Tag Archives: count your lucky stars records

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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IS THIS THING ON’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 2 (No’s 10-1)

Previously on ‘Is this thing on?’s top 20 records of 2013:

20 – Tancred – S/T
19 – Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
18 – Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
17 – Wild Moth – Over, Again
16 – Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore
15 – Sed Non Satiata – Mappô
14 – State Faults – Resonate/Desperate
13 – Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness
12 – The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
11 – Nai Harvest – Whatever

To read more on no’s 20 to 11 click HERE

So, as promised, here is the top ten. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and everything this year, it’s been awesome!!!!

10 – Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It

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This album seemed to come out so long ago that I had to check it was definitely eligible for this list. One of the early indicators that 2013 was going to be another superb year for good music, this album is full of top quality emo noodling and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop.

9 – California X – California X

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I spent an evening in the summer browsing through the ‘related artists’ section on spotify looking for something I may have missed and stumbled across California X. A couple of days later my best friend is sat in my lounge telling me that they’re playing in Canterbury a week later, a very happy coincidence indeed because that show was amazing. They well and truly blew us all away and the album has become a firm favourite ever since. Summery grunge with massive riffs giving some credibility to a drop d tuning!!

8 – Lemuria – The Distance Is So Big

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A mark, for me, of how catchy a record is is if, after a couple of hours of playing it, my kids are still singing along. And that happened a lot with this brilliant album by Lemuria. I was a big fan of their last album but I think they excelled themselves with ‘The Distance Is So Big’, indie emo rock of the highest quality.

7 – Reiziger – Kodiak Station

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Just when I thought the whole ‘reunion’ thing had peaked one of my favourite 90’s emo bands returned and with a new album to boot. It had never occurred to me that Reiziger might make new music, I was so excited to get ‘Kodiak Station’ and even more excited to find out that it’s really, really good. It may sound a million miles from the ‘Don’t Bind My Hands’ EP but it is unmistakably Reiziger, now with a more polished production to their discordant, indie gems.

6 – Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

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‘Weird Sister’ is raw, lo-fi, indie punk at its best care of Cardiff’s finest, the brilliantly named, Joanna Gruesome. This is a debut album that marks the band out as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of the UK this year, I’m still gutted that I had to leave ‘About Time 2’ before they came on because I bet they’re awesome live.

5 – State Lines – For The Boats

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If it’s quality songwriting and anthem after anthem that you’re after then look no further than State Lines. A nod to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ here, a fantastic Hip Hop intro there and a whole record packed full of straight up, indie punk rock with vocals delivered like an emo Tim Armstrong are what you’ll find on ‘For The Boats’. And trust me when I say that you’ll want to listen to this record time and time again!!!

4 – Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual

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After all these years an Appleseed Cast record is always something to get hyped up about and all the more so when the record is as good as ‘Illumination Ritual’. The current line up have injected energy and a new creativity to the band, making a memorable record with plenty to enjoy. Seeing them play most of these songs live, back in October, also heightened my love for this record too. They were brilliant, if you used to love this band and haven’t thought to check this album out yet, what the hell are you waiting for?? Do it now!!

3 – Football, Etc. – Audible

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Football, Etc spoil us rotten, not only do they tour the UK with admirable regularity, they also release music of the highest quality on a very consistent basis. I love their last record, ‘The Draft’, but ‘Audible’ certainly feels like a step up. It seems like they’ve got a new found confidence as a band now which has increased the quality of the songwriting and delivery. ‘Audible’ comes across as a band that are having immense amounts of fun playing as a complete unit, Football, Etc have definitely found their feet. Amazing stuff!!

2 – Foxing – The Albatross

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I did try to review ‘The Albatross’ a few weeks back but ended up going out on a more personal tangent (you can read that by clicking HERE) so I should probably say some more things about the record here. But what else is there to say apart from the fact that ‘The Albatross’ is an earth shatteringly beautiful album that will take you on an exhausting journey through a range of emotions but still leaves you wanting more. I can’t think of another band that has made such an impact on this emo scene in such a short space of time as Foxing have, they thoroughly deserve all the plaudits and I had thought that no other band would come close to usurping my number one album this year but with ‘The Albatross’, Foxing came damn close to doing just that. Absolutely incredible.

