Emo is Dead, Long Live Emo: 30 Bands Making it Safe to Hurt Again
It's a confusing time to be an emo fan. My Chemical Romance recently called it quits, while Fall Out Boy, surprisingly, have the #1 album in the country. That album, however, is a far cry from the sound old heads remember from the Take This to Your Grave era. Bro, are you even emo anymore?
Photo by Luke O'Neil Transit
Truthfully, it's always been a confusing time to be an emo fan, what with all the #feelings and so forth, but the genre, which admittedly mutated into a parody of itself in the past decade, essentially the second coming of hair metal, has always been hard to pin down. Roughly five minutes after the term was coined back in the wake of '80s D.C. most hardcore bands and fans alike were disavowing their association with the overly broad, and eminently punchable description.
Not all of us. I've been keeping the emo fires burning this whole time, sitting by the phone, waiting for a call that seemed like it was never going to come, stretching out the word everythinnnnngggggg into as many syllables as I could in my heart. The pining was worth it. In a surprisingly un-emo twist, my true love has, in fact, finally come back to me.
A good piece in MTV Hive yesterday asked "What Happened to Emo?," checking in with some of the more popular crossover bands from the commercial heyday of the genre. It's a question worth asking, but, like any worthwhile genre, the truth is more complicated. "Emo" may be dead and buried, but emo is experiencing another boom; the press just hasn't been paying much attention to the bands keeping the dream alive, and the next generation reaching back into the genre's roots for inspiration.
Perhaps it's just the inevitable expansion of the all-encompassing Remember the 90s!? brand growth, but all of a sudden post-hardcore and later, second-wave emo groups like American Football, Jawbreaker, Braid, and Further Seems Forever are suddenly relevant again (the latter released a remarkably modern, yet still period appropriate new album, Penny Black, a few months back).
"Music definitely works in cycles," says Brian Swindle of Have Mercy, the Baltimore band who released what was not only one of the year's best new emo songs, but best rock songs all together, "Let's Talk About Your Hair." Which, come on with that title. If that's not a testament to emo's health, I don't know what is.
"It could be something like a cycle," says Tim Landers of Boston's Transit. "Or maybe people just realized that there was a lot more honest, and sincere qualities to many of those bands. Heartfelt music doesn't just pass as a phase, it stays with you."
"We also notice that people like listening to older music because it's nostalgic," he went on. There are, in fact, multiple layers of nostalgia going on here: the younger bands, like Have Mercy, playing music that reminds them of bands they might have been too young to see live, while providing a more immediate nostalgia for older fans who remember when bands like this were thriving.
It's finally safe to use the word emo again, Swindle agrees. "It's not so much the Hot Topic, hair covering your eyes, black nail polish rock it was, but we'd consider all indie rock nowadays somewhat emo, reminiscent of Texas is the Reason, Further Seems Forever, and The Get Up Kids."
What to call it now though? Since no one has ever been comfortable with the essentially meaningless term emo, we're going to have to come up with an even stupider genre description to refer to the dozens of new bands mining the dusty record bins and rifling through old picture postcards of a scene gone by, releasing records on labels like Topshelf, Pure Noise, and Run For Cover. Post⁴-hardcore? Re-post-hardcore? Maybe Re-blog-core? This is the Tumblr generation's version of emo after all.
Whatever we settle on, it's obvious that emo is back. Maybe it never went away? Here are 30 bands, some brand new, some that have been around for a few years -- from the noodly, interlocking Kinsella-core of bands like Pinsky and Into It.Over It., to the shouty, breakdown-filled pop-punk leaning The Story So Far, the expressive, reflective shimmer-core of Have Mercy, and the stark acoustic confessionals of Waxahatchee -- that are making it safe to call yourself an emo fan again, even if they won't necessarily admit it themselves.