Tag Archives: topshelf records

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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TheLastWordIsRejoice: A Tribute To Mineral

You can’t possibly have missed the fact that Mineral are BACK and playing live again. Even though I bought my first Mineral album 15 years ago, I, like many other fans desperately excited to see them play live, had gotten into them when it was too late. They had already broken up by that point. In 1999 I completely fell in love with Mineral. I took the train on my own to London at some time that year with a weeks wages in my pocket with the sole purpose to find CDs I couldn’t find locally, I found ‘EndSerenading’ in the alternative section of Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. I had heard of them but had never actually heard them, that was until the train ride home when I unwrapped the case, put the cd in my discman, put my headphones on, pressed play and shut my eyes. I was totally sold from the first note plucked on the guitar. ‘EndSerenading’ became one of my favourite records of all time, with ‘&Serenading’ my favourite song. It was hard, at the time, to find out much information about the band, the cover sleeve gave nothing away and I was gutted to find out from friends that they had split up already.
At the age of 19 I never would have believed you if you had told me that at age 34 I would have tickets to see them play, and yet here I am aged 34 with tickets to see them play live twice next February (February!! How perfect is that?) when they come to the UK for the first time ever.

I wanted to do something on the blog as a tribute to this legendary band and try and share with them the outpouring of love that has emanated since their reunion. This is a collection of writing containing the memories and feelings towards the band from friends, fellow blog writers, musicians and label owners.

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Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo)

I was introduced to Mineral thanks to a giveaway bin at the college radio station my freshman year. My first week I had signed up for a show and went to hang with the music director to find out what he was into and talk about the hardcore show I wanted to do. During that meeting, there was a box in his office that was labeled for giveaway. I caught out of the corner of my eye “Static Prevails” on vinyl and perked up to ask if I could pick through it. He said, by all means, that stuff was going to be given out at the next radio station meeting. In that box, among a treasure trove of emo goodness, was the first Mineral album. I was floored by this album and still are to this day. I never saw the band as I missed a show they played near my college by a month or two back when message boards and flyers were the way to promote a show. This band always left before saying goodbye and now we’re lucky enough to be around to see this band come back and play for those that never got to see them. Mineral may have been typecast into the emo genre, but if it’s a band people mention every time, I won’t be mad. They’re the true definition of the loud/soft, heartfelt and loud sound I miss when most of the “emo revival” is derived from the midwest. Mineral’s impact and influence will still be intact regardless of this tour and what’s next. It’s right for them to reform, so it should be right for us to show respect to a band that for many thought would never reunite. For myself, I’ll be screaming along right next to you and smiling every second.

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Oliver Craven (Crash Of Rhinos)

I’m not usually the guy from our band that does this sort of thing, but when asked to write a few words about Mineral I felt I had to. Through my teens, twenties and now into my thirties, they probably mean more to me now than even then.

A lot of people have come and gone in the time since I first heard Mineral. Family, friends, girlfriends, bands.
leaving school in 1999 and wanting to do nothing else except smash the fuck out of a drum kit and skate, I ended up meeting like-minded people through record shops and rock clubs.
I’m still close friends with most of these people now. Four of them were in Crash of Rhinos. It didn’t seem to matter back then that none of us really gave a shit about much else except jamming and skating. There’s a sense of freedom from that age that you don’t really get again. Mineral was the soundtrack to pretty much all of it.

Times like that are rare, bands like Mineral are rare, and kinda should be.
Makes it all the better.

A lot of those people will be back together for the first time in a long time the night Mineral play Nottingham in February. We’ve all changed a fair bit over the years, but I’m pretty confident as soon as Scott McCarver plugs in and the feedback starts wailing, it’s not gonna seem like it.

Favourite song then: A Letter
Favourite song now: A Letter

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Lindsay Minton (Football, Etc)

I’m not totally sure, but I think I found out about Mineral on a message board the summer before I started high school. The song “Slower” became my anthem of the next 4 years. I somehow managed to put Zookeeper on in a basement in New Brunswick in 2007. Not only was Chris Simpson in the room, but also Kyle Fischer from Rainer Maria (playing lapsteel in the band Balthrop, Alabama). What an impact playing a show with my two biggest influences was for me…
Last Friday, I saw Mineral play their first show in 16 years. It was a smallish venue (capacity at 180). It’s kind of hard to describe it– but it was perfect. A bunch of mid-twenty to thirty-somethings standing around with their arms crossed, singing along to themselves. Hearing Mineral come from the stage, instead of the various sets of speakers and headphones I have heard them from over the years was absolutely refreshing. It was something my 14-year-old self never thought I’d be able to experience.

