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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: SECRET SMOKER – TERMINAL ARCHITECTURE

Band – Secret Smoker

Album – Terminal Architecture

Label – Protaganist/Adagio830

I feel that, more often than not, I have to start blog posts on here with an apology. There has been so much going on recently, (nightmare house moves etc…), that I just haven’t had time to write anything. Thanks for being patient and thanks for sticking with me, I will do my best to get things posted quicker. Now, I am usually apologising for being a few weeks behind with album reviews but this takes the biscuit as I’m about a year behind telling you about this band. And I really am genuinely sorry that I haven’t told you about Secret Smoker already because they are fantastic.

Secret Smoker were brought to my attention at the end of last year after writing about Sed Non Satiata, I was told that as I had liked the last Sed Non Satiata record so much then I would love these guys and they weren’t wrong. There have been many bands that I have posted about in the last couple of years who are playing a style of music massively influenced by bands from the 90 but Secret Smoker have something different about them. Instead of seeing just an influence in their music, they sound like they are of this time. No bandwagon jumping or fad sounds here, instead a band making a genuinely brilliant emo record.

I remember being in Germany at the start of the century and being completely blown away by a band called Tupamaros, the intensity and energy they displayed made a massive impact on me. It’s probably no coincidence that the band I had been in at the time moved away from the more Get Up Kids sounding songs to a heavier, more intense sound. I get a similar feeling listening to Secret Smoker, it strikes me that this is how this music should be played.

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What makes Secret Smoker really stand out is their ability to move seamlessly from the fast paced, heavier songs to the more mid paced lighter songs without dropping any standards. You see this straight from the start of the record with the first 2 tracks, ‘Staircase’ and ‘Crushed by Air’, 2 perfect examples that Secret Smoker pack as much excitement and emotion into their songs regardless of the tempo. There isn’t a drop in quality throughout this record, 10 songs that excite, entertain and get you pumped for more. Putting a label on a band is always awkward, I’ve never used the word Skramz (until now) and I feel very self conscious if I describe a band as screamo, but it helps in a review so I’ll just say that Secret Smoker are a perfect example of this kind of band, emo done right if you will.

If you have been searching for something a bit different to listen to, something with the intensity of Human Hands and the energy of Plaids, something that takes you back a little further to Yaphet Kotto then you can’t go wrong with this record.  highly recommend it, its my favourite record of last year that I didn’t hear until this year, if that’s a thing.

Thanks for reading.

Get in Touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or alex_itto on twitter x

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REVIEW: ACID FAST – RABID MOON

Band – Acid Fast

Album – Rabid Moon

Label – Protagonist/Adagio 830

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I have a very good friend who also writes a blog about music, when he comes round my house I tend to bore him to death by showing him whatever new records I’ve recently acquired or downloaded. Our tastes have grown apart over the last few years and most of what I say falls on deaf ears but when I showed him the album sleeve for ‘Rabid Moon’ by Acid Fast he was completely fascinated and more than intrigued. I know where he’s coming from, my first encounter with Acid Fast was seeing this album artwork and my first thought was that I must listen to this ASAP. I had no idea, really, what to expect but those dogs look so ferocious that it was drawing me in. I put the record on and was completely sold on the band from the off.

Acid Fast are satisfying a need for a type of music I hadn’t realised I was hungry for. A lot of what I had been listening to recently was angry, moody and introspective but this was loud, upbeat and outgoing. But Acid Fast are a rock’n’roll band and this is a rock’n’roll record. Big thumping indie punk anthems with excellent duel vocals and more hooks than a cloakroom. Everything is loud, overly distorted and, as I said, big! Especially the melodies that capture your attention on each of the killer tracks and keep your interest right to the end. Acid Fast come from Oakland, CA and feature ex members of the band Big Kids which is a big reminder to me to go back and listen to Big Kids more.

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Maybe there are plenty of bands playing this Superchunk-esque, grand, indie punk sound but not many that I’ve encountered. Perhaps Joanna Gruesome but that’s all I can think of. Maybe I should lift my head up, turn of the depressing stuff more often if this is the kind of result I can expect. I doubt many bands will make an album this instantly excellent this year mind.

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Oh and my friend who I mentioned at the start who was intrigued by the artwork, just checked with him and he still hasn’t listened to it!?!?? But you’re not reading his blog so pay no attention and trust me when I say you need to buy this record!!!!!

You can buy the record from Protaganist HERE

Again, thanks for reading. Get in touch: Facebook – www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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