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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: TIGERS JAW – CHARMER

Band – Tigers Jaw

Album – Charmer

Label – Run For Cover Records

I don’t know if you can describe being woken up early against your will by one of your many children as having any benefits, but one of the benefits (If you can call it that) is that you sometimes find out about if something important has happened overnight ahead of time. Given the choice of lying in bed asleep or the chance to listen to the new Tigers Jaw record I can tell you what I would easily choose without hesitation. So my initial annoyance that my daughter, Indigo, was shouting at me to get up at 6am has been replaced with complete gratitude that I now get to sit here listening to ‘Charmer’, while little Indi tries to figure out how to walk, (she just turned 1 by the way).

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The reason a download code for this record was there to greet my bleary eyes this morning was because someone had leaked an inferior version of the album online. Bands these days generally don’t care about illegal downloads and file sharing, instead accepting that as just the norm nowadays, but if you’ve put a ton of effort in to making a new record and then someone leaks an incomplete version of it that doesn’t sound the way you intended, that’s gotta piss you off. Reacting in the best way possible, Tigers Jaw and Run For Cover made the record immediately available on bandcamp to download for $5 and sent out codes to everyone who had pre-ordered the record. I had pre-ordered, of course I had, this is the most highly anticipated record of 2014 and I may have only had one listen through at the point of this paragraph but I can tell you that it doesn’t disappoint.

Tigers Jaw have had a weird couple of years with members leaving, uncertainty about the band’s future and a bizarre mini online backlash when it was confirmed that they were going to continue as a two piece. I couldn’t understand why some people had seemed so upset when they assumed the band had broken up to then being outraged that they were going to continue. I was so happy to hear that Tigers Jaw was staying put and a new album was on its way and so were my whole family. Out of all the bands that I’ve forced my children to listen to by way of having control of the car stereo on long journeys, Tigers Jaw are the one band we can all completely agree on. On the rare occasion that I give them any choice in what we listen to Tigers Jaw are their first choice, 3 of my 4 kids know all the words to their songs and Indigo, being 1, just likes to have a little shimmy in her car seat. I can’t wait for them to hear this because I know they’ll love it. Tigers Jaw, although now a two piece, recorded ‘Charmer’ with all 5 members and it stands proudly with their other full lengths as an instant indie, emo classic.

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‘Charmer’ leaps in to life with ‘Cool’, the unmistakable downbeat pop brilliance that you’ve come to expect from this band is here in all its glory. One song in and you’re already excited with the knowledge that you’re going to love this album. Tigers Jaw are one of the few bands of the last few years labelled as emo that have an original sound, immediately recognisable as their own. Instead of just throwing back to the great bands of the 90s, Tigers Jaw in their own little way push things forward. Superbly sombre, insanely catchy and just downright beautiful. Songs like the single ‘Hum’ and ‘Distress Signal’, which is my favourite Tigers Jaw song ever since it appeared on the ‘Mixed Signals’ comp a while back, totally set this band apart from the rest. Having been disappointed by a few releases that I assumed I was going to love this year, ‘Charmer’ goes a long way to restoring my faith in this genre.

I clearly have a lot more time to spend with ‘Charmer’ and I am extremely excited to do so, to have it on repeat and discover things about it that I may have missed on to start with but I can already tell you that this is love at first listen. This is a genuinely brilliant album, it has the potential to make the band even more huge than they are already and who could begrudge them that? They are the nicest people making near perfect indie rock. Other tracks that have leapt out at this early stage are the energetic ‘Nervous Kids’, the beautiful ‘Slow divide’ and the album closer ‘What would you do’ complete with Morrisey-esque vocals. Can’t wait to find out what will leap out next, go and download it now!!!

You can download ‘Charmer’ HERE

Thanks for reading. Come say hi, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or on twitter @alex_itto

 

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TIGERS JAW, CANTERBURY 02.08.2013

What an unbelievable week it has been, last Saturday I got to see Braid, Crash Of Rhinos, Football etc and Plaids at two separate back to back shows in London. I will write in-depth about how incredible that day was very soon but first I have to tell you about what happened last night in Canterbury.

I’ve never been to a ‘secret show’ before, I’ve certainly read about them happening but only after the event. I also never really understood how people found out about them, I always put it down to being in the right place at the right time. And that certainly is the case here. I found out that the show might happen about 6 days before as it was a very, very good (and awesome) friend of my wife and I, who is also very close friends of the band, who was putting it on. I surprised myself by keeping it a secret, when you get news like this the first instinct is to tell everyone who might even slightly care but I wanted to keep my word and also I didn’t want to jinx that fact that it might happen as it was still not a certainty until a couple of days before the show.