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Glen Bushell (Punktastic)

I was a bit of a latecomer to Mineral if I’m honest. I only cared about punk, grunge and metal pre-2000, until I saw At The Drive-In at Reading 2000 and it changed my life forever and opened my world up to a whole new area of music. After that I started to go to emo and hardcore shows in Margate and Canterbury, and I picked up the Mineral/Jimmy Eat World/Sense field split because I had just started getting into Jimmy Eat World, and I really enjoyed Mineral’s cover of Crazy. I picked up Endserenading after that, and it blew my mind. It was raw, impassioned, and very honest. It embodied every feeling I was going through turning from a teenager into an adult. From then on I forever compared every emo band to them, and even now in my 30’s when I need to find solace in a record, Endserenading, and also Power Of Failing are still my go to records. Finally getting to see them in the UK next year will be the end result of 15 years waiting and wishing to see them, and I’ll be honest, I may shed a tear or two with no shame during Walking To Winter, which is still my favourite song.

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Frank Turner (Kneejerk/Million Dead/Mongol Horde/Frank turner)

I first heard Mineral rifling through a friend’s record collection in 1998 or so, about a year after they broke up. I fell in love pretty quickly, and they became one of my foundational bands musically – I think I subconsciously still try to write and sing like Chris, and the production is pretty perfect for me as well. When I found out they were reuniting this year I lost my mind, booked my flights, and ended up playing an opening slot at the Brooklyn show, which was a dream come true.

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Ray Harkins (100 words or less podcast)

My exposure to Mineral was a complete blur. When you are 16 years old and shoving a bunch of music in your head, it’s hard to discern exactly when/where you heard something but Mineral immediately stuck out. I had begun the process of accepting that “non-screaming” music was okay and I was allowed to listen to it after my initial punk & hardcore blitzkrieg. “Gloria” was placed on the stereo by the guitarist of my band at the time and it was loud, fast but had these things that I later called “dynamics” that I wasn’t used to. It felt good to have a moment to reflect on the song, while it was still going on. This was 1996 and ever since that small exposure, Mineral loomed large in my life. I do remember that I specifically ordered the LP because I had HEARD that it included a lyric sheet (which the CD version did not). I was ecstatic to receive the LP (before I was a full fledged collector) and poured over the lyrics all night. Long live Mineral.

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Paul Waller (OHHMS)

I don’t remember how I came across Mineral but I do know that I was listening to Sunny Day Real Estate, Boy Sets Fire and the UK’s very own Sunfactor and Spy Vs Spy before I got wind of them. Somewhere along a very fuzzy line I had bought ‘End Serenading’ and just fell in love with it straight away. My initial reaction was that I really dug the vocals. It was slow to mid paced pop music with this askew melancholic edge that kept pulling me in. But that voice, this guy was so obviously upset about something… I don’t know his name and I don’t need to but that singer guy, he was the real deal, he had almost as great a voice as Jeremy Enigk from SDRE but there was far more passion in the vocal delivery. I wanted to give him a cuddle.

A big plus with ‘End Serenading’ was that the bass lines were pretty easy to learn. I remember spending a night on my own figuring out each song track by track until I could play all of side one and then doing the same for the flip side. Don’t know why I did that. I’m not a bass player, but if I could do it then anyone could.

Every now and again somebody asks me what I think of their first album? They say it’s better, harder, even more emo. Well, I do have a copy of it but I never listen to it. The front cover is so awful that I refuse to give it a chance. If a band is going to take so little care about the way in which they present a record then I dread to think what the actual music is like.

‘End Serenading’ is the only emo album I still regularly listen to.

I can’t wait to see them play some of it live next year.

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Lewie Peckham (Bearded magazine/Is this thing on?)

I first heard Mineral through a Pop Unknown track on the second Emo Diaries compilation ‘A Million Miles Away’ (those titles) in ’98 and the sombre pace of ‘Writing it Down For You’ reminded me of Red House Painters (A favourite at the time and pretty much still to this day). I saw that Pop Unknown had ‘Ex-members of Mineral’ printed in the little catalog you got with every Deep Elm release and took a chance on a mail ordered copy of The Power of Falling and was hooked from the opening notes of ‘Five, Eight and Ten’ and by the time ‘Parking Lot’ faded out in a screech of feedback i was a devoted wreck and i still am 16 years later.

I can never listen to Mineral in the summer. Much like American Football I know when to break out The Power of Falling and EndSerenading and it’s not during July and august, save that for Something to Write Home About and Clarity. When that first hint of autumn hits you, be it a slight chill in the air that stays there all day or a walk through a park with its grass obscured by fallen brown leaves. That’s when you can find Mineral filling my ears, their songs tightly held in place by my headphones and just for me only, an exclusive club for one.

