My teens and early twenties were definitely fueled by a steady diet of emo. Bands like Saves The Day, Hot Rod Circuit, Piebald, Jets to Brazil, and Sunny Day Real Estate have left a permanent imprint on me and will forever occupy a prominent place in my record shelves. My taste in music has certainly evolved and gone through various phases in the past several years, but I always find myself digging back into the emo. Maybe that term has lost the meaning or relevance it had in my high school years and maybe it got rather distorted and tainted in the mid 2000s with the rise of MTV friendly bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, who got unfortunately lumped into this increasingly amorphous category. Nonetheless, it’s a term I’ll probably always use to describe the kind of music that has always been a staple in my diet. With so many genre and sub genre names being tossed around these days, it doesn’t really matter anyway. The experience of listening to music and appreciating it as a work of art has always mattered far more to me than assigning something a label, a stereotype, or a scene. There are so many different meanings and images that people have come to associate with the term “emo,” but to me, it has always simply described a certain style of music that’s passionate, raw, emotional, clever, and even a little bit poppy and fun.
There has been a lot of talk of a recent “emo revival” of sorts that’s been happening for the past couple of years and speculation as to whether emo really “died.” The jury’s still out for me on that one, but what I can say is that I have discovered some pretty talented newer bands during the past couple of years that possess a sound and a style that’s rather evocative of the emo bands I grew up on.
Here’s a list of my top 10 newer “emo infused” bands that I hope receive more attention in the coming months/years. While I always hesitate to toss genre labels around, this group of bands is pretty diverse and some may appeal more to your emo sensibilities than others. They run the gamut from the “pop punk” and “post-hardcore” to “indie rock” and even 90’s rock-influenced. I’ve included a video of an essential song for each band that gives you a snapshot of their sound.
1.) My Mouth Is The Speaker
These guys from Ohio are exactly my kind of band. They have a unique, driving emo-rock sound that takes me back to the early 2000s and immediately calls to mind Hot Rod Circuit. I discovered them right after they released their latest EP “In Focus.”
Here’s a great track from that EP to get you started:
This band from Virginia Beach came on the scene in 2011 with the release of a self-titled EP, which they followed up with their debut LP, “Magnolia” in 2013. Their sound incorporates a little old school emo, a little pop punk, and a lot of bright, driving melodies laced with contemplation, melancholy, and minor chords.
Listen to “Most of the Time,” one of the standout tracks from “Magnolia.”
3) Light Years
Equal parts pop punk and emo, Ohio’s Light Years round out my top 3 favorite bands I’ve discovered in 2014. I’ve had their debut album, “I Won’t Hold This Against You” in pretty heavy rotation since I first got my hands on it. The whole album is most definitely worth listening to from start to finish several times, but to get you started, here’s the title track:
4) Balance and Composure
I was late to the game in discovering Balance and Composure. This Pennsylvania band has been around for a little while and have released two fantastic albums and a few EPs, the most recent of which is 2013’s “The Things We Think We’re Missing.” They’re one of the hardest bands for me to attempt to categorize, but if you like rock that’s raw, emotional, contemplative, and a bit heavy, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out. Jon Simmons’ intense, unpolished vocals are among my favorite ever. Hear them for yourself on “Lost Your Name.”
5) From Indian Lakes
These guys are quite a different band from many others on this list, but I included them because a) their sound and lyrical content could definitely be called “emo” and b) they’re one of my favorite new bands and they deserve way more attention. The band’s name actually speaks to their place of origin, the Indian Lakes of the Yosemite Valley. If you had to categorize them, they’d be more in the Circa Survive/Appleseed Cast/The Early November camp of emo. Lead Singer Joey Vannucchi’s vocal range and flexibility is impressive, so listen to him showcase his skills on the opening track from the band’s latest album, 2012’s “Able Bodies.” They’re currently in the studio recording LP 3, so expect big, exciting things from them.
Listen to “Stay Outside,” one of the many standout tracks from the excellent “Able Bodies” album.
6) The American Scene
I saw these guys open for From Indian Lakes on their recent “Able Bodies” tour and was impressed by their tightly constructed, well crafted emo rock sound. It’s definitely reminiscent of the style I loved so much in my high school and college years. They pair brilliantly with From Indian Lakes, and chances are if you like one, you’ll like the other.
Listen to “Shape Shifter” from their 2012 album “Safe For Now.”
Long Island’s Daytrader, who released their debut EP in 2011 and followed it up a year later with the album “Twelve Years,” have a post hardcore meets heavy 90s rock meets pop punk type of sound that’s just total ear candy for me. Even though the band is “on hiatus” for the time being, I’m including them here because they’re that awesome.
Listen to “Deadfriends” and see why:
8) Major League
New Jersey’s Major League definitely fall right into the “pop punk” category, but they’ve crafted a style of pop punk that’s intriguingly emotive, yearning, and reflective. Since the release of their 2012 album “Hard Feelings,” lead singer Nick Trask parted ways with the band and guitarist/lyricist Brian Joyce has taken the lead. They’re currently recording a new album, and I’m really excited to see how they’ll evolve.
My favorite song from “Hard Feelings” is “Because Heaven Knows.” Listen to it here:
Like Balance and Composure, Michigan’s Citizen has a hybrid style that’s all their own. I definitely hear some 90’s indie rock influences in the heavy emo/post hardcore sound they’ve crafted. I recommend listening to them in tandem with Balance and Composure. The two bands go hand in hand and would be perfect on tour together.
Listen to “Young States,” the title track from their 2012 EP, here:
Speaking of 90’s rock…Superheaven, a band from Pennsylvania, formerly known as Daylight, definitely satisfies my cravings for the days when I was just a young kid and bands like Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins ruled their airwaves. I absolutely love their heavy, grungy 90’s influenced approach to post hardcore. They’re almost more like part of a “grunge revival” than an “emo revival,” but I’m certainly not complaining.
Listen to “Sheltered,” a standout track from their 2013 album “Jar.”