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The show was announced on the Thursday afternoon, the day before it was due to take place and the reaction was immense. Tigers Jaw mean a lot to a lot of people, earlier this year 3 of the members left the band throwing the whole future of the band up in the air but here they were, about to tour the UK and to kick it off were about to headline a show in a tiny practice studio in Canterbury with a capacity of 50 people. It was really exciting to spread the word and see the reaction the announcement was getting. Some people were in disbelief, some were busy changing plans just so they could get there and some seemed genuinely upset that they had no way of attending. On the walk up to the venue my excitement had reached fever pitch, I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening, had far too many people showed up? Were we gonna be left on the street and not allowed in? Had it all backfired and was no-one there?

The power of Tigers Jaw had pulled through, there was more people there than was first allowed but there was enough space to fit everyone in, the place was going to be packed but no-one was going to miss out. The atmosphere there when we first turned up was amazing, the weather was good, everyone was happy, friends were giving us hugs and the first band were already playing, this was really happening.

First up were Cascade, a new local band who made up for the lack of songs by playing what they had with heart and sincerity. This was their first gig, they are also lined up to play with Appleseed Cast in October, this band knows how to party. I only caught their last 2 songs but that was enough to get my interest up and they are certainly worth checking out. Click HERE to go to their bandcamp page!

Next up were local heroes Moose Blood. Everyone loves Moose Blood, how could you not?? Quality songs that are made for you to sing along to with both hands in the air. Things are really happening for this band, they had already supported Lemuria this week and you could see how excited they were to be here tonight. Their set was short but perfectly formed, they had the crowd singing along by the end and dealt well with the ever-increasing heat inside this tiny room. As the practice space is in a residential area the doors and windows had to be kept shut and the air conditioning could do nothing to battle the heat. Everyone was sweaty but we were all in the same boat so I don’t think anyone really cared. Plus one of the best bands in the world currently playing were about to come on so I was hardly about to start complaining.

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After Moose Blood finished most of the crowd did the sensible thing of leaving to get some much-needed fresh air, my wife Hannah and I decided to stay put and watch Tigers Jaw set up. The two remaining original members of the band are some of the nicest people you’re likely to meet, chatting and having a laugh with them then watching them set up makes you remember why you love this scene so much. Here was a band that my whole family (my kids fucking love this band) have listened to relentlessly for the last couple of years about to play live, right in front of us with no stage, barriers, security, arrogance, attitudes or anything like that. It was as if a friends band had come to play and add that to the already party like atmosphere there was no way we were about to be disappointed.

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We took our place at the very front, the room filled up and Tigers Jaw kicked off with ‘The Sun’, the first track from their legendary self-titled LP. They sounded huge, the remaining air in the venue was immediately taken up by the whole crowd shouting along to every word and it was HOT. You could put this down to it being the middle of summer, a tiny room packed with people and no open windows or doors but I’m going to put it down to Tigers Jaw being on fucking FIRE. As soon as they started I was reminded that this was obviously not a local friends band playing but instead a band worthy of the love and all the praise that people shower them with, they sounded perfect. Which is also amazing considering that this current touring line up had only played for the first time together the day before, they practiced on the Thursday and then for a short while on the Friday before the show but were playing together as if they had been doing it for years. The vacant spaces were being filled by two members of Basement and one from Sainthood Reps and although I’ve never been lucky enough to see Tigers Jaw before it did feel like life was being injected into their live show, every member looked so happy to be playing and that really came across to us in the audience.

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Second, they played on of my favourite Tigers Jaw songs, ‘Distress Signal’, and from here on you could see that it was going to be a kind of ‘greatest hits’ set. Playing a lot of songs from the two full length studio albums but also mixing in a couple of fan favourites from splits and comps and also a brand new song. Yes, that’s right, a BRAND NEW SONG and as vocalist/guitar hero Ben Walsh stated before they played it that it would be from their BRAND NEW ALBUM which will come out at some point soon. This is the best news to hear for people like me who had assumed that the band would be no more after this tour. On first listen to the new song that it’s clear that the new album will be classic Tigers Jaw and it really can’t come out soon enough.

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This is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, every song was killer, Ben and Brianna’s voices sounded beautiful and the music was loud, just like the crowds vocals that were being hollered back at the band. The band took a short break towards the end of the set to replace a broken snare drum and most of those in attendance took the opportunity to head outside and cool down. After this short break Tigers Jaw finished an incredible night with ‘Plane vs Tank vs Submarine’ followed quickly with ‘I Saw Water’ and the brief fresh air seemed to rejuvenate the crowds voice as they sang along louder than they had all evening. It was a perfect ending to a completely perfect show.

