The Elliott Station

A drinking game that my buddies and I like to play is based around listening to our favourite emo bands’ radio station on Last.fm and taking bets on what bands will come on next. Actually that’s a lie, I haven’t got any buddies, and I drink alone.  But I do enjoy using the radio function on Last.fm.  For me, Last.fm has been one of the most important & influential websites when it comes to discovering music over the last few years. If you are unaware of Last.fm, feel free to educate yourself here: Last.fm

If you select any given band on Last.fm there are a variety of things you can capitalise on.  You can read a brief bio of the band, you can see what genres they’re associated with and you can also click on those genres, which will link you to tonnes of other bands associated with said genre.  You can see what other members of Last.fm listen to that band the most, you can see who has left comments about the band, perhaps some may have pasted links to other similar bands or links to articles about the band…the possibilities are endless.  When I first discovered the site, what I liked to do was find a band I like and then play their Last.fm radio and see what other bands came up.  This is something I’ve been doing for years, and have discovered some awesome bands this way.

For a genre like emo & 90s emo in particular, Last.fm is a fantastic resource as it is a genre that isn’t exactly widely written about. Viewing the page of a band like Moss Icon can bring your attention to bands like Plunger & Mohinder.  Those bands can then lead you to the likes of Hour Of The Star or Breakwater.  Before you know it hours have gone by and you’ve got 30+ new bands to look into.  You then go on ebay and buy loads of their old splits & 7″ releases.  You can’t afford to do this and have to backtrack on loads of the sales and your ebay buyer rating is irrevocably affected forever. It’s been years since I was on ebay now… anyway, the purpose of this blog post was to highlight how awesome the Last.fm radio channels can be and to prove my point, I created an 8tracks playlist based on what happened if you select the ‘Elliott station’ on Last.fm.  I have attached the playlist below, but as 8tracks doesn’t let you view the track listing without listening to the whole thing, I’ve detailed the bands and songs below.  God bless you Last.fm!

1. Elliott – Second Storey Skyscraper

Elliott were active from ’95 to ’03 and released 2 seminal emo albums in the shape of ‘U.S Songs’ & ‘False Cathedrals’ and although ‘False Cathedrals’ seems to be the higher regarded of the two, my favourite is definitely U.S Songs – a more straightforward indiemo sound with awesome vocals from Chris Higdon.  I was chuffed that Last.fm selected this track to kick things off with, as it’s my favourite off the record.

2. Gloria Record – Miserere

I was initially disappointed this got picked next…after the majesty of Elliott I was ready for more anthemic, guitar-driven indie with soaring choruses…I reckon a track from the likes of Jawbreaker or some early Jimmy Eat World would have had me dancing round the room, but alas this came on, and I was entirely subdued. For those unaware, The Gloria Record were a band born out of the ashes of emo legends Mineral.  I dig the Gloria Record, but I don’t listen to them all that often.  If I were in the mood to, I imagine I would probably just listen to Mineral instead.  By the end of this track I was hoping that they actually might come on next…

3. Penfold – M

Result!  Any hopes of hearing Mineral quickly evaporated when ‘M’ gently started.  This is one of my favourite ever songs, from one of my favourite ever emo albums( I say album, it could qualify as an ep as it’s only 7 songs like but when the songs sound like this, who cares?!) I love the trade-off of the male/female vocals throughout and the song rises and falls beautifully, with lyrics of encouragement in the wake of lost love “This will hurt you but in time, you will understand that I / would never want to be in his shoes but I would do anything to take his place.” essential listening.

4. Chamberlain – Uniontown

After hearing ‘M’ I was ready to sack off Last.fm altogether and dig my Penfold record out to listen to the whole thing, but Chamberlain coming on made me think twice. For me, one of the more underrated bands of 90s emo, they had various issues with record labels and line-up changes before calling it a day shortly before 2000.  They reformed in 2010 and were touring with The Gaslight Anthem, and I remember their new material having a very different sound, more of a rock sound in the vein of bands like TGA. Uniontown is a great track, from the excellent ‘Fate’s Got A Driver’ record that was released in ’96 – quintessential 90s indiemo.

