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IS THIS THING ON?’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 1 (No’s 20-11)

It definitely is that time of year again and you’re probably already sick of album of the year lists but here I am to give you what I consider to be the best records of 2013. This year it’s a top 20 for 2 reasons, 1 – there has been a LOT of great records this year and 2 – because I’ve been so slack at posting reviews this year I thought this would be a good way to catch up. So here goes:

20. Tancred – S/T

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I had no idea what to expect with this record, hadn’t heard anything before and hadn’t read anything about it but as soon as I pressed play I was an instant fan. Brilliant grungey indie rock in the style of Juliana Hatfield, with plenty of catchy songs and charm.

19. Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

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Always love it when a band with a great name also turn out to be a great band and Pity Sex are no exception. Shoegazey, poppy, punk rock with superb, dreamy, downbeat vocals is a pretty lazy description but it hits the nail on the head. I would’ve listened to this record more but every time I looked at a distro they’ve already sold out of their copies, damn hip kids with their pocket money taking all my records!!!!

18. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

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Touché Amoré are a band that just get better and better with every record they release. I have completely fallen in love with this new record, whilst being instantly recognisable as a Touché record it is also quite a departure to a more melodic and heartfelt sound. There’s still all the power and attack that you would want and expect but there’s also melodies and hook after hook. Very highly recommended listening.

17. Wild Moth – Over, Again

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Became aware of these guys through the SNCL mailing list, they came very highly recommended and they certainly live up to the expectation. Mixing brilliant post hardcore with indie sensibilities and the song writing ability of a band like The Cribs. (The first song really reminds me of The Cribs, which to me is high praise because I love The Cribs!). You’ll have this on repeat so definitely go and check this out.

16. Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore

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I’ve written loads about Dowsing in the past and the only reason I haven’t expressed love for this record on this blog already is because having four kids is so tiring and I just haven’t had time. I literally can’t go a blog post without writing lame excuses about why I’m so behind at updating this blog, I’m sorry. You know what to expect with a Dowsing record, you know the songs will be top notch and the melodies to be catchy as hell. This album requires a bit more work for the listener than the previous one but with work comes rewards. Check out the excellent title track ‘I don’t even care anymore’, sounds like a song that should be soundtracking the end credits of a 90’s teen movie, perfectly brilliant!!

15. Sed Non Satiata – Mappo

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This album is testament to the fact that taking recommendations from other blogs you love will pay off handsomely. First learned of this band through Cut and Paste and haven’t looked back since. Screamo/emo hardcore always sounds better in French, a brooding intensity blasts out of the speakers here, thrilling stuff!

14. State Faults – Resonate/Desperate

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This record hits the ground running and keeps the energy up to the last note. Much more focused and precise than the first album, this record is the ultimate record to throw yourself about like a lunatic too. Hopefully they’ll tour the UK in the next 12 months so I can see a whole room of people throwing themselves round like lunatics to this awesome screamo goodness.

13. Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness

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A lot of bands have adopted a huge grunge influence into their melodic punk rock, but not many bands have done it in the brilliantly lo-fi way that Placeholder have. I probably won’t ever grow tired of bands using the 90’s as a reference point especially when they’re making records as good as this one!

12. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

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BAND WITH MOST EMO NAME EVER LIVES UP TO THE HYPE BY RELEASING A GREAT RECORD, is the headline the tabloid press would run with if the world worked like it does in my head. Twinkly bits, post rock bits, synth melodies and everything else that is making the cynics, who have been put off by the band name, turn their noses up just makes me love this band more. I bought my ticket to see these guys in Brighton in April within seconds of seeing they were on sale and cannot wait to go!!!

11. Nai Harvest – Whatever

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I saw these guys play twice this year and both times they were on top form, even the time in the pub on Margate seafront at the height of summer when it was too hot for most in attendance to bother coming inside to watch the bands. Nai Harvest seemed to have been everywhere this year causing quite a stir amongst all the UK emos, they have become behemoths of the scene ready to conquer all with their overly catchy emo rock. Rumour has it their new stuff is leaning more towards lo-fi indie rock and that sounds pretty exciting to me, expect to see plenty more of Nai Harvest in 2014!!

