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The Is This Thing On? Top 20 Records of 2014

Working out this list has made me realise that, although this hasn’t been the best year for new music (found myself at some points being much more excited by old music than new), there has been some flipping brilliant records this year. Deciding upon a top 20 has been harder than I first imagined, but I did it!! So here we go:

20. Hightide Hotel – Naturally

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After announcing they would be splitting up in 2012, there was always promise they would release one more LP. Luckily we got it this year and it was worth the wait. A brilliant swan song record that reminds of how bummed you were when you heard they were calling it a day.

To stream/download click HERE

19. Gnarwolves – S/T

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I think Gnarwolves played a blinder not rush releasing their debut full length record. They have been relentlessly gigging for years but this year seemed the perfect time to put this record out and with it they’re likely to take over the world. Some bands have been trying to defend pop punk for ages but Gnarwolves have delivered a record which makes that an actual possibility. Fantastic!!

To buy click HERE

18. Playlounge – Pilot

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I must start by saying that the 2 guys that make up Playlounge are two of the nicest people you’re ever likely to meet. It was an honour to put them on in Margate at the start of the summer, I listened to ‘Pilot’ so much around that time, when I put it on now it takes me right back!

To stream/download click HERE

17. Dikembe – Mediumship

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That difficult second record handled perfectly with all the usual heart you’ve come to expect from Dikembe, backed up by a big slab of 90s grunge. A mix that works so well, ‘Mediumship’ is an album I’ve returned too lots over the last few months. It’s a really relaxed and easy listen, love it!

To stream/download click HERE

16. Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People

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American Indie music in the great tradition of bands like Pavement, Grandaddy and Built To Spill will always make me weak at the knees when done well. It completely bowls me over when done as well as Three Man Cannon do on ‘Pretty Many People’. I didn’t really know what to expect when I put it on for the first time and have been consistently blown away by it on each listen since. Great record!!

To stream/download click HERE

15. Cosmic Thoughts – S/T

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It’s been a really great year for Cosmic Thoughts and the local scene that they’ve had a big hand in reinvigorating. Their S/T debut record is infectious beat after infectious beat and far too good to be ignored. If you haven’t already please check the album out, you won’t regret it.

To stream/download click HERE

14. Cayetana – Nervous Like Me

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The early promise shown on their demo and 7″ is fully realised on ‘Nervous Like Me’. A lot of people had high hopes for this record and I’ve not heard of anyone being disappointed. Lo-fi indie punk in the form of 3 minute pop gems delivered to perfection!

To stream/download click HERE

13. Acid Fast – Rabid Moon

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This was the first new record I got this year and I knew I’d be discussing it here with you now even then. ‘Rabid Moon’ bounces along with plenty of energy and not a fuzzy note out of place.

To stream/download click HERE

12. Baton Rouge – Totem

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Kicking myself that I missed the opportunity to see Baton Rouge on their recent UK tour, in fact this year has not been the best for me getting to shows, something that will hopefully be rectified next year. This album is an amazing progression from a superb debut record, it’s beautifully packaged and completely sets them apart from being just another French screamo band.

To stream/download click HERE

11. Prawn – Kingfisher

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Whilst never quite reaching the dizzy heights of their last EP ‘Ships’, ‘Kingfisher’ definitely cements Prawn’s position as one of the leading lights in the current wave of Emo bands. They have really made this post rock/indie Emo crossover sound their own and have been consistently brilliant on every release, ‘Kingfisher’ is no exception.

To stream/download click HERE

10. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere else

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Fucking ATP! Cancelling Jabberwocky just days before I was supposed to attend, meaning I missed out on seeing an array of incredible bands – namely Cloud Nothings. ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ is perhaps the catchiest and fastest indie rock album of the year. Love it.

To buy click HERE

9. Crows-An-Wra – Kalopsia

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It’s amazing that in 2014 bands can still push the envelope of what post hardcore is and how it sounds, but that’s exactly what Cornwall’s Crows-An-Wra do on their debut LP, ‘Kalopsia’. The result is terrifyingly brilliant. The electronic melody mixed with the vain bursting screams of 2nd track ‘Perseus’ make for one of my favourite songs of the year.

To stream/download click HERE

8. Sport – Bon Voyage

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As I said in my review of ‘Bon Voyage’ at the start of the year, if you’re gonna include on one of your songs a sample of Steve Buscemi talking from my favourite film of all time, Fargo, then you’re gonna get me on side straight away. Sport did just that. Obviously it helps that it’s backed up by some of the best indie/Emo/punk music of the year. Still can’t believe they’ve called it a day.