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Kristy Diaz (www.recordnotcommodity.co.uk)

When The Power of Failing was recorded in 1995, I lived in Austin, TX. Just 11 miles away from Music Lane Recording Studios, in fact. However, the first time I heard that record, like many Mineral fans I imagine, was around 10 years after its release. I mean, it’s probably for the best, I wouldn’t have ‘got’ it when I was 8. My main concern was looking for snakes in the front yard.
I don’t recall anyone introducing me to them, but I was listening to a lot of Sunny Day Real Estate that year so I guess it was just association. I have a bias toward the urgency and imperfection that comes with a band’s first record, so whilst EndSerenading was great in its own right, The Power of Failing was, and still is, my favourite. In terms of highlights, it would be hard not to mention the guitars in If I Could and the intro to Take The Picture Now, but, perhaps predictably, Gloria always stood out.
To be a dick and choose a song that they didn’t actually write as a favourite, I was always super into their cover of Crazy, from the split 7” with Jimmy Eat World and Sense Field. The guitars are interchangeably gorgeous and infuriating, but mostly I love it because it’s a bit silly, too.

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Kevin Duquette (Topshelf Records)

My earliest Mineral-related memory is having a bunch of records recommended to me after I had just recently discovered toe, Pele, Jimmy Eat World and American Football in high school. Mineral was in that bunch and I never quite made it to listening to it because — as a designer — I thought the album cover art was pretty awful (“The Power of Failing”) and chose to try many of the others first, eventually forgetting that one altogether. I went on a road trip that summer and a friend was DJing from the passenger seat, playing their albums over the car speakers. I eventually asked what it was we were listening to and realized I’d overlooked a pretty important band. I quickly remedied that when we got home.

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Morten Andre Samdal (Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson)

I grew up being a skatepunkdude in the mid 90s (still am!), and me and my friends had this band. While the others listened to mostly fast punkrock, I looked for something a bit different. I tried my way through britpop, grunge and some other straight forward rock bands, but nothing really hit as hard as the fast paced melodic punkrock I loved. Not until I bought a bunch of records, with bands like Hot Water Music, Mineral, Alkaline Trio, Christie Front Drive and Jimmy Eat World, if I remember it correctly. Mineral was life changing. The record I first got was The Power of failing, and it hit me in the guts. The tender melodies wrapped in distorted raw guitars, and the way Chris Simpson dragged the words much longer than I ever thought was possible – I’d never heard anything like it. I got the other guys in the band to give it a listen, but they just laughed and said it was music for pussies. Not long after my band parted ways, and I started an emo-band. Mostly because of Mineral, I guess!
While bands like JEW, HWM and Alkaline Trio just got worse and worse over the years, Mineral and CFD were smart and disbanded, like a real emo band should do 😉 To this day, these two are my favourite 2nd generation emo bands, and I still listen to them regularly. I am so coming to London in February (hope they play that song).

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James Benwell (Fan)

I found Mineral through The Gloria Record and I found TGR through the guy working downstairs at Tempest Records (R.I.P) in Birmingham. It’s been a 15 year love affair that hasn’t faded. The rawness of The Power of Failing still sounds as visceral as ever and EndSerenading became the soundtrack to my winter nights, and made me wish it was winter the rest of the year round.
They’ve always touched a chord lyrically. Stories of love, the beauty in the world around us, and then songs like MD, perhaps a precursor to the likes of the latest Empire! Empire! album; so personal, so simple, yet so heart wrenchingly beautiful when told over a soundtrack that can make you feel like you want to tell everyone you know that you love them, or to fall in love just so you can find some words of your own.
I never thanked the guy at Tempest, I wish that I had. He’s the reason that I’m not deaf at 31 to the sound of the greatest band that i’ll ever got to hear.

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Gary Sleith (Good post day records)

I first heard Mineral thanks to the (Don’t Forget To) Breathe compilation CD. I bought it from Amazon, and at the time I was heavily into a few of the bands on it, bands like Promise Ring, Knapsack, Hot Water Music & Fireside, but I had never heard of Mineral. For me, their track on the record, ‘Rubber Legs’ was a real Jerry Maguire ‘You had me at hello’ moment…5 seconds in I was hooked and by the time Chris Simpson sings “your boy is all alone tonight but i will never forget how you taught me to stand on these rubber legs and fight.” at the end I was head over heels. I bought EndSerenading online immediately and connected with it in a way that I had only done with one record up to that point; Clarity. My favourite song on it initially was ForIvadell but when I listen to it today, I’m always blown away by &Serenading(probably the influence of Alex!) but if I had to pick a favourite Mineral song, I would have to go with ‘February’ from their self-titled 7”. For me, that track perfectly encapsulates Mineral despite being perhaps one of their, for want of a better word, “heavier” tracks and to this day I use it as a benchmark for truly great emo music, up there with songs like ‘E. Texas Avenue’ ‘For Me This Is Heaven’ & ‘Never Meant’