5. Hey Mercedes – Every Turn

This song coming on has me questioning how the hell LastFM does it!  This is my favourite Hey Mercedes track, this thing must use my most listened to tracks from itunes to influence how this works…anyway, Hey Mercedes were fronted by Bob Nanna who had previously played in the legendary Braid.  For me, Hey Mercedes tend to suffer the same fate as The Gloria Record, in that if I’m in the mood to listen to them I’ll probably just end up listening to Braid instead.  That isn’t to say they’re not very very awesome, “Everynight Fire Works” is an incredible album, well worth owning.

6. The Jazz June – When The Drums Kick In

The version of this track on the 8tracks playlist is the live version, as I don’t seem to have the studio version(which Last.fm plays) on my itunes.  The Jazz June are one of my favourite 90s emo / Midwest emo bands…I fucking adore this track and it surprises me to see that it isn’t one of the most popular tracks on Last.fm…it just about scrapes into the Top 20!!  I can only imagine how good it must have been to see these guys live and I imagine this track in particular would have been a highlight.  For most people, ‘Viva La Speed Metal’ tends to be their favourite TJJ track but ‘When The Drums Kick In’ trumps it for me, it’s more anthemic and you can really hear the sound that would have influenced bands like Hot Water Music & Small Brown Bike, as well as the bands at the poppier end of the emo spectrum.  Lovely stuff!

7. Sense Field – Fun Never Ends

AH! Right *cracks knuckles* I absolutely bloody LOVE Sense Field, which isn’t all that unusual in itself, especially among emo fans, but  ‘Tonight & Forever’ is my favourite Sense Field record, which is practically unheard of. Allow me to explain why; I recognise that ‘Building’ is far & away a more influential record in the scheme of things, but Tonight & Forever is a triumph in itself after all the troubles that the band had with Warner Brothers in the late 90s.  When I was 17 I went on a family holiday to Spain, I was at that age where the last thing I wanted to do was spend 2 weeks in blistering heat with my family.  I had only recently got into indie & emo music, and I remember that on the 2 weeks I was to be away, Rival Schools were playing a gig near my town.  This was back in the day when bands rarely came to Northern Ireland, so I was gutted to be missing them.  There was little to do in the resort we were staying in, but one day there was a coach ride to the nearest town, which I was told had a shopping centre.  I hopped on the coach and hours later we arrived, not at a shopping centre, but at a massive warehouse, which was actually a supermarket.  I went straight to the tiny music section and nestled among all the chart albums & compilations, was a copy of Tonight & Forever.  To this day it is the most random discovery I have ever made where a record was concerned.  I swiftly purchased it, and listened to it daily for the rest of the holiday (I know I sound like a moody wee fucker here, and I wasn’t, I was very grateful to be on a holiday, but I can’t handle the sun, and I didn’t drink back then so I mostly stayed inside) and I got to know this record inside out, word by word.  Ironically, my least favourite track ‘Save Yourself’ gave the band their biggest hit. ‘Fun Never Ends’ & ‘Here Right Here’ are my faves, and still bring me back to this record to this day.

8. Benton Falls – Eudora

This track is from ‘Fighting Starlight’ one of the essential releases from the Deep Elm roster. These guys formed in 2000 and are often one of the first bands to come up if you search for ‘midwest emo’ online and in terms of other emo bands, they often get caught in the middle between the 90s Elliot-era bands and the 00’s Get Up Kids-era bands…none of which matters at all.  Not one fucking bit.  ‘Fighting Starlight’ is an amazing album and this track, ‘Eudora’ is the stunning instrumental track which closes the record.  It’s probably one of the least popular releases on the record(a swift check of the Last.fm ‘most played tracks’ confirms this) but it’s a beautiful song, and a great way to close a record.