To stream/download click HERE

7. Kind Eyes – It’s ok, It’s not ok

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I don’t even this has been or will be released apart from being made available on bandcamp, hopefully it will and if it does, buy all the copies you can. It’s fucking brilliant. Margate’s finest smashing out riff after riff, it just gets better and better throughout the record. Love these guys!!

To stream/download click HERE

6. Tigers Jaw – Charmer

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Deep down, everyone knew Tigers Jaw would be just fine. They are one of the most consistently brilliant bands of the last few years, something which they further proved with the amazing ‘Charmer’ released earlier this year. They are the ultimate downbeat indie/Emo Rock band.

To stream/download click HERE

5. Human Hands – S/T

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After being completely blown away by Human Hands when I saw them live for the first time in 2013, I knew their debut LP would be one of the highlights of 2015 and I wasn’t wrong. 6 songs so gut wrenchingly beautiful and heartfelt that they leave you exhausted by the end. The gloriously lo-fi packaging tops off what is a must have record!

To stream/download click HERE

4. Plaids – Plaids

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Plaids recently called it a day, which is way more than an utter shame, but not before releasing a killer record. Channeling influences like Dag Nasty/Jawbox etc.. into what is an essential and relevant modern punk record. This band will be missed 😦

To stream/download click HERE

3. Braid – No Coast

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I’m sorry but did Braid not only reform but come back with one of the albums of their career? Yes they bloody well did. It still surprises me (in a really good way) just how amazing this record is, in a year of disappointing ‘nu-emo’ records it’s a big relief that some of the forefathers of this movement can come back and show everyone how it’s done. Hopefully they’re here to stay.

To stream/download click HERE

2. Papayér – Boo

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What could possibly make an Emo band even better? Well, one answer may be to take a huge Pavement influence and put out an album of incredibly well crafted pop songs. This is what Papayér have done and the results are astonishing. British independent music is in a really good place right now and, for me, Papayér are right at the forefront. And if they keep making music as good as this it won’t be long until they’re my favourite band. Incredible!

To stream/download click HERE

1. Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

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They made us wait a hell of a long time for the full length follow up to 2009’s debut LP ‘What It Takes To Move Forward’ but 2014 finally bought the long promised new record. And what a blindingly brilliant record it is. Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) are unique, not in the style of music they play which follows a great Emo tradition, but in the fact that they have made this sound completely their own. You who it is as soon as you hear the first notes being played. Also, switching to a straight, autobiographical narrative to the lyrics set this record apart from anything they have put out before. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a really wonderful record, and thoroughly deserves to be album of the year. Thanks guys x

To stream/download click HERE

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

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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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ABOUT TIME 2, PECKHAM, NOV 16TH 2013

This is not a review in the traditional sense as I wasn’t able to stay for the whole day but I really wanted to write something about how good an experience attending About Time 2 was. Family commitments meant that staying the whole day wasn’t an option but having missed out on About Time last year I wanted to make sure I was there for as much as I could this time round and thanks to my incredibly supportive wife, Hannah, this was possible. It’s a real shame to have missed Joan of Arc and Joanna Gruesome but I’m so happy I got to spend most of the rest of the day there.

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About Time 2, the sequel to About Time, was a one day DIY festival that boasted the UK’s best emo/indie/experimental bands (as well as Italy’s finest screamo band, but we’ll come back to that in a mo). All dayer’s have provided me with some of my favourite gig going memories from the Hot Water Music all dayer at the Garage that also featured Discount, Spy vs Spy and the Autumn Year to the Converge all dayer that took place in a Scout hut in Canterbury and also featured November Coming Fire and the Break In. About Time 2 can now stand proudly with these memories as it was an incredibly enjoyable and exciting day of crazily good music. Like most live reviews I write I have to start by apologising for turning up late, I will always endeavour to get to shows on time but sometimes it’s completely out of my control. The reason this time was the task of getting Hannah and all our 4 kids to her best friends house in Peckham safely before I could head over to the show. I think we did pretty well to get there when we did but it did mean that I missed the first the first 3 bands and turned up just as Playlounge were playing their last notes. So apologies to Healing Powers, Mars to Stay and COP for not being there early enough to watch you play, from what I’ve read online you were all pretty, pretty good.

My comrade for the day was my good friend of many years, Tim. Tim is a music obsessive and some time DJ with incredibly eclectic taste taking in everything from Rockabilly to shoegaze but has never witnessed an “emo” show before. He was very excited to be coming and as he’s read this blog and knows just how passionate I am, he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was going to be interesting to see if he would be into any of the bands and what he’d make of the day as a whole, I jokingly told him that I imagine the next time I see him he’ll be sporting the plaid shirt with back pack look and complaining about all this revival rubbish and who knows, could happen because he seemed to as much fun there as I did.