Thank you so much for reading xx

Contact us: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com, twitter @alex_itto @BonersaurJR

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REVIEW: EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE) – YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE FORGOTTEN

Band – Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

Album – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Label – Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf Records

The first two songs of ‘You will eventually be forgotten’, the second full length album by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), each tell the story of how both the members of the band were separately involved in near fatal car accidents. Thankfully they lived to tell the tale but imagine for a second if things had turned out differently. Keith and Cathy Latinen, the husband and wife duo that make up Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), are more responsible than most, both as this band and as owners of the Count Your Lucky Stars record label, for reigniting the fire in this once almost forgotten genre. Their tireless output, with their own bands countless splits/e.p’s & debut full length and the consistently brilliant records their label has released, has brought a lot of credibility to the current wave of emo, making it as popular as it is today. Without these two would I even be listening to any albums recorded after 2002?

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Which segues nicely into giving a nod to the guest vocalists that are featured on this record. One of the biggest bonuses from bands playing this type of music again is proving to some of the legendary bands from back in the day there is still a loyal, devoted audience out there for them. You can’t have missed that Mineral are about to embark on a massive reunion tour and I hope you haven’t missed that Braid have come back this year with an incredible new record. Both Bob Nanna of Braid and Chris Simpson of Mineral make an appearance here and with these comes a sense of triumphant togetherness. We die-hard emo fans have found each other and our reward? One hell of a beautiful new record by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate).

The weather is changing, it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in, autumn is coming. And what an album ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is to soundtrack this change in seasons. I always feel reflective at this time of year which has made me feel an instant connection with this record. The autobiographical nature of Keith Latinen’s lyrics, telling coming of age stories from his youth as well as asking questions about his own mortality really speak out to me as someone who, ever since turning 30, has started to question everything in life, constantly looking back at big turning points in my life wondering what could have been. All 11 songs here take on a linear approach, eschewing familiar verse/chorus/verse structures and preferring to take the listener on a journey propelled by the powerful story telling of the lyrics. Poetic tales of love, friendship, youth and companionship are told with such an attention to detail that I know feel, after numerous repeat listens, that I really know both members of the band personally. The album is the musical equivalent of those magical nights at the start of a relationship when you stay up all night talking to someone and in the morning you feel like you’ve known the person all your life.

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The lyrics to each song had been posted online in the weeks leading up to the album’s release, being a musician I normally find it takes me time to find a connection to the lyrical content of a song, usually long after I’ve fallen in love with the music. But in this case, the lyrics are strong enough to stand alone without already knowing the melody as a piece of work in their own right. So it was really nice to get to know the songs before actually being able to listen to them. Don’t let me take anything away from the music though, because musically Empire! Empire! are as strong here as anything they have ever released before. Gorgeous guitar tones and big thick drums compliment the vocals throughout, clearly the whole production here has been meticulously worked out with the band knowing when to hold back and when to let the feedback take over for added drama. Echoes of Sunny Day Real Estate’s ‘How it feels to be something on’ and Appleseed Cast, mixed in with Empire! Empire!’s own inimitable style make this a record to truly behold.

With the many songs Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have put out in the 5 years since their last full length, it would’ve been really easy for them to cobble together enough for a follow-up album. I’m really happy they have waited until they had the time to commit to making something completely new with the sole focus of making a new record. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a concept album of sorts, using moments in their lives to ask big questions about life and what is the real point of it all. Keith Latinen has experienced near death but not had any great epiphanies about what it all means (“My life did not flash before my eyes”), he has witnessed two people who, after a lifetime of devotion to each other, became so entwined that they passed away at the same time, even though they died 2 years apart (“It took 2 whole years to convince his body”) and is left to wonder if what he is doing is really worth it.

How do we ever know that? We can always look back, and consider what would have happened if we had done things differently but it won’t make any difference. As long as we do what we think is the right thing to do in the present tense then there shouldn’t be any regrets. There is a lot of love on display here for each other and the vast amount of love about to be showered on these two after the release of this perfectly amazing album should at least let them know that they are currently doing everything completely right.

Please don’t hesitate to listen to this truly INCREDIBLE record!!