The TOP 10 will be published in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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The Is this thing on? Top 10 Records of 2012

What a year 2012 has turned out to be. So much so that this list has proved to be near impossible to write, choosing the 10 best records of the year and then listing them in order of bestest has given me a headache. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good headache and I ain’t complaining. Last year I posted a top 10 and so I thought i would continue with this. My best friend paul who writes the Wallernotweller blog made the sensible choice of listing 15 records but I’m not that wise. So, 10 it is. Meaning that some bloody good records have ended up missing out on this list. Bands like Suis La Lune, Converge, Joyce Manor, The Cribs, Sport, Ape Up! and Dads have all produced some quality work and have only missed out on my top 10 by the slightest of margins. Annabel too, whose album ‘Youth in youth’ is packed with greatness and if it had come out earlier in the year it might have taken one of the top ten places. These are all very worthy but they can’t all be winners so on with the list..

10. You Blew It! – Grow Up Dude

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This is an album that just keeps on growing on me, I like it more every time I listen. The records perfectly understated production mixed with the heart and melody of the music make it hard not to love this album. The fact that bands are making music like this is the reason why I write this blog, if someone asks you if there really is a 90’s emo revival happening at the moment then play them ‘Grow up dude’ and they will have their answer. I’m sure I saw someone mention on something or other that You Blew It! might be coming to the UK in 2013, this needs to happen. In the meantime I’ll just make do with falling in love with this album some more.

9.  State Faults – Desolate Peaks

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My first listen to ‘Desolate Peaks’ was my first experience of State Faults and by heck it was a good one. I love it when you put something on completely without assumptions and end up being blown away. The record is powerful yet touching. It perfectly fills the void left by Pianos Become the Teeth not releasing an album this year. But of course State Faults are a lot more than just a lazy comparison and they are by far the heaviest, screamiest band on my list this year. Earlier in the year they were kind enough to answer some of my questions, click HERE to have a read.

8. Dowsing – It’s still pretty terrible

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This is a record that is full of charm and beautiful indie pop songs that warm the soul. I said in my review of this album a few months ago and I stick by it, this is the record The Get Up Kids were trying to make with ‘On a wire’ and failed. Dowsing however hit it spot on. Now I know for a fact that they are planning to tour the UK next year, this is one not to miss. These songs in a packed venue with a whole crowd singing along to every word is something I definitely wanna be a part of!!!

7. Basement – Colourmeinkindness

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This is a record that appeals to the teenager in me, the spotty kid in the early 90’s with long greasy hair who was proud to called a ‘grunger’ by every chav in Thanet. There are so many grunge influences on this record that it’s hard to keep up, Basement mix in their straight up melodic hardcore and what you have is an album that’s screaming out to breakthrough. If it does it’ll be too late though as Basement are no more which is more than a damn shame. Great record!

6. Glocca Morra – Just Married

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Glocca Morra are quite possibly my favourite band that I discovered this year. ‘just Married’ got a hefty few plays again and again this summer and listening to it now immediately reminds of that time. This is a perfect summer album because it’s just so much damn fun. If I was in to having house party’s and was wanting to get things happening then i would reach for this record, it would pretty much guarantee everyone a good time. Not only did Glocca Morra give us ‘Just Married’ this year, they followed it up with the equally amazing ‘An obscure moon lighting an obscure world’ EP. I hope they keep this momentum up and maybe next year they can claim my entire top ten!

It has come time to take a short break from this countdown and take a minute to remember the bands that we have lost this year. I mean, what awards show would be complete without a memorial montage and this Top 10 is no exception. So watch the video below and join me in some quiet reflection as we remember those that are gone.

5. Crash Of Rhinos – Distal

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Now, I know what you’re thinking, technically this record didn’t come out this year. It was first released in April of 2011 but it was re-released this year by Big Scary Monsters and this record is too good to be left out on a technicality. Plus who are you to say I can’t have them in my top 10, you’re not my mum! (mum if you’re reading this put the laptop down and back away, they’re in and that’s final). Crash of rhinos are almost too good, beautifully brilliant songs that last forever yet never outstay their welcome. With incredible vocals that seem to come from every member of the band and more bass players than bands that only have one bass player in them. They are touring in January with Raein which has ‘tour of the year’ written all over it already!!!

4. Prawn – Ships

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Shortly before getting this EP I went to see Prawn play live in Folkestone, the show was beset with technical problems so much so that they ended up only being able to play 4 songs. At the time I wasn’t bothered because I’d had a great night and Prawn were still fantastic. But after getting ‘Ships’ a few weeks later I was gutted that they couldn’t play all night. The songs that make up ‘Ships’ are so incredible that hearing them live would surely constitute one of the best gigs you’re likely to ever attend. Perfect emo like a poppier Appleseed Cast, love it!!