The first band we saw were my good friends band Cosmic Thoughts, who had attracted a decent sized crowd upstairs on the second stage. Their off kilter, synth heavy, arty indie rock with straight up thumping bass lines and persistently infectious drum rhythms got a good percentage of the crowd shaking their hips. Like I’ve said before keep an eye out for these guys as they’ve definitely got an amazing record inside them waiting to burst out at some point in the future.

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After looking a look about, taking things in and catching up with some “internet friends” it was time to see one of the bands I was most excited about seeing, Carson Wells. With this set Carson Wells really set the bar high for all the other bands still to come later, amazingly tight and powerful post hardcore of the highest quality with some great banter thrown in between songs. If you think their LP is great (and it is) it really comes alive when they play live, I was blown away which ain’t bad for a band playing at 2 in the afternoon.

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We then caught the end of Blood Sport’s set, their fresh faced, experimental, Afro beats really caught Tim’s eye and ears for that matter. Then, due to a play being performed in the building, there was an extended break which we capitalised on by finding a greasy spoon cafe who dealt out very generous portions. After filling up all the bacon, eggs, beans and sausages we could manage (or liver in Tim’s case) we were back at the Bussey building hungry for some more live treats.

What greeted us next were We Came Out Like Tigers and a packed room of punters. Probably the best band on the bill to welcome in the evening, the sun had gone down and now the walls were full of a light display which gave their set an added eeriness to the the violin led screamo onslaught. Tim mentioned to me that this was the first moment of the day that it felt like we were part of something that was happening, witnessing an underground scene coming alive. And from here on in it was just band after band like clockwork over two stages. Having seen a band upstairs you would head downstairs to find a band waiting to play, no time wasted and this all added to the overall excitement of the day.

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I made sure that Tim and I were down the front in good time for the next band because I could sense something special was about to happen. Human Hands took to the stage and proved me right, I’d said earlier in the day that this was the band I was most excited about seeing and hoped Tim would see why. After their first song he leaned in to me and declared that what he’d just heard was “delicious!”, I couldn’t have put it any better myself. The room was absolutely packed and the atmosphere was more than electric as Human Hands delivered the performance of the day. Passionate and intense emo in the greatest 90s sense ending with the guitarist angrily throwing his guitar down and leaving a crowd with its collective jaws on the floor. Absolutely perfect!!

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How the hell do you follow that?? Well a change of tone and back upstairs to see Well Wisher get the party well and truly started with their energetic, hook laden emo rock. A great reception greeted them from a crowd that was lapping up what was on offer.

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Things were just getting better and better and this didn’t stop as we headed back downstairs. Plaids were next on the main stage, the crowd was ready and hungry and got exactly what they wanted from a band that is really coming into their own. Plaids worked the crowd to perfection with their shouty emocore not letting the ball drop for a millisecond. There was no way that they would be the weak link in an evening full of the best bands you could see in a day.

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The same could be said of the next band, the final band of the second stage Nai Harvest. A poor position dampened my enjoyment somewhat of their set which is a real shame as they sounded great. Opening with new songs at a festival is always a risky move but they seemed to pull it off and repaid the audiences commitment with some classics from their full length.

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The final band of the day for Tim and I were Italy’s finest, Raein. I’d missed their UK tour at the start of the year which I was very annoyed about and was so happy when it was announced that they’d be playing About Time 2. With the fact that we had to leave after Raein had played meant we were treating these guys like headliners, a role they fulfilled completely. Everything was right, their guitar tone, energy, passion and all else besides made their near hour long set pass by in no time at all. Finishing up with some older songs that sent the front half of the crowd in to a frenzy of flailing arms and with that came the first crowd surfers of the day, rising from the pit. A perfect end.

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And with that we left to go home, tired and extremely happy. Tim’s request to make sure we go again next year confirmed to me that he’d had as good a time as I had. We both agreed that Human Hands stole the show but aside from that it had, all in all, been a really incredible day with every band bringing their a-game. Zine & not heard/barely regal records/HOU project know how to throw a party, London you should count yourselves very lucky!!