You can stream/download/order the record HERE

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This is me with Keith and Cathy after their amazing set in Brighton, November 2012

Thanks for reading. xx

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

 

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REVIEW: Braid – No Coast

Band – Braid

Album – No Coast

Label – Topshelf Records

Last year on my birthday I got to see Braid play live for the first time ever. Today I wore the Braid t-shirt I bought at that show but had no idea that when I had randomly got it out of the drawer to wear for the day that this would be the day I would get to hear Braid’s brand new album, their first studio album in 16 years. It’s weird, a lot of bands have reformed in the last few years, some of which you are willing them to make new music and some you just wish they’d stick to playing the old stuff. Braid broke up at the peak of their career, they had just released the classic, genre defining album ‘Frame & Canvas’ and had barely had chance to bask in the adulation that creating such a masterpiece would reward them with before they went their separate ways. ‘Frame and canvas’ deserved a follow-up record and not just compilation albums, Hey Mercedes certainly did well to fill the void that Braid left but it was never quite the same so thank goodness Braid decided to give it another go and let us be even more thankful that the new album is really, really good.

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If you’ve ever wanted Braid to make a new album then ‘No Coast’ is definitely the album you were looking for, it’s Braid all over. It ticks all the boxes that you had in your head when you were thinking what a new Braid album should be like. Big riffs, check. Brilliant duel vocals, check. Huge sound, check. And plenty more besides. The only real surprise with this record is how fresh it sounds. 90s emo bands have been referenced to death over the last few years, so much so that if you see a new band listing American Football as their main influence it starts to put you off. But no one has come close to emulating Braid meaning that the trademark big emo sound that Braid have made their own remains as exciting and interesting as it did at the end of the last century.

‘No Coast’ eases you in gently with the slow burner ‘Bang’ but really takes off with the catchy-as-hell second track ‘East end hollows’. My ears really pricked up as soon as this song started, I really didn’t know what to expect with this record as I’ve learned from past experience not to build my hopes up too high with comeback records but ‘East end hollows’ really put me at ease. And from here on in you find that Braid have made a really brilliant record that can stand proudly next to its predecessor. The 3rd song and title track ‘No Coast’ is classic Braid, the vocals intertwine as the song strays between a staccato verse to a more upbeat chorus and then with what comes next, ‘Damages’, you not only have a song you’ll wanna hear again and again but you’re also now desperate for them to come back on tour so you can see them play these songs live at full volume. When Chris Broach screams ‘It’s a call to arms’ I want to be flailing my arms crazily around screaming the lyrics back at him from the pit below.

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‘No Coast’ is an album of real quality right to the very end, the songs released earlier from the split with Balance and Composure sit perfectly amongst some really enjoyable new songs. Although this is instantly recognisable as a Braid record, there are some differences I’ve noticed on the several listens I’ve already had. The biggest being that the lead vocal duties seem to be more equally split between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach, I think this works really nicely, they both sound great separately and even better when they sing together. Other things you hear on this record that you may not have seen on previous efforts include the sublimely grunge ending to ‘Climber new entry’ and the Jimmy Eat World-esque ‘Pre evergreen’

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The album closes in an epic rock fashion, with a mid tempo head nodder and the kind of song you’d expect Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters to end a record with when they were in their heyday. The record drifts off with the refrain ‘This is not a revolution’ and while the same can be said with this record we weren’t looking for Braid to reinvent the wheel. We wanted a classic Braid record that we could fall in love with and that’s exactly what they have delivered. I am blown away with how much I like this record, I hope you will be too.

You can stream/download/buy the record HERE

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

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REVIEW: JOIE DE VIVRE/PRAWN SPLIT

Bands – Joie De Vivre and Prawn

Labels – Topshelf Records and Count Your Lucky Stars Records

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It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the news that Joie De Vivre and Prawn were putting out a split together got me more than a little excited. Any hint that new music was being released by either of these bands would normally be cause for celebration, a split EP with new songs from each band landing in my inbox for review feels like Christmas.  In the beautiful summer of 2012, Prawn and Joie De Vivre were separately making their ways around Europe on tour when their paths crossed as they ended up on the same bill in Toulouse. During a night of bonding and alcohol the idea to put out a split was had and as of February 11th 2014 it is becoming a reality.

Both Prawn and Joie De Vivre are huge parts of the current emo wave but at different ends of the spectrum, JDV with their perfect Midwest, heartfelt songs and Prawn with their more epic, almost post rock influences. But together they sit seamlessly next to each other which makes this split EP very easy to listen to again and again.

Joie De Vivre head up side A with 3 gorgeous songs that perfectly pick up where they left off with ‘We’re all better than this’, their last full length. They waste no time in getting started, ‘Martin Park’ kicks things off and straight away you have that beautiful, trademark JDV sound with Brandon Lutmer’s soaring vocals hugging you close like a long, lost friend. The track builds up to a crescendo of overdriven lead guitars and trumpets and now you’re chomping at the bit for more and luckily they deliver this with two more songs of the highest quality.