9. Casket Lottery – White Lies

Delighted to see this band come up next on the radio! Casket Lottery are one of my favourite bands, their album “Choose Bronze” came out in ’99 and is a great record FFO Small Brown Bike/Elliott(funnily enough) but they broke up before I really got into them.  In 2012 I heard they were reforming, which was awesome, but also that they were doing a split with Touche Amore!  I was excited, and this track right here, ‘White Lies’ lived up to that excitement.  It’s a belter of a post-hardcore track, complete with intricate guitars and soaring vocals.  Great stuff.  I loved ‘Real Fear’ the record they released in 2012 too, although it seemed to slip under most peoples radars.

10. Pop Unknown – Lonely Here With Me

Another stalwart of the Deep Elm label, and their releases from the late 90s/early 00s era.  I remember getting this record, loving it, but then I didn’t really revisit it that often over the following years.  After the excitement of the Casket Lottery track, I wasn’t feeling this initially: for me, Pop Unknown were much poppier  than most of the bands around at that time(maybe the clue was in the name) but by the end of the track I’m really enjoying this, must dig out a few of their old records and have another listen.  FFO The Gloria Record(also with an ex-mineral member among their ranks, the drummer Gabriel Wiley)

11. Farside – Better Than Crying

Confession time: the Last.fm Elliott radio didn’t really generate this track next, it generated the track that Farside contributed to the Misfits cover album.  Because I’m not a Misfits fan, and it was only 90 seconds long and I don’t have it, I thought I’d swap it for this in the playlist.  A bit like Chamberlain, Farside are one of those bands that hardly anyone seems to be into these days.  The good thing is that when you meet someone that is into them, they tend to be really into them. This track is from ‘The Monroe Doctrine'(the title was a tribute to their producer, Jim Monroe) and is one of my favourites from the record.  Farside were always a bit more punk than their emo contemporaries, and I tend to group them alongside bands like Helmet, Knapsack, Handsome & Quicksand.  If you like those bands, Farside should be right up your street.  Pay special attention to the lyrics, which are among the best you will hear in punk & hardcore music.  Bloody love this band!

12. Knapsack – Hummingbirds

..and funnily enough, I was just thinking about Knapsack, thinking that I was surprised that over 10 tracks had been played on the Elliott Station without Knapsack popping up.  These guys have always been a favourite of mine, I still remember the day that ‘Day Three Of My New Life’ CD came for me in the post, it’s still one of my favourite albums of all time.  This track is from my second favourite Knapsack album, ‘This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now’ and I’m glad to see it feature on here as it’s not a track I’m overly familiar with.  Knapsack reformed last year and played Fest, I fact that I did my best to ignore, as I wasn’t there to witness it.  Hopefully I get to see them one day and they play this track…”tell them all to go to hell, and take everything”

13. Grade – The Worst Lies Are Told In Silence

Yes!  This is more like it..Grade were a proper post-hardcore band FFO Drive Like Jehu, Small Brown Bike, Planes Mistaken For Stars etc and I haven’t listened to them in ages, too long.  Grade were one of the first bands I heard described as Screamo, which at the time I thought was inaccurate.  I would have considered bands like Will Haven to be screamo, and as much as I loved Will Haven, I considered the sound of Grade to be very different.  That was mostly due to Kyle Bishop, the Grade vocalist, who could switch between singing & screaming with ease and always injected a huge dose of melody into even the most crushing of Grade Tracks.  Like The Casket Lottery, new material from Grade surfaced in the last few years.  I think Kyle was the only original Grade member, but he got together with other musicians to write & record a few songs to contribute to At Both Ends magazine 7″ comp…the 2 tracks they released were great, and definitely worth getting if you liked their old stuff.

