Around this time of year, the internet is flooded with “New bands to look out for this year!” articles. They’re everywhere you look, from The A.V Club to Pitchfork to your mums Tumblr page, everyone is a self-appointed authority on what you should be listening to over the coming 12 months. Despite what it might look like at a glance, this is not one of those posts. How the hell would I know what’s going to be big this year, or who you’ll be listening to? Regardless of what comes out, I’ll probably spend most of my time listening to Small Brown Bike and Archers of Loaf. Maybe the ‘Clarity’ demos. Some Jawbreaker perhaps.
This is just a brief celebration of some awesome bands that Britain has to offer at the moment.
This Midlands-based outfit released not one, but two incredible Eps in 2012. Cheeky fuckers. The second EP in particular, This Wall Is Dedicated to Liam & His Mates, got incredible reviews across the board and one listen to this track should help you understand why: catchy-as-hell guitar-driven anthemic indie-emo with heartfelt lyrics and sing-along choruses…they don’t play live too often but fingers crossed they release new material this year and get their arses up on a few stages.
Papayér have been around for a few years now, and first came to my attention when they released a split with Nai Harvest. They’re from Derby, and easily shrug off lazy comparisons to fellow Derby-band Crash of Rhinos with their unique brand of twiddly guitars, gang vocals and catchy riffs. I was expecting this to see the light of day last year and had almost forgotten about them but then this dropped a few days back – simply stunning.
Nai Harvest are a band(I say band, two-piece) that continue to impress me. Their sound has evolved over the years from the shouty vocals & twiddly guitars of the aforementioned Papayér split in 2011, to this absolute monster of a track, from their upcoming March release. They have went from playing tiny rooms all over the UK to getting signed to Topshelf Records in the States, and plenty predict big things for them this year. On the strength of this track, it’s easy to see why.
Mass Lines are a very recent discovery for me, and I know very little about them. I think they’re from the South-East of England, and the two tracks on their Bandcamp are all they’ve blessed us with so far. They play a dischord-influenced style of punk/indie that drew me in right away. Can’t wait to hear more.
Anyone with their finger on the pulse of the UK emo scene will be quizzically raising an eyebrow here, because didn’t these guys break up? Well, yes, they did, but I don’t care. Their EP “You Told Me to Try Something New” was one of the best things I heard in 2013, and no band ever truly breaks up anyway. Seriously, I can’t get enough of this EP, listen to this track and it should be clear why; a catchy-as-hell singalong chorus(that damn refrain of “I was fond of you” gets me every time) some awesome guitar work and trumpets thrown in for good measure.
Another band I know very little about, Manchester-based Plough Lines released an awesome eponymous EP back in September, with a cassette available through Wolftown DIY Records. About 10 seconds into this track, which opens the EP, I was sold. This is emo in the vein of 90s favourites such as Christie Front Drive, Texas Is The Reason, Mineral etc and the midwest vibes continue throughout the entire EP. Despite only being released a few months back, this EP feels like it’s been rattling around my headphones for years, and I reckon it’ll be a staple of my regular listening this year as well. Easily one of my favourite releases from 2013, and I hope to hear/see more of Plough Lines in 2014.
This EP dropped right at the end of the year, from Sunderland punks Good Terms. Again, I don’t know much about them but I think they rose from the ashes of a different band…they lean more towards the punk/screamo end of the spectrum than the poppy indie end, and that’s no bad thing here, check ’em out.
Bluebird hail from Nottingham, and this was one of my most anticipated releases from last year. This track ‘47516’ was released earlier in the year and it had me eagerly anticipating further tracks. This was released on cassette by the guys at Wolftown DIY and it is easily one of the most gorgeously packaged cassettes I have ever had the pleasure of owning. They play a style of emo that incorporates indie, emo and math-rock elements, and a very catchy style at that. The refrain of “It’s time that I gave someone a chance” at the end of this track reminds me of the earlier-mentioned Crossings track, high praise indeed.
Another Nottingham band, this one snuck up on me. These guys don’t seem to be affiliated with any other bands or labels, which endears them to me all the more. Discovering them makes you feel like you’re listening to something truly underground, but based on the strength of these tracks they won’t be for long. This is beautiful indiemo in the vein of Rainer Maria, or Football etc if you want a more current reference. I’m not one for reviewing records in great detail, if you want that head over to Collective Zine and read Andy Malcolms’ excellent review of this EP. Or better yet, just go straight to their bandcamp page and get it(it’s a free download!)
