at their influences it’s hard for me with my limited knowledge of this genre to make accurate comparisons. I can see bits of Sonic Youth here or Joy Division there but most of all I see an indie band producing all the qualities that you’re looking for from an indie band. Something different, something exciting and something full of substance. Sit up and take note, Cosmic Thoughts are well deserving of all the plaudits that should be coming their way with the release of this brilliant record.

You can buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, get in touch here, or ittoblog@gmail.com, or http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, or twitter @alex_itto

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REVIEW: SECRET SMOKER – TERMINAL ARCHITECTURE

Band – Secret Smoker

Album – Terminal Architecture

Label – Protaganist/Adagio830

I feel that, more often than not, I have to start blog posts on here with an apology. There has been so much going on recently, (nightmare house moves etc…), that I just haven’t had time to write anything. Thanks for being patient and thanks for sticking with me, I will do my best to get things posted quicker. Now, I am usually apologising for being a few weeks behind with album reviews but this takes the biscuit as I’m about a year behind telling you about this band. And I really am genuinely sorry that I haven’t told you about Secret Smoker already because they are fantastic.

Secret Smoker were brought to my attention at the end of last year after writing about Sed Non Satiata, I was told that as I had liked the last Sed Non Satiata record so much then I would love these guys and they weren’t wrong. There have been many bands that I have posted about in the last couple of years who are playing a style of music massively influenced by bands from the 90 but Secret Smoker have something different about them. Instead of seeing just an influence in their music, they sound like they are of this time. No bandwagon jumping or fad sounds here, instead a band making a genuinely brilliant emo record.

I remember being in Germany at the start of the century and being completely blown away by a band called Tupamaros, the intensity and energy they displayed made a massive impact on me. It’s probably no coincidence that the band I had been in at the time moved away from the more Get Up Kids sounding songs to a heavier, more intense sound. I get a similar feeling listening to Secret Smoker, it strikes me that this is how this music should be played.

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What makes Secret Smoker really stand out is their ability to move seamlessly from the fast paced, heavier songs to the more mid paced lighter songs without dropping any standards. You see this straight from the start of the record with the first 2 tracks, ‘Staircase’ and ‘Crushed by Air’, 2 perfect examples that Secret Smoker pack as much excitement and emotion into their songs regardless of the tempo. There isn’t a drop in quality throughout this record, 10 songs that excite, entertain and get you pumped for more. Putting a label on a band is always awkward, I’ve never used the word Skramz (until now) and I feel very self conscious if I describe a band as screamo, but it helps in a review so I’ll just say that Secret Smoker are a perfect example of this kind of band, emo done right if you will.

If you have been searching for something a bit different to listen to, something with the intensity of Human Hands and the energy of Plaids, something that takes you back a little further to Yaphet Kotto then you can’t go wrong with this record.  highly recommend it, its my favourite record of last year that I didn’t hear until this year, if that’s a thing.

Thanks for reading.

Get in Touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or alex_itto on twitter x

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REVIEW: THE HOTELIER – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Band – The Hotelier

Album – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Label – Tiny Engines

The Hotel Year are now The Hotelier, which still sounds the same if said in a broad, comedy, cockney accent. Not just that but they have a new album which I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks unable to decide exactly how I felt about it.

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There are 9 songs that make up ‘Home, like noplace is there’, The Hotelier’s sophomore record and something about it leaps straight out at you. Although, I think I’ve been holding back on letting myself really enjoy this record and I’ve been racking my brain as for the reason why. Annoyingly, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my age. I can see that that is a really dumb thing to say but let me explain. The Hotelier don’t hold anything back lyrically or musically, they are really open to the point that it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Take the first song, ‘An introduction to the album’, for example. The way it builds and the emotion it shells out could be something off that would normally put me off but there is some kind of charm about that kept drawing me back. I put it on in the car on my way to work one day and a thought hit me, if I was 18 I would bloody love this band. Now this is nothing to do with being old or too mature etc… But when I was 18 I was a lot more open to music when I listened to it, now it seems I carry a lot of baggage when I hear something now that I close off. I feel more jaded, I can spot influences a lot more now and I let this get in the way of enjoying something.

Sure you can see influences dotted throughout this record, a bit of Saves The Day here or Piebald there, but it should be judged more on the quality of the songs rather than the originality of the sound. And the Hotelier pack plenty of quality in to their songwriting. Songs that come under the banner of ‘ANTHEM!!’ Come frequently through the record. The album veers in to a darker place but The Hotelier seem just at home with Touché Amoré style scream-a-longs as they do with their Jimmy Eat World style sing-a-longs.

The are a couple of spots where they don’t quite hit the mark, ‘Housebroken’ Is a bit of a dull point but by in large, if you let yourself, you’ll find this a really enjoyable listen. In the great scheme of things The Hotelier aren’t gonna steal my heart like, say, The Promise Ring but they will remain fondly thought of like, say, Hot Rod Circuit. Hopefully that analogy will make some kind of sense to you. Definitely worth checking out the record. Cheers.

You can download/stream the album HERE.
And the last time I checked Monkey Boy records had some vinyl copies available HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog
Twitter @alex_itto
Or ittoblog@gmail.com

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