Thanks for reading. Get in touch here or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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THE APPLESEED CAST LIVE IN CANTERBURY, OCT 2013

I’m not one for school reunions, I don’t really wanna be stuck in a room with people whose friend requests I’ve ignored on Facebook saying things like “Do you remember when we were at school and it was shit?”. When it was announced a few months ago that The Appleseed Cast were going to play Canterbury it felt like a bit of a school reunion but in the best possible way. Appleseed Cast are a really special band, who are much-loved by most of the local scene we had here back in the day. They played up the road in Margate 3 times between 1999 and 2002, these shows had such an impact they are still talked about to this day, the news that they were playing here again created a buzz of excitement with the old faithful across many social media outlets. It felt a lot like the old days, just with added technology and part of what made this autumn night in Canterbury so special was this reunion of sorts. Old friends, exchanging stories and having a laugh brought together by the love of a legendary band that played such a big part of our scene.

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I have to apologise to Cascade who opened the show as I turned up just as they were packing their equipment away, gigs seem to come with so many support bands these days and despite my best efforts I just can’t get there early enough. I’m sure they did a stellar job of opening up, if they were half as good as the next band, Cosmic Thoughts, then that would certainly be the case because they were superb. Mixing artful indie rock with beats that make you want to shake your behind definitely got the proceedings off to a great start. Cosmic Thoughts have been recording recently and I’ll make sure to post a link as soon as they have something available.

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Moose Blood were next up and received a great reception from their home town crowd. It’s only been a year since they played their first live show and they have come so far since, crazy to think what they may achieve in the next 12 months. Theirs was a concise set of songs that demand people to sing along to and many in the crowd were glad to oblige. The final support band of the night were Appleseed Cast’s touring support for across Europe, June Miller. Their engrossing post rock set the tone perfectly for what was about to come. June Miller produced a beautiful sound and their set was delivered with plenty of heart, even included some audience participation towards the end too which is always a nice touch.

It was then time for The Appleseed Cast and my excitement levels were through the roof. Bramleys, the venue for the show, is a really intimate wine bar with a low ceiling and vintage lamps providing mood lighting, It’s the perfect setting for seeing Appleseed Cast play again. The show was sold out and the assembled crowd had drawn in making a tight semi-circle around the band and they didn’t disappoint us one bit. The Appleseed Cast has always been a band with a consistently changing line up and now is no different. Their current line up, which was the line up for their latest album ‘Illumination Ritual’ fronted by the only remaining founding member Chris Crisci, have an amazingly youthful energy about them. The Appleseed cast have been around for about 15 years now and although there have been gaps in between records they’ve never split up although they may have changed quite a bit. This current line up seem to work really well together and although anyone watching my bad old man emo dancing will say that I was most active and excited during the older songs, it was the new material from ‘Illumination Ritual’ where they sounded at their best.
Apparently ‘Illumination Ritual’ came together in same way a Mike Leigh film does, hours of improvisation from the band as a whole honed in to the actual songs by Crisci, the band’s leader. It really works for them and the album is an incredible success, my favourite Appleseed Cast album since the formidable ‘Low Level Owl’ double epic. This writing style seems to have brought the band together as a live force, the interplay between the superb drums and bass on songs like ‘Cathedral Rings’ is spot on and leaves a lot of scope for the two guitarists to play with on top.

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Their set relied heavily on songs from the new record but that’s not to say that they didn’t play any of the old songs and the ones they did were superb choices. Discussions amongst some of my friends before the show had practically ruled out the possibility that they might play ‘Marigold and Patchwork’ and those predictions were true. I don’t mind really as I have seen them play it before and when they played it the first time they had played Margate it was one of the all time best moments from any show I’d ever been to. They instead chose to play some other definite fan favourites in the way of ‘Steps and Numbers’ and ‘On Reflection’ from Low Level Owl Vol One and ‘Forever longing the golden sunsets’ and ‘Fishing the sky’ from Mare Vitalis. The latter two really made the night for me and it was during one of those a friend of mine grabbed my shoulder and shouted in to my ear that he was so happy, a sentiment that really summed up the whole evening for me.

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A great indicator to how good Appleseed Cast were was when I was stood talking to friends after the show and checked the time, none of us could believe how late it was. Time had stood still that chilly night in old Canterbury town. I spoke to a couple of the band members briefly at the merch table before I left and mentioned that I was wearing the same t-shirt that I had bought from them the first time they played Margate in 1999. They seemed amused by this so I asked Chris Crisci if he remembered playing Margate, those amazing shows that still mean something, and his response was “Sure”. That was enough for me, I left the venue on a massive high with a huge grin on my face, got in my car and listened to ‘Illumination Ritual” full blast all the way home. A truly brilliant night!!

Thanks so much for reading

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