Category Archives: music review

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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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.

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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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REVIEW: SOMOS – TEMPLE OF PLENTY

Band – Somos

Album – Temple of plenty

Label – Tiny Engines

Everyday on my twitter feed for the last few weeks someone has been raving about the debut album by Somos. Most of my friends on twitter and a lot of the people I follow share very similar tastes in music to me. We fall out, every so often, when someone in jest bad mouths Fugazi and I have to point out how wrong they are, even in jest, but apart from that we have a lot of the same opinions on music. So, when I see them all in unison raving about a band then I know I need to get my arse in gear and see what all the fuss about. The problem with this album by Somos is that, after a good few listens, I’m still trying to understand what all the fuss is about.

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Somos play big, arena sized, emo rock with a polished sound and, considering this is their first record, an assured confidence. Sometimes with this kind of band I can go either way. Obviously, as is well documented by this blog, I am obsessed with emo bands but this, more commercial or easily accessible type of band can either leave me excited or just numb. Like with Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, people have told me a lot that I can’t like one and not the other. As it turns out, as time has passed then I’m not really that fond of either band, but I use to really like Taking Back Sunday but felt completely indifferent to Brand New. I don’t know why exactly and I feel a bit like that with Somos. They don’t do anything wrong exactly and I certainly don’t hate the record but I just am not feeling any connection and, after just a few songs on the album, I’m left bored.

One thing I can point at as being quite enjoyable is the clean guitar sound. It’s crisp, big and almost sounds like the Police in the odd place here and there. There is a retro feel to it but it’s drowned out by the stock distortion sound on the heavier parts where the songs tend to lose my interest. The vocals too are a bit of a put off, too much on the same level and not enough engaging energy or distinct tone to separate Somos from other bands of this ilk.

Ultimately this is an album I really wanted to like but it just didn’t end up clicking with me. With all the love being expressed for these guys then I know they’ve got nothing to worry about and I hope they make their label millions because those guys deserve it. Check it out and let me know what you think.

You can download/stream the album HERE

As always, thanks for reading. Get in touch here, on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog on twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com.

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