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July 22, 2014 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Thirty Essential Songs from the Golden Age of Emo Including, of course, and with all sincerity, a late-era Jawbreaker song that opens with a clip of Christopher Walken's monologue from Annie Hall.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (34 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
So happy to see that Elliott made this list. And they even picked the song I would have picked, "Calm Americans"! This list is hereby certified as valid.
posted by jbickers at 10:00 AM on July 22, 2014

Boo for not including the screamo (although I understand why) but cheers for Grace Kelly With Wings and Little League. This list makes me miss college.
posted by saladin at 10:02 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aw, I always felt more in tune with the futility of life listening to Sea Anemone.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:02 AM on July 22, 2014

Weezer? What?

"We know there's a lot of arguments out there about what is it isn't Emo, but for OUR money, nothing's more raw and emotional than Europe's 'The Final Countdown'. From its loud guitars to its blistering vocals, The Final Countdown is the one emo song every emoficionado is BOUND to 'emo out' to!"
posted by Greg Nog at 10:08 AM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I saw Policy of 3 in a basement in Portland OR in 1995 and they had the most emo event I'd ever witnessed. During the breakdown of one of their songs their roadie hooked up a cassette player to the PA and played a voice saying, "The medicine men say the earth is weeping...weeping. The medicine men say the earth is weeping...weeping. The medicine men say the earth is weeping...weeping" over and over and over. It was simultaneously hilarious and kind of awesome.
posted by josher71 at 10:12 AM on July 22, 2014

I don't think its a stretch to include early Weezer, esp. since every who likes emo also likes Weezer.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2014

No Knapsack? Fuck you and your list.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2014

The author of this piece is at least 10 years younger than me, which means he was in preschool while I was busy crying in the front row for my 20th Braid show at Fireside Bowl.

That said, I applaud the author for putting together a truly superlative list (Weezer excluded, sorry, that's just wrong) that features so many of my all-time favorite jams, it's a little shocking to see them all gathered in one place outside of my record storage shelves. That first Jets to Brazil record, Q And Not U's entire catalog, and Building by Sense Field? "Napoleon Solo"? "The D in Detroit"? FUCK YES.

I feel so fortunate to have been alive and independent in Milwaukee during the mid-to-late 1990s because our music scene was utterly insane in the best possible way. Almost every single night, there was another life-changing indie rock show to see, from Minneapolis to Madison to Chicago and beyond. This was when gas was $1/gallon and a Greyhound ticket to anywhere in the Midwest was like $20 no matter where you were going, so you could get together with some buddies and make a big emo trip of it with a few bucks to spare (h/t Death & Dismemberment tour). This was also when we still had Atomic Records (RIP), so sometimes I could see three shows in one night: the usually-mostly-acoustic record store set, an early all-ages show, and a late/21+ show. Sigh. You're moving like a movie / you still move me, indeed.

PS, anyone who would dare dispute that Cursive's Domestica is likely to go down in history as the finest half-hour of music ever put to tape: Meet me in the playground after school, as I have every intention of engaging in wrenching, tearful fisticuffs to uphold its pristinely cathartic honor. I seriously get goosebumps even typing the album name.

High-five, MisantropicPainforest. You're bringing me back to the good old days!
posted by divined by radio at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is a very solid list. I can forgive the Weezer because everything else is 100% spot on. (And it's Pinkerton so I can understand.)

100% agreed about Cursive's Domestica. That album is gut-wrenching.
posted by naju at 10:38 AM on July 22, 2014

Weezer? What?

ah, I remember it well: it was the mid-90s, and I was at the thrift store, looking for good as hell clothes to match my good as hell music, and I asked the clerk, "hey, fellow young adult, do you have anything that would make me look like the guy from Weezer"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah wow Domestica is sadly always taking backseat to The Ugly Organ on my playlist, and for good reason too, I mean the Ugly Organ is eminently listenable and Domestica is just, hard. Really Hard.

I do take issue with ATDI on the list. They've been one of my favorite bands and Relationship of Command is absolutely perfect album and I own an original pressing of it. But I do no think of them as emo at all. I mean their lyrics are basically nonsensical and they do that genius thing where they sound kind of familiar and like stuff but at the same time are totally original and their own thing. They were sui generis
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:45 AM on July 22, 2014

I was going to leave this in another emo thread before it got closed: For anyone interested in the emo revival, there are a couple of great free samplers on Bandcamp. Polyvinyl also has a couple of nice free samplers on Amazon.
posted by Clustercuss at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally get Weezer's inclusion in this list. If you're defining emo by the scene, then obviously they don't belong, but if it's just about the sound, then it becomes much more defensible. The sonic space separating Pinketon from If It Weren't For Venetian Blinds isn't so vast.

In fact, from that perspective I'd argue that At The Drive In's inclusion on this list makes less sense than Weezer's.
posted by saladin at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Any attempt to account for the history of emo rock has to acknowledge that Pinkerton has a place in it. At the time I lived in Mississippi, and the only remotely comparable thing was SDRE, which had good distribution and a connection to Foo Fighters. SDRE was like a little obscure gem, though. There was no scene, just these little dribbles.

