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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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120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ’emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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