Tigers Jaw are a really special band and they mean a lot to my family. My youngest son Thurston has severe autism with a speech disorder among other physical disabilities, when it came time to send him to school the infant school Thurston’s 2 older brothers had attended told us in no uncertain terms that they would not be able to cope with him going there. As such, we had to find somewhere else for him get his education and this also meant that he wouldn’t be able to walk with his brothers on the school run. Instead I would have to drive him to his school and it was during these times that he started to really fall in love with Tigers Jaw’s music. Obviously I always play music in the car but Thurston started making it known that there was only one band he’d let me put on. First he called them ‘wooo-ooooo-ooooh’, I figured out what this meant when I would catch him singing to himself in the evening and realised he knew all the words to ‘Never saw it coming’ and his favourite part was the woo-ooo bit. This soon turned into him shouting ‘LIE TO ME’ every time I started the car’s engine up and then I’d see him the rear view mirror singing every word to ‘I saw water’ and ‘Chemicals’ too. He’s never done this any of the other bands I’ve ever played him, there is just something about Tigers Jaw that makes him happy. On Wednesday this week we got to spend some time with Brianna from the band. I don’t think Thurston really put the 2 and 2 together to understand that she was from the band but all the same seemed very fond. Below is a photo of the 2 of them on Margate beach and a video of him singing ‘Never saw it coming’ in his beautiful little voice.

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Thanks so much for reading. Come say hi on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog and twitter @alex_itto

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Q & A WITH MOOSE BLOOD

The UK is full of some incredible new bands playing the kind of music I love to write about but one band seems to be creating the biggest amount of buzz recently. Moose Blood come from my neck of the woods and play bright, poppy indiemo and I thought now would be a good time to do a quick Q&A with the band before they get too big to answer emails from dumb blogs like this one. Eddy from the band was kind enough to answer some questions, here’s the results:
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Is this thing on? –  Quick obvious question to begin with; When/How did the band form? Have you known each other long, were you in previous bands together etc…?
Eddy – The band started with me messing around with some demos after moving back home with my folks. After I had a few songs finished, I got in touch with the rest of the boys to make it a full band. We had all played in bands together in the past so it came together pretty easily.
ITTO – You come from Canterbury, which was famous for its Hardcore scene some years ago. What is it like now? Would you say there is much of a scene?
Eddy – I’m not too sure about Canterbury so much, but there are some fantastic bands around Kent at the moment. And with people like Jay from FITA putting on so many great shows, I am sure things will pick up again.
 
ITTO –  On your song ‘Carbis Bay’ you name check American Football and Dashboard, what other bands are the biggest influences on the band? (That song, ‘Carbis Bay’, reminds me of ‘Very Emergency’ era Promise Ring btw)
Eddy – There are so many.. We all love Brand New, Tigers Jaw, Will Smith. I could carry on all day.
 ITTO – With the internet now you can build a fan base without leaving the house but you seem to be gigging a lot and on a very regular basis, have you found that you have to still have this ‘old school’ approach if you want to make anything of your band?
Eddy – I think that without the Internet we wouldn’t be anywhere. But yeah, we love playing shows. It’s always great to catch up with friends, watch new bands and play in front of a bunch of new people.
ITTO – There has much written about you guys being the next big thing. Are you aware of this? Has this affected the band or yourselves in any way? Or is it something you can just take with a bit of salt and get on with it?
Eddy – We have read a few little bits. Things like that are crazy to us, we are just a bunch of friends that play music together. It means the world to us that people like our record so much, but we are just going to take it day by day.
ITTO – What better time to be in an emo band than right now, what current bands (both locally and not so locally) are you in to right now?
Eddy – As I said before, there are so many. From around Kent there are bands like Coastline, Chewing Gum and The Reason I Failed History. And the new Daylight record is fantastic.
 
ITTO – Speaking of emo, it used to be a cardinal sin to label a band an emo band. Are you happy to be described that way?
Eddy – We are more than happy to be called an emo band. Emo is a gang after all.
ITTO – You have a new single out, what else is next for Moose Blood?
Eddy – Well the single is out at the end of this month, and then we are just going to be writing for the record. We have a few tours lined up in the summer that we are pretty excited about. And it’s looking like a couple more release before the end of the year too.
ITTO – And finally, (a question I for some reason feel the need to ask every band), if you could’ve been in any band from the 90s, who would it be and why?
Eddy – I would have loved to have been in Jimmy Eat World when they wrote Clarity. That record is incredible and to be a part of that would have been amazing. Cheers
ITTO – Thanks dude
Thanks for reading, come say hi on facebook – www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter – @alex_itto
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