Pinkerton, on the other hand, was THE common reference point. Anyone who started a band with an emo sensibility was inspired in part by that album. Certainly they proceeded to get into other stuff, too, but Pinkerton was the first hop. "Where can I find more music like this?" Weezer certainly never made any more of it, did they?
posted by billjings at 10:53 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

That sampler is missing The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:55 AM on July 22, 2014

MP: Oops, forgot to include this sampler!
posted by Clustercuss at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2014

yes! That song for TWBPIANLAFTD is their best one too.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2014

In case anyone else is on Rdio instead of Spotify, I made a playlist there.
posted by naju at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think ATDI quite fits either - I actually see them as the heirs to Shudder To Think, in some ways, that smart angular post-hardcore stuff - but it's hard to deny that the particular song they chose, "Napoleon Solo", is emo as fuck... it's also emotionally heavy: "Napoleon Solo" is about two of the band's good friends who died in a tragic car accident, both aged 17. The band found out about their deaths after driving from Austin to New Orleans for a show, getting the sad news shortly before they had to play.
posted by naju at 11:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

This list is better than I expected, though I think you could probably pick a more essential song from the Get Up Kids, Braid, Policy of 3, ATDI and definitely from Jawbreaker. Along with the author I miss the era of movie samples in hardcore records, but I still think Dear You is the worst thing Jawbreaker ever released and find it just completely unlistenable.
posted by ndfine at 11:18 AM on July 22, 2014

Thanks for this. I'm listening with an open mind.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2014

I should note that aside from my feelings about the Weezer, this is really great, and certainly a much better list than I could have made, which woulda basically just been "listen to Analphabetapolothology on repeat for 24 hours straight with the occasional inclusion of The Promise Ring's Is This Thing On as a palate-cleanser"
posted by Greg Nog at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2014

MP: Oops, forgot to include this sampler!

Wow, I'm so out of touch now that it took me reading 18 tracks before I could decide which was the band name and which was the song title.
posted by ndfine at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2014

This is going to help the rest of my summer immensely.
posted by MsDaniB at 2:58 PM on July 22, 2014

Pretty excellent list. I was pleasantly surprised. Excellent call on Chinatown by Jets to Brazil, which I always feel like Beck ripped off for that sad sack song on C Change.

Kinda wish the Alkaline Trio's Radio was on this, and it's always a judgement call picking Desaparecidos over Bright Eyes, but that's about it.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2014

Thanks for the samplers, and the information that The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is still making music. I think I assumed they broke up based on no evidence other than they were an emo band that had released more than one piece of music already.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:15 PM on July 22, 2014

Does make me want to fire up the ol Emo Game!
posted by es_de_bah at 7:19 PM on July 22, 2014

posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2014

Oh, is this the thread where I post the intensely pleasurable but vaguely unlistenable songs from my youth? Yes, yes it is.

The Pine - Sore Eyelids
Evergreen - Making Fun of Your First Love
Don Martin 3 - Transistor

Also, I Hate Myself is too good not to post, even if you (wrongly) label it screamo.

I Hate Myself - Less Than Nothing
I Hate Myself - A Conversation with Dr. Suessicide
posted by MetalFingerz at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2014

I spent entirely too much time in the mid 1990s confident that emo sounded like Rites of Spring and not Weezer and trying to convince other people of that. Around the time, I finally gave up the ghost (coincidentally around the time I discovered both Royal Trux and drinking legally), all of what passed for emo all pretty much sounded like Green Day to me and none of it like stuff I wanted to listen to. The younger kids loved it and that's great and all and Lord, but I hated so many of those bands with such a passion. I don't think I have it in my to get than angry* about music anymore, and I kind of miss that absolute fury of youth that could have me in a state of white knuckled rage about having to listen to The Promise Ring on repeat at some dumb scenester party.
posted by thivaia at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I briefly worked at a suburban Newbury Comics in the late '90s all the kids (I was a wizened old late 20's, and had long worked at COOL record stores, and considered myself way above this sorry station) were crazy about a bunch of bands that were indistinguishable to me. Two bands in particular stick out - the Get Up Kids, and Jump, Little Children.

Not only do they sound the same IT'S THE SAME NAME.

At this point I freely admit that I never gave them a chance at that time, and maybe they're great.

emo sounded like Rites of Spring(...)

I waved this dopey flag as well. "EMO means emotional hardcore, MAN, not this teenybopper wuss rock!!" What a bore I was.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

What a bore I was.

posted by josher71 at 1:57 PM on July 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Really funny how "the moment emo officially died" is different for everyone. For you it was the Get Up Kids, for me it was Dashboard Confessional, for my friend it was Thursday.
posted by naju at 3:21 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

And yet, emo is going through a great revival right now. With bands doing the twinkly sound a la mineral as well as harder stuff harkening back to the earlier screamo stuff. Emo is dead, long live emo.
posted by rsanheim at 8:30 PM on July 23, 2014

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