Tag Archives: sleater-kinney

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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Review: Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Band – Sleater-Kinney

Album – No Cities To Love

Label – Sub Pop

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I’m going to start this review with a story. I have a few set stories that I seem to tell every time someone mentions a certain band, it drives my wife, Hannah, nuts so I thought if I commit my Sleater-Kinney story to print it might stop my retelling it at every available opportunity and save my marriage. It’s not even a great story but here goes anyway. Back in 1998 I was 18 years old and had gotten in to Sleater-Kinney in a big way, ‘Dig Me Out’ was blowing me away every time I heard it and when they announced they were touring over here my best friend, Paul, and I snapped up tickets.

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It was September of that year that we made our way to Kings College, London, for the show and decided to watch from the upstairs balcony. It was our preferred way to watch bands at the time, especially if the show was at the Astoria, the view from upstairs on the left so you were virtually on the side of the stage was unbeatable. Sleater-Kinney began to play and they sounded great, it was then that we noticed that someone was stood next to us to our right. It was Jarvis Cocker. Now, we were never big Pulp fans and the whole Britpop/cool Britannia thing was definitely fading at this time but that didn’t stop us tapping each other on the shoulder and saying ‘Look, it’s Jarvis Cocker’. We went back to paying our full attention to the band, when I did look back to where Jarvis was standing he had gone, we looked back to where there were some booths with tables at and they were some proper smug, sharp suit wearing, twats with expensive haircuts guffawing loudly and drinking heavily. We soon realised these were Jarvis’s friends and he was sat with them. We gave them so filthy looks to show our annoyance at them, not that they noticed. And after that I noticed Jarvis only came back to look at the band one more time for a couple of minutes during the whole set and spent the rest of the show with his ‘friends’. We obviously managed to watch the rest of the show ok, Sleater-Kinney were incredible and totally cemented my feelings for them. But after the show the Jarvis thing had really wound us up and took up much of the conversation on the way home. What a scenester, what a fake, bet he got in free, bet he spoke to them afterwards and said how great they were, hope his yuppy friends choke on their own vomit, were the kind of things we were saying to each other. It left a bitter taste in the mouth. Thinking about it, he might just happened to have been there, maybe he and his friends always hung out there but that didn’t stop us drawing our own conclusions. In our eyes he was no better than the idiots that would turn up to the local punk shows just to hang outside and get drunk. He has since become revered as some indie godfather, some icon of cool but every time I see his weasley face all I wanna scream is Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!!!

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The poster for the show that I pinched from outside the venue, I now have it framed obvs

 

Ok, hope I didn’t bore you too much with this weeks trip down memory lane, on with the review.

It feels strangely like I’ve woken from a coma to discover that Sleater-Kinney are now the biggest band in the world. This band that I have completely loved since I was a teenager in the late 90s seem to be everywhere right now. It’s weird yet exciting. Weird I never knew anyone, bar a few friends, really cared and obviously exciting because they really are one of the best bands in the world and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have them back.

Sleater-Kinney are an anomaly. Over the course of the 10 years or so that they were actively together putting out records they never put a foot wrong. They consistently released incredible record after incredible record, constantly reinventing their sound without ever losing their identity. They never phoned it in, never lazily put out a live record or submitted anything below par. It didn’t matter how popular they got, they never changed for anyone except themselves. How many bands even get to release 7 studio albums? Let alone their 7th being one of the best albums of their career, yet Sleater-Kinney did just that with their 2005 classic ‘The Woods’. They ended their initial run on a total, overly distorted and noisy as fuck career high. As they’ve said in recent interviews, stopping when they did has made it easier to ‘comeback’. They left us wanting much more and now they can pick up where they left off. Instead of cashing in on former, early career glories, with reunion tours of one crowd favourite record in full, they are properly back. And with ‘No Cities to Love’ they have delivered the goods.

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‘No Cities to Love’ is there most concise record to date, gone are the extended, improvised, noise solo’s and general rocking out that made ‘The Woods’ such a classic, here they have stripped everything back to leave 10 songs that barely exceed 3 and a half minutes all of which have a massive focus on hooks. This record has more hooks than a Peter Pan convention, it’s so flipping instantly catchy that you won’t be able to resist its charms, ‘Gimme Love’ will find itself lodged in your subconscious for quite some time. Even when lyrically mixing in the politics of wage slavery and cultural identity they will be making you wanna get up and move. To back these hooks up, Sleater-Kinney sound big on this record. The production leaps out at you like ‘The Woods’ did, it’s loud but with a crispness to it. Even with the multiple effects laden guitars, there is a clarity to it all which makes it all the more special when Carrie Brownstein’s lead guitar is given free rein to go off on a Sonic Youth tangent like it does on ‘A New Wave’.

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Sleater-Kinney when I saw them at Koko, Camden in 2005

 

Everything that has ever made you love Sleater-Kinney in the past is still all here on ‘No Cities to Love’. The lo-fi indie sound of ‘The Hot Rock’ and ‘Dig Me Out’ are there in the guitar lines and chord progressions, Corin Tucker’s other worldly vocals shine through like only she can and Janet Weiss’s drums are just as solid as ever. This is definitely not a nostalgic cash cow, this is a continuation of an unparalleled, consistently astonishingly brilliant career.