Back to the South-East, these guys deliver an emotionally charged, energetic 90s style of emo that had me hooked immediately. I missed out on the chance to see them a couple of times, so I’ll be kicking myself if they call it a day(if they haven’t already, you can never be too sure these days) as this EP, released back in the Summer, is chock-full of poppy, singalong indiemo, with twinkly guitars and subtle baselines weaving their way throughout each track, and an excellent Mineral cover thrown in for good measure. Lovely stuff.
With the release of ‘Just Fine’ by Norwich emo three-piece Important Things, it was originally the artwork that drew me in. Ever since I bought a Fireside record in my early teens simply because of the cover(“Do Not Tailgate” with art by Daniel Clowes – essential) I have always been perfectly happy to judge books(or rather, emo records) by their covers. It usually works out, and this was no exception. Lovely sad jams with a kinda lo-fi feel.
It’d be difficult to write about UK Emo without mentioning Moose Blood. Like Nai Harvest, they are now signed to a reputable American label (No Sleep) and are clearly destined for good things. I heard ‘Bukowski’ earlier in the year and was blown away. It’s one of those amazing tracks that has you singing along the first time you hear it and reaching for the repeat button before the end. I seen them live in Camden and the small crowd predictably erupted when they played this track.
Another quality band from the North East, and again from the good folks at Wolftown DIY, I was looking forward to the release of their EP ‘Full Fuck’ and it didn’t disappoint…the cold Friday evening that their 7″ and the Bluebird cassette landed on my doorstep was a highlight of my year(I need friends, I know) these guys are quality.
I’ve been lucky enough to catch Plaids live a few times over the past year and they’ve blown me away each time. I’ve been a fan for a while, picking up their split with City Dweller back in early 2012(check it out) and they’ve went from strength to strength. I was suitably impressed when I heard they were to release a split with the incredible Football, etc and picked up a copy when I seen them play together at the Buffalo Bar in London(the hottest and sweatiest day of my life…that gig followed by Braid & Crash of Rhinos across the road in the Garage)
If I was a betting man, I’d be putting money on Human Hands releasing the album of the year in 2014. Seriously, if you go to their bandcamp page there is a wealth of tracks to explore, from various splits & 7″ releases over the past few years(my fave being their split with the excellent Wit’s End, from Norway). I never got to see these guys live, imagine my delight when they were confirmed to play the About Time festival in London in November, then imagine my dismay when I missed them as I couldn’t get the time off work. Fingers crossed I’ll get the chance again…easily one of the best emo bands the UK has ever produced.
I probably seen Muncie Girls live more than any other band in 2013. And for that, I consider myself very lucky, as they are awesome. Hailing from Exeter, they play a pretty much perfect blend of pop punk & emo. Each track is ridiculously infectious and anthemic, and they are just as good live as on record. Can’t wait to hear more!
If you’ve actually read this far, then you don’t need me to tell you about Crash of Rhinos. I bought the cassette of Distal when it came out, and I still listen to it regularly. They topped the Is This Thing On? best albums of 2013 list with ‘Knots’…surely the highest honour for an emo band operating today.
Northern Ireland has never held back when it comes to releasing incredible music, particularly punk/emo music. Bands like Throat, Element & Jetplane Landing ensured there was a scene(kind of, almost) many years ago and it’s great to see these guys keeping it alive. They play a gruff, anthemic style of punk/post-hardcore FFO Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker etc and are definitely ones to watch out for.
Another Manchester band, featuring members of Nai Harvest, who released an awesome ep this year. The vocals at time remind me a bit of the much-missed Basement…that’s not to say that Headroom sound like Basement in any way shape or form, it’s just that the vocals brought them to mind. This is more straight up indie/emo and will no doubt gain them legions of fans as they embark on shows with the likes of TWIABP in 2014.
The amazing thing about UK emo at the moment, is that I have written almost 2000 words above(sorry about that) and there are still so many excellent bands that I haven’t mentioned in detail. Bands like Doe, Losing Sleep, Bloomer, Walleater, Bouviér, Healing Powers, Janowski & Alaska! Alaska! and many many more…it’s an exciting time, and one of the reasons that I wanted to start a DIY label.
What exciting UK emo bands have I failed to mention? Contact me on Twitter or on here and let me know!
Thanks for reading!
PS Below is a pic I took of the Muncie Girls in Camden…no, the drummer isn’t a ghost, I just haven’t got a clue how to take photos.
PPS here’s some links below to the things I mentioned above, notably Andy Malcolms review of the Blue Period ep, and Alex Miles’ review of Knots by COR over at Is This Thing On