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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: 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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IS THIS THING ON?’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 1 (No’s 20-11)

It definitely is that time of year again and you’re probably already sick of album of the year lists but here I am to give you what I consider to be the best records of 2013. This year it’s a top 20 for 2 reasons, 1 – there has been a LOT of great records this year and 2 – because I’ve been so slack at posting reviews this year I thought this would be a good way to catch up. So here goes:

20. Tancred – S/T

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I had no idea what to expect with this record, hadn’t heard anything before and hadn’t read anything about it but as soon as I pressed play I was an instant fan. Brilliant grungey indie rock in the style of Juliana Hatfield, with plenty of catchy songs and charm.

19. Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

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Always love it when a band with a great name also turn out to be a great band and Pity Sex are no exception. Shoegazey, poppy, punk rock with superb, dreamy, downbeat vocals is a pretty lazy description but it hits the nail on the head. I would’ve listened to this record more but every time I looked at a distro they’ve already sold out of their copies, damn hip kids with their pocket money taking all my records!!!!

18. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

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Touché Amoré are a band that just get better and better with every record they release. I have completely fallen in love with this new record, whilst being instantly recognisable as a Touché record it is also quite a departure to a more melodic and heartfelt sound. There’s still all the power and attack that you would want and expect but there’s also melodies and hook after hook. Very highly recommended listening.

17. Wild Moth – Over, Again

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Became aware of these guys through the SNCL mailing list, they came very highly recommended and they certainly live up to the expectation. Mixing brilliant post hardcore with indie sensibilities and the song writing ability of a band like The Cribs. (The first song really reminds me of The Cribs, which to me is high praise because I love The Cribs!). You’ll have this on repeat so definitely go and check this out.

16. Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore

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I’ve written loads about Dowsing in the past and the only reason I haven’t expressed love for this record on this blog already is because having four kids is so tiring and I just haven’t had time. I literally can’t go a blog post without writing lame excuses about why I’m so behind at updating this blog, I’m sorry. You know what to expect with a Dowsing record, you know the songs will be top notch and the melodies to be catchy as hell. This album requires a bit more work for the listener than the previous one but with work comes rewards. Check out the excellent title track ‘I don’t even care anymore’, sounds like a song that should be soundtracking the end credits of a 90’s teen movie, perfectly brilliant!!

15. Sed Non Satiata – Mappo

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This album is testament to the fact that taking recommendations from other blogs you love will pay off handsomely. First learned of this band through Cut and Paste and haven’t looked back since. Screamo/emo hardcore always sounds better in French, a brooding intensity blasts out of the speakers here, thrilling stuff!

14. State Faults – Resonate/Desperate

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This record hits the ground running and keeps the energy up to the last note. Much more focused and precise than the first album, this record is the ultimate record to throw yourself about like a lunatic too. Hopefully they’ll tour the UK in the next 12 months so I can see a whole room of people throwing themselves round like lunatics to this awesome screamo goodness.

13. Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness

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A lot of bands have adopted a huge grunge influence into their melodic punk rock, but not many bands have done it in the brilliantly lo-fi way that Placeholder have. I probably won’t ever grow tired of bands using the 90’s as a reference point especially when they’re making records as good as this one!

12. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

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BAND WITH MOST EMO NAME EVER LIVES UP TO THE HYPE BY RELEASING A GREAT RECORD, is the headline the tabloid press would run with if the world worked like it does in my head. Twinkly bits, post rock bits, synth melodies and everything else that is making the cynics, who have been put off by the band name, turn their noses up just makes me love this band more. I bought my ticket to see these guys in Brighton in April within seconds of seeing they were on sale and cannot wait to go!!!

11. Nai Harvest – Whatever

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I saw these guys play twice this year and both times they were on top form, even the time in the pub on Margate seafront at the height of summer when it was too hot for most in attendance to bother coming inside to watch the bands. Nai Harvest seemed to have been everywhere this year causing quite a stir amongst all the UK emos, they have become behemoths of the scene ready to conquer all with their overly catchy emo rock. Rumour has it their new stuff is leaning more towards lo-fi indie rock and that sounds pretty exciting to me, expect to see plenty more of Nai Harvest in 2014!!

The TOP 10 will be published in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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