1 – Crash Of Rhinos – Knots

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If you’ve read this blog or spoken to me this year at all then it’ll come as no surprise to you that Crash Of Rhinos genius record, ‘Knots’, is my album of the year for 2013. This is the record that I’ve been waiting years for, the kind of record I had thought would never be made again, emo/post hardcore at its incredible best. Crash Of Rhinos make no point of trying to hide their influences but manage to push things forward to make, what is not, an album that is trying to revive the past but a completely modern and relevant emo record. ‘Knots’ is five accomplished musicians at the very top of their game coming together to make magic. To top things off they’re also a brilliant live band, they really can do no wrong. If for some reason you haven’t heard this record yet the click HERE to go to their bandcamp page where ‘Knots’ is currently available for free, you have no excuse and you definitely will not be disappointed. WELL DONE CRASH OF RHINOS, YOU’RE NUMBER ONE!!!!

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

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INTERVIEW: JOIE DE VIVRE

This time last year I was declaring that Joie De Vivre had taken the number 1 spot on my album of the year list. Now, these incredibly popular and dashingly good-looking young men from Rockford, Illinois are back and are on the cusp of releasing some new music. I thought this was as good a time as any to ask the band some questions, all of which they luckily agreed to answer. Here goes:

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IS THIS THING ON? – Hi, how are you? How is everything in team JDV?

JOIE DE VIVRE – Hey man! Doing good! We just finally got all of our songs done for the two splits we have coming up and we are starting to write the new record! Brandon just got married and Mark has been busy finishing records with his other bands so we kind of laid low this Fall. We aren’t too stressful of a band haha.

ITTO? I hear you have a couple of splits on the way, give us some details, who are they with/how did they come about/how are the songs sounding etc…

JDV – We have two coming out soon as of right now – we got one with our friends in Prawn and another with Empire! Empire! The Prawn split came about while we were overseas touring. We played a show in Toulouse, France, with Prawn (which ended up being the first time we ever actually met those guys) on Tony and our old drummer Stevie’s birthday. Alcohol got involved and we ended up having TOO good of a time and somewhere in that night we decided to do a split. We FINALLY have a release date for that and it will be February 11th, 2014 on Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf.

The Empire! Empire! split came about from Jeff over at Run For Cover Records asking us to be a part of a split series that they do every year and E! E! ended up being the other band on it. We were honored that he asked and honored to be doing it with Empire! Empire!, so we immediately jumped at the opportunity!

We are all really stoked on how the songs came out; our friend Mark Gustafson (who recorded The North End and WABTT) did the Prawn split, and our friend Matt Frank (from Their / They’re / There) recorded the RFC split. It’s definitely crazy because it’s our first split with our newer line up, and I did all of the guitar work on it. Hopefully people enjoy it – we definitely have!

ITTO? – Are they any plans for a new full length record at the moment?

JDV – Yeah we definitely have plans on another record at some point in the next year or so. We just started writing a new record and have a couple songs in their baby stages right now. We are all pretty domesticated with full time jobs and relationships so getting together to make something happen takes scheduling. Not that it’s hard; we usually just end up watching dumb YouTube videos, listening to records, or drinking. Usually all three. Somehow a record comes out of it.

ITTO? – It seems an age ago now but when I saw you play in Brighton it seemed like you were all having the best time, how was that tour for you?

JDV – Brighton was beautiful by the way, the UK in general was amazing – you guys were so amazing to us. That tour was a lifetime moment, that’s something we definitely will never forget. It was crazy to think that playing in Chicago, an hour and a half away from home, was the biggest deal when we first started. I definitely never thought getting on a plane to Europe was ever in the cards. We made a lot of incredible friends while we were there, saw amazing sights, ate and drank amazing food and beer, saw amazing bands, and the people were so nice and welcoming. It definitely didn’t feel like we were gone for a month, it flew by!

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ITTO? – Do you have plans to come back to Europe?

JDV – Oh yeah, we will be back sooner than later. We need to do some US touring though before we head back over. I know we all are itching to get back and the UK is definitely someplace we plan on hanging out in for a bit haha.

ITTO? – There is a lot of talk and arguments about the term ’emo revival’, do you ever get annoyed with labels that are attached to your band? Would it ever push you over the edge so much you end up making a dubstep metal album?

JDV – Haha I don’t think any of us really think about it. All of the articles and lists coming out right now are a bit ridiculous. I do think it’s a misuse of the word “revival”, it never really left. But we get a good laugh at it and also at ourselves being mentioned, so it’s nothing that really affects us one way or another.

ITTO? – Is it true or is it not that the only reason you split up was just so you could reform thus making you the ultimate revival band?

