Emo. There’s a negative connotation to that word. Those three letters conjure up images of gothic middle schoolers with red-streaked, too-long bangs. Three letters transport people back to their 7th grade phase where they liked pop punk and got mad at their mom for talking to them in public.
Emo is more than just a phase, and it’s certainly not a negative thing. Emo is a genre full of intense, personal stories and some masterful, twinkling guitar work.
The genre is therapeutic. Everyone experiences bad times in their lives: breakups, dead-end jobs, prolonged feelings of loneliness and despair. It happens to all of us. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to music that reminds you of the harsh realities of life rather than throwing on an auditory blindfold and pretending everything is OK.
A lot of people think of Panic! at the Disco and My Chemical Romance when they think about emo music, but there are so many other bands out there. Here’s a look at some of my favorite emo records.
‘Maybe You, No One Else Worth It’ by Brave Bird
“Maybe You, No One Else Worth It” is one of my favorite records of all time. The record features twinkly, math-rock riffs that always make me sit and wonder “How the hell did he even play that note?” There’s a guitar solo on “The Worst Things Happen to Me” that absolutely melts face. It’s unbelievable. The entire record is full of down-tempo moments that build to incredible, mountainous climaxes.
‘Algernon Cadwallader’ by Algernon Cadwallader
This record is nuts. It’s emo drenched in sunshine. I rarely know what lead singer Peter Helmis is saying, but I know that I love it. “Algernon Cadwallader” – the album and the band – make emo fun. “I Wanna Go to the Beach” features a strong, chugging bassline and a chorus of gang vocals where it just names places with beaches. It’s a nice change of pace for those who like the emo sound but don’t want to feel like garbage while they listen.
‘Summer Death (Anniversary Edition)’ by Marietta
The 2018 remaster of 2013’s “Summer Death” somehow made the record even more emo. A lengthy sample from British TV show “Spaced” was added to the song “God Bless Eric Taylor” and a sample from the film “Punch-Drunk Love” was added to the track “Fuck, Dantooine is Big.” Sampling pieces of pop culture is a massive part of emo music. Hearing Adam Sandler say “I don’t like myself sometimes. Can you help me?” over weightless guitar is utterly ridiculous, but it’s kind of perfect.
‘Everyone Everywhere (2012)’ by Everyone Everywhere
“I want to smash things. I want a coffee. I want to punch myself repeatedly. Let’s watch a movie, expend no energy and just be.” These words are uttered softly over cymbal crashes and building guitars on album opener “I Feel Exhausted.” Everyone Everywhere has an amazing ability to capture the complicated feelings of everyday life and it’s on display on their second record.
‘American Football (LP3)’ by American Football
American Football needs no introduction to emo-heads and those that consider themselves extremely online. The opening riff to “Never Meant” off the band’s first album has been memed into oblivion. YouTube videos have been created taking the track and making “Super Mario 64” and “Animal Crossing” versions. The band’s third record proves it's still at the top of it's game as the godfathers of emo.
Emo is more than just sad children wearing too much eye makeup. It’s a complicated genre that can wear many faces. It’s wonderful to be sad.
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