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Volcanoes are emo. So is Gilbert Arenas. Obama is emo, but that’s OK, because Andrew Jackson was an emo president, too. Even critically acclaimed NBC comedy Community is emo*.
Emo, as a term, becomes more convoluted with every passing year, now barely containing anything of the dynamic, cathartic post-hardcore sound that erupted out of D.C. in the mid-’80s. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll see that punks across the country—-including D.C.’s Monument—-are quietly re-imagining emo as we once knew it. It’s an emo steeped in the genre’s history, but one that feels altogether fresh.
2010 has been fantastic for the new old emo: Plenty of bands released strong albums, EPs, singles, and demos—-some of which might even rival the best in the genre’s history. Here’s the cream of the crop:
Castevet: The Echo & The Light
A rush of post-hardcore aggression mixed with articulate, twinkly instrumentation and waves of slowcore ambience, The Echo & The Light is a balancing act. Castavet knows how to balance epic punk anthems with detours into lush composition, and the new album serves those sides well. (The band is in the process of changing its name to CSTVT. Blame the other Castavet.)
Coping’s six-track debut cassette is an avalanche of catchy catharsis reminiscent of Cap’n Jazz. Unlike CnJ’s music, the songs that make up Lawndale are tightly composed, not rough-and-tumble. The intricate little tunes still evoke inner cataclysm, and they burst and bubble with great force throughout the tape’s short length. They’re tight, sure, but they peer into a void of disarray.
Everyone Everywhere – Everyone Everywhere
Sharp and sweet, Philadelphia’s Everyone Everywhere’s debut is one of the year’s best albums in any genre. The young band is remarkably self-assured, its power-pop reminiscent of The Promise Ring’s sincere, pop-focused spin on post-hardcore.
It’s a King Thing – Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
This band of South Jersey dudes doles out emo tunes that skew heavily toward the tag’s indie-rock side, with touches of power-pop and twee. Perhaps most refreshing about this breezy record is that IAKT isn’t afraid to bring a little humor. On “Vegetarian,” frontman Brian Mietz declares, “I could never date a vegetarian/because my last name’s Mietz.” You kind of have to listen to it…
Into It. Over It. – IIOI/KOJI and the “Twelve Towns” series
Emo troubadour Evan Thomas Weiss has been on a roll this year with Into It. Over It. Weiss started his solo project with the ambitious idea of writing and recording a song a week for a solid year, and in 2010 he kept rolling out the projects. He put out five split 7-inches with his emo peers for a project he’s dubbed the “Twelve Towns” series, and he put out a split LP with his friend and frequent touring partner, Koji, called IIOI/KOJI. What’s more, IIOI’s songs on these releases are absolute gold.
A sextet with a penchant for Mineral, Joie De Vivre makes sweeping, epic songs fit for an emo orchestra. The Rockford, Ill., act specializes in making songs that romanticize romanticizing about the Midwest, and Joie De Vivre’s tight execution and the album’s sharp production make for a marvelous listen.
Monument revels in messy dynamics, angular bursts of sound, and passionate, oft-scrappy catharsis. Which isn’t to say the D.C. quartet lacks chops or a knack for a solid indie-rock tune. In fact, its debut full-length, Goes Canoeing, is filled with nothing but strong, passionate and irresistible emo songs that recall the messier days of emo and indie yore.
The six pogoing songs that fill Vas Deferens, the debut EP from Sirs, pop and explode. Unlike most of the other acts on this list, Sirs simply crank their amps to 11 and make nearly every second a high-velocity affair. Even during the moments when things seem quiet, it’s just the eye of the storm, and their bouncy, angular aural onslaught fits their voice just fine.
Snowing – I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted
Like the aforementioned Sirs, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, band Snowing dabbles in the fast-paced, high-octane vein of emo: Twinkly guitar-work married to pulverizing drumming. Yet for all its unabashed bashing, I Could Do Whatever I Wanted if I Wanted is remarkably composed, a product of a sharp band that knows how to craft big hooks that pull at the heartstrings as they hit the upper tiers of the decibel levels.
Two Worlds is a a slow-moving beast. And while the tunes on Two Worlds seem to pass by at a glacial speed, they’re no less passionate and engaging than the speedier songs in the new old emo canon. And with a sound reminiscent of the best of Weezer’s Pinkerton, Tigers Jaw may not have the loudest or fastest aesthetic in town, but it’s sure to please anyone on the fence about emo.
Annabel – Here We Are Tomorrow
Look Mexico – To Bed To Battle
The Please & Thank Yous – Mind Yr P’s & Q’s
The Saddest Landscape – You Will Not Survive
Various Artists – Cake Life, Vol. 2
If I heard the whole album, it probably would’ve made the list:
Hey, buying music adds up. I can’t hear everything, but I did enjoy the few songs from FCKYRHED I heard this year.
*Thanks for the reminder that you were never fit to write a book on emo, Andy Greenwald.