JDV – Damn, you nailed it 😉

Noooo, the reasons we split up for were pretty legit at the time. We all were heading different directions and couldn’t really get the motivation to do Joie as much as we really wanted to at the time. School, work, moving, women – pretty much everything Brandon sings about. I think we just needed a breather.

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ITTO? – Your jimmy eat world covers set that was put on YouTube caused a lot of excitement among us emo nerds. What band would you do next and what songs would you play?

JDV – That was a blast – we did that with our friend Marky from this band The Felix Culpa who we were all were big fans of. It was pretty cool being able to play with him and hang out as much as we did for practice.

We always talk about covers we would like to do or cover shows we’d like to do. The problem with us is historically we’ve been very bad at pulling it off live. Marky whipped us into getting it down. Otherwise if he weren’t there, we’d be watching YouTube, listening to records, or drinking, like above.

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ITTO? – It’s about time for everyone’s end of year lists to start emerging, what’s been your album of 2013 so far?

JDV – Oh man, I have been listening to a lot of older records lately and polishing up on bands that I have been told to listen to. That new Foxing record is going to be one for the era man, seriously. I can’t stop gushing over it. I was actually listening to the new Into It. Over It. record today and I think that’s pretty amazing. I also really loved the new Mountains for Clouds record, “Maybe It’s Already Everywhere”.

The new My Bloody Valentine was pretty amazing, and so was the new Low and The National records. I also have to listen to the new Dismemberment Plan, Pusha T, Pearl Jam, and James Blake records, so I am not at liberty to give that trophy out yet haha.

ITTO? – And finally, tell us a secret no one else knows about another band?

JDV – Oh totally – Jamie from Prawn knows Snookie.

Andrew Stefano from Mountains for Clouds loves to play acoustic shows.

Keith Latinen from Empire! Empire! owns a mink coat that he got from “that emo money”.

Kevin Duquette of Topshelf Records has the best hair in emo.

ITTO? – Thanks!!!!!!!

For more Joie De Vivre greatness click here for their bandcamp/tumblr/facebook/twitter/Instagram

Thanks so much for reading, leave a comment or come say hi on facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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That new Foxing record vs. sleep deprivation

It never rains but it pours and sometimes it just pisses it down. I’ve said before on this blog about how certain records seem to come along at the most appropriate time, they coincide with events of your life that give the records an extra weight and meaning. The new Foxing record is a perfect example of this. I have been itching to listen to it as it’s been causing quite a stir amongst the devotees of the 2013 emo scene but nothing could have prepared me for how much of an effect this album would have on me.

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As you may well be able to tell, I have always been quite a sensitive person. This seemed to intensify after my wife, Hannah, and I started having kids over 9 years ago, so much so that I would find myself in floods of tears because someone on a reality show was having a hard time and other examples which are all equally as embarrassing. An album like ‘The Albatross’ by Foxing would normally floor me at the best of times but having been starved of sleep for the last couple of weeks, it’s completely wiped me out.

Hannah and I now have four children, the latest being our daughter Indigo who was born in May of this year. Having a new baby you expect there to be some sleepless nights but Indigo seemed to fall effortlessly in to a nighttime routine really quickly. Sadly we weren’t able to savour this great achievement for very long as our youngest son’s behaviour in the night had started to become very erratic. Thurston, is now 5 and was diagnosed with severe autism when he was just 20 months old. He’s never been a great sleeper as he finds it very hard to switch off, he is prescribed medicine to help him get to sleep as part of a bedtime routine but it’s not designed to keep him asleep. When he wakes up in the night then that is that, he’s awake, he’s full of energy and there’s no option but to be there for him.

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Recently, Thurston’s sleepless nights have started to become a nightly occurrence and we feel a bit lost at sea with what to do. Before Thurston started school he was offered a lot of support from the under 5’s team at the local children’s centre. He had years of speech therapy, physiotherapy because he also has low muscle tone in his legs and we were able to attend a course to help us understand Thurston’s diagnosis. When it was time for Thurston to start school we were lucky enough to find a mainstream school that could provide, with the help of his own one to one teacher, the support that he needs. But all other support seemed to come to an end, we are now for the most part on our own and as Thurston gets older his behaviour changes and the challenges we face change.