14. Braid – Never Will Come For Us

I was wondering how long it would be before Braid showed up.  This is the third track from the legendary emo record “Frame and Canvas” and one of my favourite Braid songs.  I had the absolute pleasure of seeing them play in London last year, they came out and played F&C in full and I was excited about this track in particular, as it’s probably my 3rd favourite Braid song.

Mineral – &Serenading

I could just leave it there, no more needs to be said.  At this stage I was just beginning to think “oh dear, these songs won’t end, at what point should I call it a day?” and I concluded that I would stop when a proper emo anthem came on, a track like ‘Back & To The Left’ or ‘Nothing Feels Good’ and with that Braid track I thought that might be the one, but something told me to hang on, and boy I’m glad I did.  Mineral are thee quintessential 90s emo band, and this song is them at their finest.  It’s the penultimate track on the album EndSerenading, although lord knows it’s good enough to close the album.  This is one of those songs that stops me in my tracks every time, when Chris Simpson delivers the lines ‘So why am I so deaf at twenty-two/To the sound of the driving snow/That drives me home to you’ and repeats the last bit as the instruments build behind him…Alex Miles gave this song the honour of being at the number 1 spot on his Top 100 Emo Songs of All Time list over on his Is This Thing On? blog and although I distinctly remember not agreeing with that at the time, it’s hard to argue whenever you sit down 7 actually listen to the track, as it’s so bloody beautiful.

There’s no way I’m playing another track, nothing can follow that.  I’ve attached the playlist below, enjoy.

There’s also a photo of Braid from there show last year – such a great show.

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If It’s Here When We Get Back, It’s Ours…

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!

Gary

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.

Muncie Girls

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

Blue Period review

Is This Thing On? Knots review

Someday We’ll Look Back

I wanted to put up a quick post looking back on my favourite music from 2013, but music moves so fast these days(thanks internet!) that it’s only the second of January and already I’ve heard a new release that’s blown me away and I feel obliged to mention it here.  I’m talking about the new record from Papayér, an emo band from Derby. I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while, following a few earlier ep releases and a split with Nai Harvest, and had heard rumblings that the new stuff they were working on was something special, and it really is. I might get round to reviewing it properly later but for now, you can get it from their bandcamp page, which you can check out below. Worth mentioning that they’re offering some pretty cool purchase bundles as part of the release.

Now, looking back at last year…I decided not to do an ‘End Of Year Albums’ list, for various reasons. Late in 2013 I decided to revisit my top 20 albums of 2012, and found that some of them had completely fallen by the wayside in terms of my regular listening, whereas other records that didn’t make the cut were still being played with regularity over a year later, having grown on me.  That made me realise how futile & arbitrary these lists can sometimes be(don’t get me wrong, I love checking other peoples out) so I decided to go with a kind of mixtape of songs that impacted me throughout the year.  Some are on there because they’re so damn good, others are on there as I might have seen the band live and had a memorable night, while others might have some other kind of significance.  Another thing that struck me when reflecting on my favourite tracks of the year, was how many of them came from Splits, Eps, compilations etc and a list dedicated solely to albums would ostracise these tracks entirely.  A case in point is ‘Hiding’ by Pianos Become the Teeth!  This was released early in 2013 and is without doubt the song I have listened to most, I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of it, yet it hasn’t made any end of year lists.  Shame. Check it out below;

I put the mixes up on Spotify & 8tracks, each of which have their advantages(that’s a topic for a separate post!) but I’m already excited about looking back on them this time next year and I wonder if I’ll still regard them as highly.  It is my hope that I will get the chance to see many of these bands live in small rooms over the course of 2014, sadly some of them will no doubt break up in that time, and others will probably release even more new material this year, which will hopefully be of the same standard.  Whatever happens, someday we’ll look back and songs that haven’t even been dreamt up will have defined key moments in our lives, and we’ll come back to them time & time again, which is one of the many reasons I spend so much of my time seeking out new music.

Thanks for reading, I’ve attached 8tracks links below, as the Spotify links wouldn’t embed!

Cheers

Gary