3. Title Fight – Floral Green

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Title Fight keep going from strength to strength and ‘Floral Green’ is their best record to date. Only a year after releasing their first studio album ‘Shed’ they released a record that was not only brilliant but also showed they had made great leaps forward in terms of sound and maturity. The dreamy, shoegaze magic of ‘Head in the ceiling fan’ showed a new side to Title Fight and ‘Secret Society’ proved that Title Fight can write catchy, instantly likeable grunge songs as well as anyone. Another essential record.

2. Dikembe – Broad Shoulders

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Dikembe are one of the best bands you’re ever likely to hear, following up the massive potential shown on last years ep ‘Chicago Bowls’ with a near perfect record of beautiful, mid paced emo. My heart melts at the first sound of Steven Gray’s voice and the guitar sound they have only heightens this sensation. I can see this album/band coming to define this current wave of emo tagged music, in a few years we’ll be looking back at it with the same fondness that we look back at, for example, ’30 degrees everywhere’ by the Promise Ring it’s that good. In any normal year it would easily win my album of the year top spot and they were only very narrowly beaten this year by…….

1. Joie De Vivre – We’re all better than this

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This years first prize just has to go to Joie De Vivre with ‘We’re all better than this’ an album which I’ve very rarely not been listening to since it came out in the summer. Having split up it is unfathomable that this record could never have been made and I am so grateful that they gave it another shot. Seeing them play this summer in Brighton is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, a brilliantly uplifting experience. Which is like what you get every time your hear ‘We’re all better than this’. An album that both boasts the best use of trumpets all year and the amazingly lovely backing vocals from Lindsay Minton (Football, etc) cannot fail to impress. A beautiful, beautiful record, well done, FIRST PRIZE!!!

Well, there you go. 2013 is already shaping up to be another incredible year that is promising new albums from Tigers Jaw, Football etc, Daylight, The Reptilian, Appleseed Cast, Jimmy Eat World and many more. I literally cannot wait. In the meantime thanks for reading and have yourself a very merry christmas xx

I’ve made an Is this thing on? best of 2012 playlist on Spotify if that’s your kind of thing, click the link below x

Is This thing on? best of 2012

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Review Plus Interview!!: State Faults – Desolate Peaks

Band – State Faults

Album – Desolate Peaks

Label – Tiny Engines

I imagine, anyone that writes reviews of music will have a different process by which they work by. Because this blog is quite specific to the type of music it covers, a lot of the music I get to review is something I’m very excited to listen to. Therefore, I like to give each new release about a week of listening and appreciation before I commit pen to paper, not that pens or paper are used in the creation of these blog posts but you get my drift. Sometimes though I need a little bit longer. In the case of State Faults debut record, ‘Desolate Peaks’, I received this just over a month ago and only now do I feel ready to write this.

State Faults hail from Santa Rosa, California, ‘Desolate Peaks’ is their debut full length album following on from their 2010 EP ‘Head in the clouds’ and is being released on the consistent and fantastic label, Tiny Engines. A fair amount of buzz for this band had been noticed by myself on various social media platforms, so it was with eager anticipation that I first played the record. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The record opens with ‘Sleepwalker’ and with it the sound of birdsong, quickly accompanied by a sweet guitar melody lulling you in to it’s warm sound. The, almost choir-like, backing vocals that follow build atmosphere with help from some huge sounding drums. Just when you start to wonder where State Faults are going with this, the piercing screamed vocals slice through like a bolt from the blue and with this you see a showcase of what State Faults will offer on the next 11 tracks. Juxtaposing often tender melody with the heaviness of the sound and extreme desperation of the main vocal. State Faults pack a lot of power into their music, raw energy and emotion which really engage the listener. You do, kind of, feel exhausted together with the band by the end of the 11 songs.

It’s hard to put a label on a band, especially when the use of a term like ‘screamo’ or ’emotional hardcore’ can be frowned upon and off putting to some. State Faults are certainly one of a few bands who are bringing a credibilty back to the term. Playing this type of music as it should be played, where the songs are equally compelling at their quietest as they are at their heaviest, like Funeral Diner did or Pianos Become The Teeth do. ‘Hallways’ is a good example of this, it’s full of hooks and melody backed up by their intense power. Other standout songs include the superb ‘Arrowhead’, ‘Wayfarer’ which starts off as a hardcore blast and finishes in a minimal post rock way and the last song ‘Skeletons’ which is a perfectly emotional end to what is a really great record.

