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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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The week. 30/11/14

Hello. Welcome back. First off, let me just apologise for not posting anything for what seems like an eternity. The main reason for this being a lack of free time to write, kids have been poorly/had chicken pox which all takes its toll. Other reasons I’ll go into in a moment. But I wanted to start by saying, after much consideration, I’ve decided to adopt a different approach to writing this blog. The old way just wasn’t productive enough.

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So, what I’ve come up with is this, The Week. Every week, usually on a Sunday, I’ll post a summary of what’s happened in the week. Music I’ve been listening to, gigs that have happened, comments on news and announcements that you may have missed in the preceding 7 days. As the old adage goes, a week is a long time in emo, or words to that effect. So instead of waiting to write lengthy reviews etc.. and falling behind this will be a great way to stay up to date. It’ll give me the chance to write about more things too, music/gigs/news I may not have found time to write 1000 words about will find space here. I’ll still write proper reviews, do interviews and post all the usual stuff you’d see here before. This will just be a positive addition to all that to keep regularly updated and in touch with everyone.

That’s the boring bit out-of-the-way so now we can crack on, thanks for you patience!!

First up, I just wanna take you back to the start of the month when Is This Thing On? staged its second gig of the year/all time. It was an honour to welcome Reiziger to the West Track studios practice space in Canterbury for an amazing show. I have been a fan of Reiziger since the late 90s, when I first listened to them as a teenager in my friend’s bedroom I couldn’t have imagined that 16ish years later I would finally get to see them play live and that they would be dedicating my favourite Reiziger song (Waitingday) to my 10-year-old son Louis, who I had working the door that night. They were the nicest guys and received a warm welcome from the West Track faithful.

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REIZIGER

 
This was the 4th show in 4 weeks at this tiny, DIY, space and was a great example of how the local music scene in East Kent is becoming as vibrant again as it ever was. The whole night was packed with excellent bands who didn’t disappoint one bit. 2 of my favourite local bands kicked things off, Kind Eyes brought the riffs and Pax Indigo packed in the emotion before Kinshot, who had made the drive down from London just in time, blasted everyone away with noise and energy. What a night!!

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Kind Eyes

 

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Pax Indigo

 

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Kinshot

 

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Louis the doorman

 

Staying locally, this week saw the exciting opening of Kent’s newest and also best record shop. After months of hard work and persistence our good friends and all round best guys, George and Nat, took their burgeoning record label, Hot Salvation, and have expanded in to a beautiful shop set in the confines of an old hotel on Folkestone’s Rendezvous street. It’s a great space, selling both new and second-hand records from a myriad of genres, including massive punk/hardcore and alternative sections. Not only this they are also serving top quality coffee and a section that stocks beautifully designed home and lifestyle products from the likes of Naked Lunge and Donna Wilson.

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Hot Salvation

 

Had it not been for Christmas coming up my wife Hannah and I would’ve spent a small fortune, which is something we’ll definitely be doing there in the coming months but apart from picking up a few Christmas presents and downing some delicious coffee I treated myself to the new Fugazi release, ‘First Demo’. It was one of many brand new Dischord records on offer in store and I just couldn’t resist. More on that record next week. In the meantime get to Folkestone and see the shop for yourself, failing that they also have a nice looking webstore up and running, check it out HERE

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‘First Demo’

 

Another reason for me falling behind on this blog is a big feeling of late that the latest wave of emo, that I’ve written so much about for the last 3 years, is coming to an abrupt end. There have been so many dud releases this year (Dads/You Blew It/Somos) that I’ve found myself listening more and more to older bands and getting less and less excited about what’s happening right now. The latest nail in the coffin is the really disappointing new record from Pianos Become The Teeth. It seems really weird and depressing to even have to write that sentence after all the amazingly positive things that I’ve written about them in the past. You can’t take anything away from their, until now, faultless back catalogue and the experience of seeing them live for the first time when they played my hometown of Margate,  which ranks highly amongst the best gigs I’ve ever attended.

'Keep You'

‘Keep You’

But, ‘Keep You’, their latest album released via Epitaph last month is just a bit….well, boring. There are some nice enough songs and Kyle Durfey’s voice still sounds as haunting as ever, but 5 songs in to the record you’re still waiting for something to happen, something to kick in and it just never does. The power they once had is all lost, the drums that were once hit so hard they made my chest hurt watching them live just plod along and it all just gets lost going nowhere. Massive, massive shame.

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Did you get an American Football ticket? You can’t have possibly missed the news that the band are making their way to the UK for the first time next May. What was originally announced as 3 dates but expanded to more after the original tickets sold out within 20 minutes. Which is crazy!! I’ll see you in London on the 2nd night if you’re there.

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To sign off this week I will leave you with the fact the Pearl Jam’s classic 3rd album ‘Vitalogy’ turned 20 years old this week. It is still one of my favourite records of all time and I’ve had a great time revisiting the first 4 PJ records this week on my drives to work. Here is them playing ‘Not For You’ on Saturday Night Live in 1994.

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

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