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The Is This Thing On? Top 10 albums of 2015

So… I wasn’t gonna do an album of the year list this year. Mainly because I have been completely neglecting this blog for the most part of the year and felt a bit odd logging back in to just post a list of records I like. Also, I seem to have gone through a slump with new music, preferring instead to listen to older stuff. In truth, the album I’ve listened to most this year is ‘Leaves Turn Inside You’ by Unwound, an album which I’ve fallen head over heels for. But that was released in 2001 so isn’t really eligible for consideration here.

However, I did start to think that I would regret not doing one. These lists are fun to look back on in future years and give a great indication of my way of thinking at the moment.

So here goes….

10. Blur – The Magic Whip


I’ve always had a big soft spot for Blur, even if in the mid 90s I wouldn’t admit it as to not ruin my devout grunger street cred. I was happy to hear that a new record was coming out but had little idea just how good it would be. The Magic Whip is fantastic, It’s Blur back to their ’13’ era best but still sounding relevant. Damon’s genius songwriting with Graham’s inventiveness have been sorely missed and it was great to have them back.

9. Carson Wells – Tread A Northern Path


I thought I was going off post hardcore before I heard this. But Carson Wells reaffirmed my belief that when done well post hardcore is the greatest musical genre of all time. Still bringing the energy and noise they always have, Carson Wells managed to fit in even more passion and heart to this record than before. Essential listening.

8. Title Fight – Hyperview

Some people didn’t seem to get on board with this record which is fair enough due to a sizeable shift in direction. But, to me, this album was an amazing achievement which highlights a great maturity within the band. Title Fight may be heading more towards shoegaze nowadays but the whole album is rooted in their hardcore sensibilities and shows the band to be the great songwriters they are. When they played in Canterbury with Cold World in the spring it was one of the most special nights of the year and a personal highlight.

7. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp


Another record that soundtracked the summer this year, effortlessly catchy and loveable lo-fi indie pop the like of which I’m a complete sucker for. This record made me chastise myself for being slow on the uptake with Waxahatchee as her previous record is just as good. Maybe I just have to accept the fact I’m usually late to the party with most things, but at least I get there.

6. Spraynard – Mable


I punched the air when I heard that Spraynard had reformed, and couldn’t stop smiling as I listened to ‘Mable’, their comeback record. Missing out on a record like this is is exactly why I was so gutted when they split up, it is the most perfect pop punk being made right now. So much energy, heart and hooks. Oh so many hooks!!

5. Hop Along – Painted Shut


This band can do no wrong, simple as that. To follow up an album as genius as ‘Get Disowned’ must be terrifying but Hop Along take it all in their stride. ‘Painted Shut’ is every bit as good as its predecessor, it sounds amazing and I could just listen to that voice all the day long.

4. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us


What a revelation Beach Slang are, after two very promising EPs they finally delivered a full length record towards the end of this year and it is a rock triumph. Writing songs as big and as hook laden as Jimmy Eat World used to, if it was still the 90s Beach Slang would be playing the main stages of major music festivals. But it’s not, no good bands get to do that anymore, they’ll just have to make do to with being rock stars in my eyes. Hopefully they’ll settle for that and release many records of this quality.

3. Foxing – Dealer


I made the mistake of listening to ‘Dealer’ for the first time during my lunch break at work at the same time as being really in to reading ‘The Psycopath Test’ by Jon Ronson. Now when I listen to it I’m immediately inside Broadmoor but that’s my problem and I’ll learn to deal with it. You probably know how much I love Foxing’s first record, ‘The Albatross’, so you can probably guess just how excited I was to get my hands on this album. Having recently seen them live they had given themselves a lot to live up too. Foxing, thankfully, were up to the challenge. ‘Dealer’ is a really complete record, the kind that demands to be listened to the whole way through, from start to finish. That way you’ll always get the pay off of ‘Glass Coughs’ and ‘Eiffel’, two of the years most beautiful songs.

2. Shizune – Le Voyageur Imprudent


When you see the words ‘Italian screamo’ you know you’re in for a treat, and this record certainly is a treat. It starts with a bang and caries on being intensely brilliant until the very end. If you think you may be bored of this kinda thing then Shizune will reaffirm your faith, let me tell ya. Very highly recommended.

1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Indigo loves this record!!

 

This record and this band has really defined this year for me. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was that they were releasing a new record after 10 years on hiatus. Their last record, ‘The Woods’, is one of my favourite of all time, they left me sorely wanting more. And ‘No Cities To Love’ was worth the wait. They have said in interviews that they would only release something new if they were up to producing something of quality, this is definitely the case here. Again, it shows a shift in direction, this is a much more straight up rock record but still a sound that is unmistakably Sleater-Kinney. We have Sleater-Kinney on heavy rotation on our car stereo on family days out, the kids each have their favourite songs, Thurston loves ‘Price Tag’, Indigo is a big fan of ‘Oh!’ from ‘One Beat’ and so on. I can’t pick a favourite from this near perfect album. Here’s hoping there’s not another 10 year wait for their next one.


This has been fun, thanks for reading. Maybe see you more in 2016.

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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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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

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