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Thurston is an incredibly beautiful person, he is a genuinely happy kid who has the ability to light up rooms with his presence. He has incredibly long eyelashes that contain some kind of voodoo magic because one bat of these lashes can make the most unsuspecting person fall instantly in love with him. It’s really heartbreaking to see his behaviour change, his mood swings to become more evident and his tantrums to become more extreme. He gets frustrated and he lashes out, things need to be how he wants them to be or how he expects them to be otherwise things don’t make sense to him. He sometimes disappears in to a rage and there is no communicating with him, when he comes around he is always immediately regretful if he has ended up hurting or upsetting somebody.

In the last couple of weeks Thurston hasn’t managed to sleep for a whole night, he is going through quite a difficult time and this has really affected him at night. He is now in year one at school which is a big change to what it was like being at school in the reception year. He works hard and is academically doing really well but there seems to be a new structure to his school day that he doesn’t get along with. Everyday there is usually an incident involving screaming, running out of the class room, time on the thinking chair or time spent in a different room to calm down. His new thing is walking in to class and shouting ‘BLOODY HELL’ for no apparent reason but I’ll take some of the blame for that one. At night now he will generally not make it past 2am without waking, his head is full of things that won’t let him sleep and even when he is extremely tired and visibly exhausted he is scared to go back to sleep. It is very hard to watch him nearly doze off to sleep but then force himself to stay awake, it is quite common for people on the autistic spectrum to have this fear where they don’t understand that after they have slept that they will wake up again instead of just sleeping forever. Obviously this has him then stuck in quite a viscous cycle of having a hard day at school because of his lack of sleep and then having a bad night because of the hard day at school he’s just had. Quite a few times recently we’ve been to pick him up from school where his exhaustion has gotten the better of him and we find that he has been asleep since the end of lunch time.

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When he wakes up in the night he is completely awake, everyone else is fast asleep and there is only a small window of opportunity between Thurston waking up and him waking everyone else in the house up where you have to find him and then take him downstairs to help him calm down without disturbing anyone else. Left too long and Thurston has worked out that if he opens and slams shut the wardrobe doors in our bedroom then he will get what he wants, which is for us to all be awake. Generally Hannah and I take it in turns to be up in the night but with Indigo being the easiest to disturb it usually works out that we are both awake dealing with a child each. This has made the last couple of weeks hard to deal with, add on to that the normal stress of being a parent of 4 kids with 2 different schools to get to everyday and plus the fact that we’ve just been served notice on our house because our landlord is selling up and we need to find somewhere else to live by February. Don’t even mention that it’s Christmas in a few weeks, please???!!!.

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At times like this music is my comfort blanket and ‘The Albatross’ by Foxing has become like a giant, warm duvet encasing me as I lie snuggled underneath in the foetal position peacefully asleep. When I wearily start my car to drive to work after the morning school run the beautifully poetic ‘Bloodhound’ with its sombre piano and gorgeous vocal arrangements comes on the car stereo and starts to feed my soul. Its the respite I need to get through my day. Some people may look to something a bit more upbeat in this situation but the emotion of this incredible record is what I want and its what helps me through. I don’t know the album lyrically very well at the moment but the delivery and tone of the record has meant that I have made this immense connection to it.

‘The Albatross’ feels like one of those touchstone moments that will go on to define an era, in ten years time when it is the ’emo revival’ revival, bands will name check this record as their source material, as their reason why they started their band or why they’re as in love with music as they are. Hannah and I, together, can get through anything, she is as Homer describes Marge ‘as beautiful as Princess Leia and as smart as Yoda’ but like a million times better. She is my soul mate and without her I have literally no idea what I would do. Together we can get through the hard times knowing we’ll make it out intact on the other side. Music completes this and albums like ‘The Albatross’ are there to make everything ok again.

I did mean for this to be a straight up review of the record so I apologise to you and to Foxing for not doing their work of art justice. In my sleep deprived state this is all I could manage, normal service will resume soon and thanks for being a shoulder to rest my tired head on. Please do seek out ‘The Albatross’ because you won’t be disappointed and it may even help you out in your time of need.

To stream/download ‘The Albatross’ by Foxing click here

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

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NEWSLETTER #3

Hey again. I have a rare morning of not having to do anything or be anywhere so what better way to pass the time then post another of these newsletter things. The theme for this one is ‘SPLITS’.

The idea for bands to release split singles/ep’s/albums has been around for ages but there seems to be a real trend for it at the moment, and why not? as the pickled onion producer Barry Norman would say. Splits are great, who doesn’t like the ‘2 for 1’ deal that you get? No one has yet to better the greatest split of all time, The Promise Ring/Texas is the Reason split 7″ and no one is likely to but some of the recent splits are pretty damn good so lets crack on.

1. PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH/TOUCHE AMORE (Deathwish/Topshelf records)

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If you’ve read this blog a lot then you’ll know my feelings about Pianos Become The Teeth, they are one of my favourite bands of the last 5 years. Their albums still blow me away with every listen, they left me speechless when I saw them play live in Margate and when I bumped into their guitarist in Subway, Tunbridge Wells before seeing them play the forum, he invited me to sit and eat with him, amazing! Their song from this split, ‘Hiding’, doesn’t disappoint one bit, in fact it exceeds all expectations. It’s slower and gentler but powerful. An epic song packed full of emotion, it’s a bit of a cliché for someone who writes a blog predominantly about emo to say they well up when listening to a song but Kyle Durfey’s voice does something to me. My heart literally melts as soon as he starts singing mix this with the post hardcore meets post rock music and you have as near perfect a song as you’re likely to hear all year. This review probably sounds a bit one-sided but nothing should be taken away from Touche Amore. Again they are an incredible band and their song, ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’, matches the PBTT side for brilliance. It’s a bit of a departure for TA, you could also describe this song as an epic as it’s about 4 times longer than any song from their last record. With the same kind of attack Touche Amore bring to their music, this song is allowed to breathe giving them time to play with the dynamics resulting in a rollercoaster ride of a song that leaves you exhausted but also wanting so much more. Cannot wait for their new record which is due to come out in the autumn.

Stream/Download HERE

2. TOUCHE AMORE/TITLE FIGHT (sealegs records)

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Sticking with Touche Amore for the moment, I do love a split where the bands cover each others songs ever since I got the Built To Spill/Marine Research split 7″ all those years ago. And this is exactly what you get here and what great songs they chose. Touche Amore could have chosen any song from ‘Shed’ and I’d have been happy, ‘Crescent-shaped Depression’ is what they plumped for and do it more than justice. It’s a straight up cover but it sounds great with Touche Amore bringing all the energy they normally do to their own material. Title Fight are pretty much a faultless band, their cover of ‘Face Ghost’ from Touche Amore’s last record ‘Parting the sea between brightness and me’ is brilliant. Mainly for the fact that at first glance it’s a straight ahead, loyal cover of a great song but Title Fight subtly bring their melodic hardcore/shoegaze crossover that they’ve been leaning towards on ‘Floral Green’ and it really sets the song alight. Both great bands playing great songs by each other, what the hells not to like?

Listen HERE

3. BRAID/BALANCE AND COMPOSURE (No Sleep Records)

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I finally get to see Braid play this summer and it’s on my birthday which is pretty damn perfect. In the meantime they’ve put out a split with Balance and Composure, a few people were annoyed that they were doing this with a new band but I really like Balance and Composure so can’t see the harm. Plus, Balance and Composure come out of this a bit better judging by the songs on display. Their half of the split doesn’t really cover any new ground for the band but cements their reputation for making really solid and really enjoyable slacker, indie grungemo, I don’t know if this is a reputation they have outside of my head but they should. The Braid half took a while to get in to, at first I wasn’t impressed. Both songs have grown on me more but neither come near to reaching the heights of ‘Frame & Canvas’, the album they’ll be playing in full this summer.

Stream/Download HERE

4. WITS END/HUMAN HANDS (adagio 830, strictly no capital letters, lila himmel, eat a book, and time as a color)

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This is a beautiful, must have split single on many levels. Not only are both tracks superb and also superbly different, but the way it’s packaged and presented reminds me why I love music and this scene so much. The 7″ comes in an individually stamped paper bag with photocopied lyric sheets, it is understated and glorious at the same time. The songs are pure emo joy, Wits End from Norway play brooding and intense emotional hardcore while Human Hands deliver long, repetitive, sparse, lo-fi’mo which builds with heart breaking beauty. Both songs fit perfectly together making an essential split single.