Prawn follow this up with two new tracks showcasing their crisp, clean sound and knack for a melody. I absolutely love the guitar tone that Prawn have made their own, they verge on ‘Low level owl’ era Appleseed Cast whilst never losing their own identity. Both songs here, ‘Why you always leave a note’ and ‘Fracture’, could have sat equally next to the brilliant 6 songs that made up the 2012 EP ‘Ships’. I’m on about my 5th straight listen to this split and it just keeps getting better.

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Trust me when I say that this split doesn’t disappoint. It both satisfies the need for new music by two of my favourite bands of the last few years but also makes me ravenous for more. Luckily more is in the pipeline, I hope we don’t have to wait long. Oh and Prawn/Joie De Vivre, here’s an idea: Now you’re best friends, come do a joint UK tour please!!! (PS if that now happens I’m totally taking the credit for it!!)

www.facebook.com/joiedevivreband

www.facebook.com/Prawnmusic

www.cylsrecords.com

www.topshelfrecords.com

Thanks for reading. As always get in touch here, on facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, on twitter @alex_itto or by email ittoblog@gmail.com

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IS THIS THING ON’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 2 (No’s 10-1)

Previously on ‘Is this thing on?’s top 20 records of 2013:

20 – Tancred – S/T
19 – Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
18 – Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
17 – Wild Moth – Over, Again
16 – Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore
15 – Sed Non Satiata – Mappô
14 – State Faults – Resonate/Desperate
13 – Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness
12 – The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
11 – Nai Harvest – Whatever

To read more on no’s 20 to 11 click HERE

So, as promised, here is the top ten. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and everything this year, it’s been awesome!!!!

10 – Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It

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This album seemed to come out so long ago that I had to check it was definitely eligible for this list. One of the early indicators that 2013 was going to be another superb year for good music, this album is full of top quality emo noodling and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop.

9 – California X – California X

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I spent an evening in the summer browsing through the ‘related artists’ section on spotify looking for something I may have missed and stumbled across California X. A couple of days later my best friend is sat in my lounge telling me that they’re playing in Canterbury a week later, a very happy coincidence indeed because that show was amazing. They well and truly blew us all away and the album has become a firm favourite ever since. Summery grunge with massive riffs giving some credibility to a drop d tuning!!

8 – Lemuria – The Distance Is So Big

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A mark, for me, of how catchy a record is is if, after a couple of hours of playing it, my kids are still singing along. And that happened a lot with this brilliant album by Lemuria. I was a big fan of their last album but I think they excelled themselves with ‘The Distance Is So Big’, indie emo rock of the highest quality.

7 – Reiziger – Kodiak Station

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Just when I thought the whole ‘reunion’ thing had peaked one of my favourite 90’s emo bands returned and with a new album to boot. It had never occurred to me that Reiziger might make new music, I was so excited to get ‘Kodiak Station’ and even more excited to find out that it’s really, really good. It may sound a million miles from the ‘Don’t Bind My Hands’ EP but it is unmistakably Reiziger, now with a more polished production to their discordant, indie gems.

6 – Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

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‘Weird Sister’ is raw, lo-fi, indie punk at its best care of Cardiff’s finest, the brilliantly named, Joanna Gruesome. This is a debut album that marks the band out as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of the UK this year, I’m still gutted that I had to leave ‘About Time 2’ before they came on because I bet they’re awesome live.

5 – State Lines – For The Boats

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If it’s quality songwriting and anthem after anthem that you’re after then look no further than State Lines. A nod to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ here, a fantastic Hip Hop intro there and a whole record packed full of straight up, indie punk rock with vocals delivered like an emo Tim Armstrong are what you’ll find on ‘For The Boats’. And trust me when I say that you’ll want to listen to this record time and time again!!!

4 – Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual

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After all these years an Appleseed Cast record is always something to get hyped up about and all the more so when the record is as good as ‘Illumination Ritual’. The current line up have injected energy and a new creativity to the band, making a memorable record with plenty to enjoy. Seeing them play most of these songs live, back in October, also heightened my love for this record too. They were brilliant, if you used to love this band and haven’t thought to check this album out yet, what the hell are you waiting for?? Do it now!!

3 – Football, Etc. – Audible

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Football, Etc spoil us rotten, not only do they tour the UK with admirable regularity, they also release music of the highest quality on a very consistent basis. I love their last record, ‘The Draft’, but ‘Audible’ certainly feels like a step up. It seems like they’ve got a new found confidence as a band now which has increased the quality of the songwriting and delivery. ‘Audible’ comes across as a band that are having immense amounts of fun playing as a complete unit, Football, Etc have definitely found their feet. Amazing stuff!!

