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The Story Of Emo In 20 Songs

Rob Sayce
Rob Sayce 6 February 2018 at 18.02

From bright new hopes to scene legends, it's all here.

From its beginnings in the U.S. underground to the life-changing albums and globe-straddling icons that made the '00s so unforgettable, emo has had a long and fascinating story to date. 

It's impossible to sum all of that up in one playlist, but here we bring you some of the scene's biggest and most significant songs ever: starting with its most enigmatic new voice

1. NOTHING,NOWHERE.
'HOPES UP'
Say hello to the new face of emo. Blending together the genre's common elements with hip-hop, alt-pop, and skate culture (plus loads more), Joe Mulherin has emerged as one of the most compelling solo artists on the planet - and this is still just the beginning. Here's his collaboration with scene legend Chris Carrabba, AKA Dashboard Confessional.



2. MOVEMENTS 
'DAYLILY'
Bridging the gap between (yep) emo, post-hardcore, pop-punk and even spoken word, Movements are producing something uniquely powerful. Album title ‘Feel Something’ says it all. 



3. COLUMBUS 
'RAINDROP'
On 2016’s ‘Spring Forever’, this Brisbane trio charted the highs, lows and collapse of a relationship in 12 beautifully-observed songs. It was great, but pretty devastating too.



4. MODERN BASEBALL 
'YOUR GRADUATION'
With their incredibly candid, charming and relatable songs, MOBO played a key role in launching emo’s 201-something revival.



5. PARAMORE 
'THAT'S WHAT YOU GET'

Though they’ve evolved and explored exciting new territory in the years since, Paramore’s ‘Riot!’ remains a timeless classic: and this song still sounds huge live.



6. SENSES FAIL
'CALLING ALL CARS'

Plumbing the depths of misery and desperation with records like ‘Still Searching’ and ‘The Fire’ this New Jersey crew produced some unforgettable music. They’re still doing so, albeit in a more considered way.



7. PANIC! AT THE DISCO
'I WRITE SINS NOT TRAGEDIES'

In the beginning, Panic! emerged as genius-level outliers in the emo landscape - but their lyrics, aesthetic and approach shared DNA with loads of the other bands on this list. Especially…



8. FALL OUT BOY
'SUGAR, WE'RE GOIN DOWN'

Plenty of bands had bridged the worlds of emo and pop-punk before Fall Out Boy, but has anyone ever done it better? This song says ‘nope’. 



9. MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
'I'M NOT OKAY (I PROMISE)'

What a song. What an album. What a band. 



10. SAY ANYTHING
'ALIVE WITH THE GLORY OF LOVE'

One of the genre's definitive cult bands - led by the mercurial and brilliant Max Bemis - Say Anything have combined stark, sardonic lyrics and catchy instrumentals for almost two decades. This is arguably one of the most disturbing songs ever written - and it's up there with the best, too. 



11. THE USED 
'THE TASTE OF INK'

Painting Warped Tour black in the early '00s, Bert McCracken’s crew changed the game with their stunning debut album. 



12. TAKING BACK SUNDAY
'CUTE WITHOUT THE E (CUT FROM THE TEAM)'

Perhaps they're now best known for their later, 'Louder Now'-era bangers, but TBS's 'Tell All Your Friends' was a stone cold classic - paving the way for both their later commerical success and a legion of imitators. 



13. THURSDAY 
'UNDERSTANDING IN A CAR CRASH'

One of the first emo / post-hardcore records to make mainstream audiences sit up and listen, 2001’s ‘Full Collapse’ was a masterclass in soulful, breathless songwriting. Here’s one of its high points.



14. SAVES THE DAY
'STAY WHAT YOU ARE'

Some people prefer their 1999 breakthrough 'Through Being Cool', but two years on 'At Your Funeral' delivered these New Jersey stalwarts’ definitive track. They went on to become one of the most influential bands in emo, if never one of the biggest. 



15. DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL
'THE SWISS ARMY ROMANCE'

Here's Chris Carrabba again, with one of the heartfelt anthems that made him an icon of his generation. 



16. JIMMY EAT WORLD
'LUCKY DENVER MINT'

Before they took over the world with songs like 'The Middle', the Arizona four-piece carved about a place in emo history with the subtler, but no less powerful 'Clarity'. The rest is history.



17. THE GET UP KIDS
'HOLIDAY'

As the new millennium approached, these five guys from Kansas City helped bring emotionally-charged pop-punk to a wide audience. Oh, and their groundbreaking ‘Something To Write Home About’ is full of massive songs like this.  



18. AMERICAN FOOTBALL
'NEVER MEANT'

Featuring members of other influential bands like Cap'n Jazz and Joan Of Arc, American Football released one thoughtful, understated album before going their separate ways. And what a record it was: influencing a generations of musicians who followed. 



19. SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE
'SEVEN
'
Alongside the likes of Mineral, The Promise Ring, Braid and Texas Is The Reason, these Seattle residents helped define the sound, feel and tone of what would come to be called emo - branching off from the genre's roots in hardcore. They were an enigmatic presence that burned briefly, but brightly.



20. JAWBREAKER
'WANT'

Arguably, this is where it all began - with one trio from New York and four albums of angular, anguished and (at the time) unique punk rock. Fugazi paved the way, but 1990's 'Unfun' is pretty much where it all kicked off. 

 

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