Stream Human Hands HERE Stream Wits End HERE

5. TIGERS JAW/CODE ORANGE KIDS/SELF DEFENSE FAMILY/THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE & I AM NO LONGER AFRAID TO DIE (Topshelf records)

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This split wins the award for the most interesting and intriguing of all the splits mentioned today. The line up had to be admired, 4 totally different bands put together on one record and it all makes sense. Although, this split is tinged with sadness, could this possibly be the last song that Tigers Jaw ever release? I fucking hope not, I was so gutted to hear they had split up and it’s with a heavy heart that I listen to their new song. If they had made it terrible then maybe it would be easier to accept the break-up but Tigers Jaw don’t know how to write bad songs. ‘Fake Death’ shows a band still at the height of their powers, the guitar work, the harmonies, the downbeat pop, it’s all there and it’s all good. Code Orange Kids take you by surprise with ‘VI (Worms fear god // god fears youth), experimental yet captivating. Self Defense Family take you in an altogether different direction with their affecting and repetitive folk anthem ‘Holy Trend’, that leaps at you with the delivery of someone preaching the end of the world on a street corner. The split is finished by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die who really are an incredible band and not just because writing their name in full on my blog pushes the word count up considerably making me feel like I’ve done more work. Their song, ‘Beverly Wyatt’, is typically beautiful and uplifting and the underlying ethereal melody that plays through the whole song helps paint pictures in your mind. There is a rumour going round that they are going to tour the UK this autumn with Dads, this has to happen!!

Stream/Download HERE

6. DIKEMBE/HIGHTIDE HOTEL/JET SET SAIL/MONUMENT (Count Your Lucky Stars)

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Another 4 way split and another stellar line up. Dikembe can do no wrong, their songs are always instantly likeable and this one is continued proof of that theory. ‘Donuts in a six speed’ wouldn’t have felt out-of-place on ‘Broad Shoulders’ and builds the excitement nicely for their new album which will be out soon. Hightide Hotel announced last year that they are splitting up but not before they release their second record this year. It’s a massive shame because based on ‘Built to last’ they’re a band that could offer so much. The main riff reminds me of the kind of ones i’d try to write for my old band back in the 90s, I was never this good though. Jet Set Sail continue the quality of the split here with their barnstormer ‘Strickland North’, I definitely need to investigate this band more because I listened to this song back to back a good 4 times in a row which always a good sign. Monument bring the split to a close with ‘Sophisticated Liars’. Monument are a criminally underrated band who write consistently great music, their song here is catchy enough to have you singing along by the second chorus (woooaaaoooohhh) and is a good reminder to listen to their music more.

Stream/Download HERE

7. FAKE PROBLEMS/YOU BLEW IT! (Topshelf Records)

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A band I love and a band I’ve not heard before makes for a good split single, which is exactly the case here. Fake Problems play bright, britpop-esque music with massive choruses, they remind me of Gene and maybe a little bit of Suede in a good way. I wasn’t expecting to be reminded of them and it came as a nice surprise, their songs are catchy enough to find yourself humming them to yourself hours later. You Blew It! made one of my favourite records of last year and the 2 songs on offer here keep that quality up, the first of which, ‘Batavia, NY’, is currently my favorite songs of theirs. Saying that, both songs are great. You Blew It! are another band who need to make the trip across the pond and come play for us.

Stream/Download HERE

8. FOOTBALL, ETC./PLAIDS (Strictly No Capital Letters, Count Your Lucky Stars)

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I’ve written so many nice things about Football, etc in the past that I’ve literally run out of superlatives to attribute to them. Although I’ve probably never simply stated that they’re fucking great, which I should’ve because they bloody well are. Their song here, ‘Down The Field’, continues them on the path to become my absolute favourite band, faultless indiemo of the highest quality. Them putting out a split with Plaids is a very exciting prospect. If, like me, you spend far too many hours reading about emo bands on the Internet then you’ll know that Plaids are one of the most exciting bands in the UK at the moment. They just get it, their music plays with time signatures, brilliant angular guitar work and delivered with a blast of incredible energy. Both bands are touring the UK together this summer which will be a tour not to miss.

You can download/stream the songs HERE

Cheers for reading!!

Come and say hi, leave a comment here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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The Is this thing on? Top 10 Records of 2012

What a year 2012 has turned out to be. So much so that this list has proved to be near impossible to write, choosing the 10 best records of the year and then listing them in order of bestest has given me a headache. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good headache and I ain’t complaining. Last year I posted a top 10 and so I thought i would continue with this. My best friend paul who writes the Wallernotweller blog made the sensible choice of listing 15 records but I’m not that wise. So, 10 it is. Meaning that some bloody good records have ended up missing out on this list. Bands like Suis La Lune, Converge, Joyce Manor, The Cribs, Sport, Ape Up! and Dads have all produced some quality work and have only missed out on my top 10 by the slightest of margins. Annabel too, whose album ‘Youth in youth’ is packed with greatness and if it had come out earlier in the year it might have taken one of the top ten places. These are all very worthy but they can’t all be winners so on with the list..