2 – Foxing – The Albatross

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I did try to review ‘The Albatross’ a few weeks back but ended up going out on a more personal tangent (you can read that by clicking HERE) so I should probably say some more things about the record here. But what else is there to say apart from the fact that ‘The Albatross’ is an earth shatteringly beautiful album that will take you on an exhausting journey through a range of emotions but still leaves you wanting more. I can’t think of another band that has made such an impact on this emo scene in such a short space of time as Foxing have, they thoroughly deserve all the plaudits and I had thought that no other band would come close to usurping my number one album this year but with ‘The Albatross’, Foxing came damn close to doing just that. Absolutely incredible.

1 – Crash Of Rhinos – Knots

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If you’ve read this blog or spoken to me this year at all then it’ll come as no surprise to you that Crash Of Rhinos genius record, ‘Knots’, is my album of the year for 2013. This is the record that I’ve been waiting years for, the kind of record I had thought would never be made again, emo/post hardcore at its incredible best. Crash Of Rhinos make no point of trying to hide their influences but manage to push things forward to make, what is not, an album that is trying to revive the past but a completely modern and relevant emo record. ‘Knots’ is five accomplished musicians at the very top of their game coming together to make magic. To top things off they’re also a brilliant live band, they really can do no wrong. If for some reason you haven’t heard this record yet the click HERE to go to their bandcamp page where ‘Knots’ is currently available for free, you have no excuse and you definitely will not be disappointed. WELL DONE CRASH OF RHINOS, YOU’RE NUMBER ONE!!!!

Thanks for reading!! Get in touch here or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, on twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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27.07.2013 A GOOD DAY TO BE ‘MO

Some days are just destined to be perfect, where everything comes together completely as it should and leaves you feeling as high as a kite about how wonderful life can sometimes be. Some days will stay with you forever, days you’ll find yourself on a dull, wet afternoon in the future daydreaming about, wishing you could be back there. On paper the 27th of July 2013 looked pretty damn good, in reality it was fucking incredible.

Everyone knows how much I love Football, Etc, last year I drove down to Brighton to see them play with Joie De Vivre and was blown away. A few months ago I was lucky enough to interview them for this blog and asked them about future UK tour plans. After we spoke I looked up the dates to make sure I could go and, as luck would have it, realised they were playing London on the 27th of July. My birthday! Yes!! I punched the air with joy at the thought of spending my birthday in London watching one of my favourite bands.

Going to this show was set in stone until a couple of weeks later Braid decided to throw a spanner in the works. I had seen that there was a campaign to get Braid to play in the UK and now it was actually going to happen and happen it was on the 27th of July!! Dilemma time, do I travel to London and spend my birthday watching one of my current favourite bands for the 2nd time or do I go and see one of the most legendary emo bands of all time for the first time playing an absolute classic album in its entirety??? Luckily in the end this was a decision I never had to make thanks to some genius thinking by Tommy/Zine and not heard who were putting on the Football, Etc. show. After an initial idea of making that show a Braid after party it was announced that the Football, Etc show was going to be a matinée and would finish before the Braid show started. And not only that it was going to be in the Buffalo Bar, a venue directly opposite the Garage where Braid were playing. Phew!

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The day finally arrived and after a morning of being spoilt by my wife and kids with a cooked breakfast and a stack of new records I set off on the train to London. Since I started this blog I have made some really good friends on twitter/Facebook etc.. with some lovely, like-minded folk who are all as nuts about emo as I am. My kid, Louis, refers to these people as my ‘e-friends’ and it was them I was going to be spending this day with. Turns out not everyone you meet online is a crazy psycho-sex pest like my mum always warned me they would be, in fact they were really bloody amazing people. We met up, shook hands, acknowledged how extremely hot it was in that there London and off we went for a whole day of ‘mo.

We turned up to the Buffalo Bar just in time to catch the last few moments of Wrestling, a shame really as the seemed really good. Next on were Doe, who despite the setback of having to spend most of their set restringing a guitar whilst listing their favourite paedophiles (you had to be there), played an enjoyable set of grunge pop. The show really kicked in to gear when the next band, Plaids, took to the stage. I was very excited to see this band, I’d heard that they were great live and I was already a fan of their recorded output so in my mind they couldn’t fail and fail they did not. Plaids bring it like any great punk band should, an abundance of energy and quality post-hardcore that really drew the crowd in, which by this time had swollen in size to pack the venue out. Plaids seem to tour a lot so I would highly recommend taking any chance to catch one of their shows.