It has taken me this long to write this review because, sometimes, when I review an album and move on to the next one to write about it can fell like i’m letting that album go. It may sound dumb, but I didn’t want to let ‘Desolate Peaks’ go and I still don’t. I’m sure this album will stay with me for a long time, It is definitely one of my favourite records of the year so far.

You can download/stream ‘Desolate Peaks’ at the Tiny Engines bandcamp page, click HERE to go there. I urge you to do so.

State Faults were also kind enough to answer some questions the Is This Thing On? had for them to give some background to the band and the record. Enjoy:

Is this thing on?: Desolate Peaks is coming out on tiny engines, how did working with those guys come about?

State Faults: Will Miller is one of the guys who runs Tiny Engines along with Chuck Daley and Will was the one who hit us up about working with them. He used to run a music blog called Sound As Language and I guess he managed to come across our EP Head In The Clouds and liked it enough to ask us if we were interested in having TE release a record for us. We sent them a bunch of demos of songs we had been writing which they were really into so they decided to make things official. They’re pretty rad dudes! Considering they had never even met us or seen us play before they hit us up is kinda crazy! They really put a lot of faith in us and we’re totally grateful for it. Hopefully this record made them proud.
How long did it take you to write/record the album?
We started writing for the album pretty much right after we put out Head In The Clouds. So from late 2010 through the summer of 11. By the time Will got in contact with us, we had about 4 or 5 songs written and a few skeletons of what would eventually become songs. Once we finished those and officially started recording for the album, the process took about a week. We set up a little recording/drum booth in Chip’s brother’s spare bedroom and had our firepod hooked up to our computer in the living room. We pretty much did everything from there. It was a lot of fun! It was our first legit DIY experiment as a full band. Mixing and mastering took a couple months afterwards
Desolate Peaks is quite a bleak record, does this reflect how you see things at the moment?
I wouldn’t say so. Jonny definitely writes his lyrics from a very personal place but as far as our general outlook on life goes, we’re a really positive bunch. Believe it or not, a good chunk of our material comes from a very positive place as well. I think what’s fun about playing a more bleak and aggressive style of music is being able to channel all of the frustration, sadness or whatever else is bothering us into the songs we write so that when we finish a set, we can let go of that weight and focus on all of the wonderful aspects of life that we sometimes take for granted. A good deal of the lyrics also come from different things we’ve learned about each other as a band. Finding opportunities to work together to reach our individual goals, even when times get tough and when going it alone seems easier. We’re all best friends and being able to experience everything that comes with being in a band really helped give life to the album. So for me it’s a very positive record. Very therapeutic.
You’ve been compared to Thursday and Pianos become the teeth, who do you count as influences on this record?
Pianos and Thursday are two of our favorite bands so even being mentioned in the same sentence with them is very humbling! But we also draw a lot of inspiration from bands like As Cities Burn, Thrice, Trophy Scars, Suis La Lune and even more indie/rock bands like mewithoutYou, Copeland, The New Trust, Radiohead and Not To Reason Why. And of course, Michael is and will forever be a huge Depeche Mode fan and he and Jonny both enjoy a lot of classic rock/metal. We just love listening to all kinds of music and absorbing whatever we can from it. Being new and different as cool, but art wouldn’t exist without other art to inspire it.
What is your local scene like at the moment? Do you feel part of it? Do you think it’s changed much in the last few years?
With bands like The Velvet Teen and Ceremony coming out of our area and making such a big name for themselves internationally, it can definitely make you feel incredibly small. But the local scene is currently going through a major rebirth and it’s very cool to watch! Not To Reason Why, No Sir and Strike To Survive are some awesome bands that are doing great work and it’s inspiring as hell to watch. We just feel incredibly blessed to be such good friends with all of them. Hopefully we can help bring some more attention to the north bay.
What new bands can you recommend to people who love your album?
All of the bands we mentioned before are incredible! Also our best buds in Ruptures from the LA area. They are one of the most hardworking bands we know and they make incredibly powerful music. Check out their song Junebloom. Insane.
Will you be touring the Uk and Europe at any point in the future?
We hope so! Tackling the West Coast is on our agenda right now. The rest of the US is next. Then Europe (fingers crossed)!
Thanks for reading, feel free to share and comment etc.. of come bother me on twitter (@alextb3). More reviews and interviews coming very soon x
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