10. You Blew It! – Grow Up Dude

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This is an album that just keeps on growing on me, I like it more every time I listen. The records perfectly understated production mixed with the heart and melody of the music make it hard not to love this album. The fact that bands are making music like this is the reason why I write this blog, if someone asks you if there really is a 90’s emo revival happening at the moment then play them ‘Grow up dude’ and they will have their answer. I’m sure I saw someone mention on something or other that You Blew It! might be coming to the UK in 2013, this needs to happen. In the meantime I’ll just make do with falling in love with this album some more.

9.  State Faults – Desolate Peaks

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My first listen to ‘Desolate Peaks’ was my first experience of State Faults and by heck it was a good one. I love it when you put something on completely without assumptions and end up being blown away. The record is powerful yet touching. It perfectly fills the void left by Pianos Become the Teeth not releasing an album this year. But of course State Faults are a lot more than just a lazy comparison and they are by far the heaviest, screamiest band on my list this year. Earlier in the year they were kind enough to answer some of my questions, click HERE to have a read.

8. Dowsing – It’s still pretty terrible

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This is a record that is full of charm and beautiful indie pop songs that warm the soul. I said in my review of this album a few months ago and I stick by it, this is the record The Get Up Kids were trying to make with ‘On a wire’ and failed. Dowsing however hit it spot on. Now I know for a fact that they are planning to tour the UK next year, this is one not to miss. These songs in a packed venue with a whole crowd singing along to every word is something I definitely wanna be a part of!!!

7. Basement – Colourmeinkindness

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This is a record that appeals to the teenager in me, the spotty kid in the early 90’s with long greasy hair who was proud to called a ‘grunger’ by every chav in Thanet. There are so many grunge influences on this record that it’s hard to keep up, Basement mix in their straight up melodic hardcore and what you have is an album that’s screaming out to breakthrough. If it does it’ll be too late though as Basement are no more which is more than a damn shame. Great record!

6. Glocca Morra – Just Married

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Glocca Morra are quite possibly my favourite band that I discovered this year. ‘just Married’ got a hefty few plays again and again this summer and listening to it now immediately reminds of that time. This is a perfect summer album because it’s just so much damn fun. If I was in to having house party’s and was wanting to get things happening then i would reach for this record, it would pretty much guarantee everyone a good time. Not only did Glocca Morra give us ‘Just Married’ this year, they followed it up with the equally amazing ‘An obscure moon lighting an obscure world’ EP. I hope they keep this momentum up and maybe next year they can claim my entire top ten!

It has come time to take a short break from this countdown and take a minute to remember the bands that we have lost this year. I mean, what awards show would be complete without a memorial montage and this Top 10 is no exception. So watch the video below and join me in some quiet reflection as we remember those that are gone.

5. Crash Of Rhinos – Distal

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Now, I know what you’re thinking, technically this record didn’t come out this year. It was first released in April of 2011 but it was re-released this year by Big Scary Monsters and this record is too good to be left out on a technicality. Plus who are you to say I can’t have them in my top 10, you’re not my mum! (mum if you’re reading this put the laptop down and back away, they’re in and that’s final). Crash of rhinos are almost too good, beautifully brilliant songs that last forever yet never outstay their welcome. With incredible vocals that seem to come from every member of the band and more bass players than bands that only have one bass player in them. They are touring in January with Raein which has ‘tour of the year’ written all over it already!!!

4. Prawn – Ships

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Shortly before getting this EP I went to see Prawn play live in Folkestone, the show was beset with technical problems so much so that they ended up only being able to play 4 songs. At the time I wasn’t bothered because I’d had a great night and Prawn were still fantastic. But after getting ‘Ships’ a few weeks later I was gutted that they couldn’t play all night. The songs that make up ‘Ships’ are so incredible that hearing them live would surely constitute one of the best gigs you’re likely to ever attend. Perfect emo like a poppier Appleseed Cast, love it!!

3. Title Fight – Floral Green

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Title Fight keep going from strength to strength and ‘Floral Green’ is their best record to date. Only a year after releasing their first studio album ‘Shed’ they released a record that was not only brilliant but also showed they had made great leaps forward in terms of sound and maturity. The dreamy, shoegaze magic of ‘Head in the ceiling fan’ showed a new side to Title Fight and ‘Secret Society’ proved that Title Fight can write catchy, instantly likeable grunge songs as well as anyone. Another essential record.