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By the time Football, Etc took to the stage the venue must’ve been at capacity, I’m judging this by the fact that there were people crowded all the way up the stairs that lead in to the venue and the almost unbearable heat that came from being near the front. The reception they got was every bit as warm and was thoroughly deserved. Football, etc are the definitive indie emo band, a band who seemed to bring with them a new confidence that made them an even better live band than what they were last year. Maybe it was the addition of a new drummer or just the knowledge that they were on the verge of releasing a brilliant new album (an album which I will get round to writing about very soon), that was giving them this air of confidence. Usually a band who plays mainly new material that the majority of the crowd would be unfamiliar with would have a hard time getting the crowd on their side but this didn’t seem to be a problem at all. The fact they looked genuinely happy to be here and even played a song that stated this to be true made it impossible not to love their short but very excellent set. This first show of the day came to an end with Football, etc playing the mighty ‘Safety’. ‘Safety’ is one of the best songs of the last 5 years and live it takes on a whole new life of its own. The reaction from everyone present made the hair on my neck stand tall, the whole place was filled with the noise of a crowd singing in unison to not only the lyrics but also the opening guitar melody. Things got even better when Tommy Royds stormed the stage and gave Mercy from the band no option at all but to partake in some crowd surfing, Bass VI in hand, she was held aloft as the song was coming to its amazing climax and with that the show was finished leaving everyone in attendance suitably blown away.

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This would normally be enough for one day, but after a short break for some dinner we were in line at the Garage ready for the 2nd show of the day to begin. Once in and after eyeing up some more merch we made our way to the front ready to be blown away all over again. Up first on this 2nd show were a band that I’ve spent many an hour writing obscenely nice things about on this blog, Crash Of Rhino’s. If you haven’t read my review of Crash of Rhino’s new album then let me summarise by saying that I pretty much proclaimed it to be the best album of the last 10 years, a statement I still stand by. I had never seen them play live and I was probably more excited than a kid on Christmas morning as I stood waiting for them to come on, when they arrived and started playing ‘Everything Is’ quickly followed by ‘Interiors’ I realised that this was better than Christmas. I was watching one of the best bands this genre we call emo has ever produced and they were absolutely killing it. Crash of Rhino’s are a uniquely special and supremely talented band, they sounded incredibly huge that night and the joy of watching them play, swap instruments and take turns at singing is hard to convey by mere words. I’d show you by performing an illustrative dance but y’know, bad back and all that.

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I did start to wonder in the middle of Crash Of Rhino’s set if Braid had shot themselves in the foot by getting such an amazing band to open for them. But these thoughts were laid to rest as soon as Braid launched in to the opening song off ‘Frame & Canvas’, the classic ‘The New Nathan Detroits’. However good Crash Of Rhino’s were, this was Braid. BRAID!!! ‘Frame & Canvas’ is the stuff of legend, an album that hasn’t dated or lost any of its vast charm in the 15 years since it was released and Braid were here to play in full. As soon as Braid started the crowd were whipped in to a frenzy, pointed fingers were everywhere, every lyric was being screamed back at the band. The energy inside the Garage was palpable, Braid appeared to be really responding to this wave of adulation by giving it their all, in spite of the soaring temperatures. The only thing that nearly spoilt proceedings was some nasty sound issues, horrible feedback from one of the mics marred the end to ‘..Nathan Detroits’. Thankfully this was sorted quite quickly. It was so fantastic to be watching Braid play live at last. I can’t really work out why I hadn’t seen them the first time round and this more than making amends for that.

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By ‘Breathe In’ I gave in to the heat and retreated to the back of the venue to get some water and have a bit of a breather. I made the decision to watch the rest of the show from here which I do slightly regret because the atmosphere was a lot less intense at the back. It was so freakishly hot inside the Garage that night that getting some refreshment was probably the right thing to do and I was still able to really enjoy the encore. After Braid had played ‘Frame and canvas’ in its entirety they played a selection of fan favourites like ‘Please Drive Faster’, ‘Forever Got Shorter’ and ‘What a wonderful puddle’ as well as the two songs from the split they recently released with Balance & Composure. This led them on to say that a new album will be on its way, hopefully this will mean another tour too. Fingers crossed.

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What a day!! It will definitely remain one of my highlights of 2013 and a benchmark to measure all future birthdays against. I feel bad for you if you weren’t there, I’d like to say there’ll be days to come that will rival the 27th of July 2013 but I can’t picture there will be many. Just perfect!!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch on facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

Couldn’t find any videos of the London show but here is a video of Braid playing in Leeds on the same tour

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