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Again at Koko, amazing show!!

 

‘No Cities to Love’ sounds so relevant it is hard to believe they’ve been gone for almost 10 years. All this talk of guitar bands being dead, albums being a thing of the past and a lack of bands good enough to headline festivals has been made to look ridiculous by 3 friends from Portland making one hell of a fucking brilliant record. Long live Sleater-Kinney!!!!!

Thanks for reading, get in touch: ittoblog@gmail.com, @alex_itto on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

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Not so dead and now operational, is there anyone left?

Well, would you believe?, the rumours were true.

This week 2 bands have announced their much anticipated returns, At the drive-in and Refused are both back and will both be playing this years Coachella Festival, California in April.

Both bands had been rumoured to reform in some capacity for a long time, mainly because people were so desperate for them to. There has been a big trend for bands to reform over the last few years, all with varying levels success, you could say that it’s been done to death but if you asked anyone with an interest in post hardcore what band would you still love to see come back you could bet good money on them saying either of these bands. In many people’s eyes, At the drive-in and Refused had both finished before their time and had left everyone wanting more.

‘Relationship of command’ broke At the drive-in big, but also broke them up. Just as soon as everyone knew who they were, they were no more. Refused, on the other hand, have been far more successful since they ended than they were when they were together, ‘The shape of punk to come’ is now the stuff of legend. It’s these reasons that people have been so keen for them to reform, When you fall in love with a band post their existence it’s hard to accept the fact that you weren’t there when it all happened. Getting them to reform and then getting to see them play isn’t the same as seeing them first time round, but it is the next best thing.

So will this signal the end of the trend for old bands to reform? We’ve tolerated it for some time and we’ve now got the ones we all wanted. Or will this trigger a whole new wave of comebacks? Are there anymore bands left to come back?

Here are five bands I would still love to see reform for my own selfish reasons:

5. Sleater-Kinney

The first time I saw Sleater-Kinney was in London in 1998. They were, of course, awesome but the gig was somewhat ruined by Jarvis Cocker! We watched from the balcony and he was stood next to us with, what can only be described as, a bunch of twats in suits, who all spent the gig talking as loudly as they could. The more he ignored the gig the more annoyed I got, the more the ‘suits’ emitted smug laughter the more furious I got. Of course, I did nothing about this, apart from the odd evil glare that I directed in their general area.

I saw them again a few years later, at Koko in Camden, just after they had released ‘The Woods’. They were incredibly loud, indescribably loud. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, they were completely on fire that night. I would so love to see them play again, Wild Flag and the Corin Tucker Band aren’t enough for me, they need to all be in the same band again.

4. Q and Not U

Q and Not U were a very special band. Equally as good when they were punking it up as when they were funking it out (if they are actual things). Every album was different, yet they always completely fitted with being on Dischord, they were constanly evolving and seeing the amount of different instruments they played when we saw them live was a joy. The music press seems to liken a lot of bands to Q and Not U these days, it would be so good for the originators to come back and show how it’s done.

3. Beezewax

Beezewax have got to be the quintessential indie emo pop band. Each album had songs on that could compete with any other songs ever written as some of the best slices of pop perfection that you could find. And they felt like our band. I don’t know how many times they ended up playing in Margate/Canterbury but it seemed so many they may as well have been a local band instead of from Norway. Everyone in our scene had a soft spot for them. I don’t know what happened to Beezewax in the end but would love them to come visit us again. One listen to ‘The snooze is on’ or ‘Dead end kids’ and I could be instantly in a good mood that will last for the rest of the day.

2. Smart Went Crazy

Does anyone else still listen or ever listen to Smart Went Crazy? Their 2nd album, ‘Con Art’, was one of the albums that I listened to most when I was at college in the late 90’s. It’s so interesting, they sounded like no other DC band, or like any other band for that matter. More experimental than your average post hardcore band they included lo-fi musical interludes in between songs and brilliant use of cello throughout the record. Can’t resist some good cello use. All of which was surrounded by brilliant song after brilliant song, the epic 2 part ‘DC will do that to you’ sounds just as good today as it ever did. They showed so much promise but broke up not long after the release of ‘Con art’, the Dischord site states “internal disintegration’ as the reason. A damn shame.

1. Mineral

Mineral, it has to be Mineral!!

This band, on top of any other, is the band I would absolutely love to reform. The ultimate emo band for any self confessed emo boy/girl. ‘End serenading’ is perfect, it’s faultless. It would be heaven to see them play live, I can just imagine standing there with a few hundred other 30 somethings, tears streaming down our faces, our arms out like a scarecrow singing in unison.

Mineral have achieved an almost myth like status. They are the actual stuff of legend. The penultimate song from their second album, ‘&serenading’ could well be my favourite song of all time. It certainly has the best ending of any song, EVER. When the 2nd chorus finishes and the build up starts with the layered vocals, singing about the “sound of the driving snow, that drives me home to you”, it sends chills down my spine. Breathtaking. They were a genre defining band. If they ever decide to give it another go I would cross heaven and earth to be there front row, centre.

Who would you like to see make an overdue comeback? Or is there any band that should definitely never reform?

Let me know, and as always: cheers guys x

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