2. Dikembe – Broad Shoulders

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Dikembe are one of the best bands you’re ever likely to hear, following up the massive potential shown on last years ep ‘Chicago Bowls’ with a near perfect record of beautiful, mid paced emo. My heart melts at the first sound of Steven Gray’s voice and the guitar sound they have only heightens this sensation. I can see this album/band coming to define this current wave of emo tagged music, in a few years we’ll be looking back at it with the same fondness that we look back at, for example, ’30 degrees everywhere’ by the Promise Ring it’s that good. In any normal year it would easily win my album of the year top spot and they were only very narrowly beaten this year by…….

1. Joie De Vivre – We’re all better than this

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This years first prize just has to go to Joie De Vivre with ‘We’re all better than this’ an album which I’ve very rarely not been listening to since it came out in the summer. Having split up it is unfathomable that this record could never have been made and I am so grateful that they gave it another shot. Seeing them play this summer in Brighton is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, a brilliantly uplifting experience. Which is like what you get every time your hear ‘We’re all better than this’. An album that both boasts the best use of trumpets all year and the amazingly lovely backing vocals from Lindsay Minton (Football, etc) cannot fail to impress. A beautiful, beautiful record, well done, FIRST PRIZE!!!

Well, there you go. 2013 is already shaping up to be another incredible year that is promising new albums from Tigers Jaw, Football etc, Daylight, The Reptilian, Appleseed Cast, Jimmy Eat World and many more. I literally cannot wait. In the meantime thanks for reading and have yourself a very merry christmas xx

I’ve made an Is this thing on? best of 2012 playlist on Spotify if that’s your kind of thing, click the link below x

Is This thing on? best of 2012

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Review: Annabel – Youth in youth

Band – Annabel

Album – Youth in Youth

Label – Count Your Lucky Stars

If you’re anything like me then you’re the sort of person who likes to start figuring out your top 10 albums of the year from about January. Come November you have a pretty established idea of what that list is, who’s on it and in what order. And if you are anything like me then when you hear the new Annabel record, ‘Youth in youth’, you’re going to have to rethink that whole list. Let’s get something straight from the start, this album is brilliant.

Annabel are from Kent, sadly not the Kent in England in which I live but the one in Ohio, USA. This is their second full length LP and if you’re getting down about how cold, wet and miserable the weather is then you need this record. It may be horrible outside but one listen to ‘Youth in youth’ and it’ll be summer again. There is so much warmth, joy and happiness emanating from the music on this album it can’t help but lift your spirits. It’s hard to pinpoint an accurate description of the beautiful sound that Annabel creates but I will give it a bloody good try nonetheless. Think pop, but an indie pop and also think of the grand, lush emo that Appleseed Cast are famous for and now add a triumphant joy to this too. Imagine what it would sound like if the Polyphonic Spree covered the whole of ‘Mare Vitalis’, now scrap that thought and just go and listen to the record itself because I know I’m just confusing matters.

There is a theme to the record about growing up, what happens when you do and what constitutes being an adult. The first song on the album, ‘Young American’, begins with the line “So much for adulthood and all the things that I was looking forward to” and then continues in this vein. The lyrics which tell of confusion and disappointment juxtapose with the confidence and grandeur of the music. It gives the album certain openness, they’re not shying away and hiding at all, instead they’re choosing to stand proud. There are anthems on this record, ones you can easily identify with and ones that will get stuck in your head and refuse to leave. There is no letting up for the first four songs , these are some of the catchiest songs you will hear all year with ‘Anti-decisions’ and ‘Risk/reward’ doing battle with each other over which one you’ll not stop singing to yourself for days on end. The instrumentals ‘Theme from home’ and ‘Rapids’ offer the only and briefest respites on the whole album. The second half of the album has a drop in the pace here and there without the slightest loss of quality and with more potential for mass sing-alongs courtesy of ‘The dept. of mutual appreciation’ and ‘You could be living better’. The record finishes with the lovely ‘Our days were numbered’ which is pure Weezer. By which I mean good old Weezer rather than the more recent, mediocre Weezer. It’s a brilliant ending to an incredible record.

What more can be said? Annabel are a band that knows their craft, they write brilliant and beautiful pop songs and ‘Youth in youth’ is practically a faultless album. I say practically, I’ve yet to find fault with any of it but that could just be that I’m so blinded by the love I have for this record right now. I have played this record nonstop and can’t see myself tiring of it anytime soon. I hope it brings you as much joy as it has done to me. Well done Annabel

For more info click HERE for the Annabel site

Or pre order the record HERE

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Thanks so much for reading x

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