12 Bands To Know From The Emo Revival

Emo has been a dirty word for as long as I can remember, at least since some wimps from this nation’s cold northern fringes snagged the descriptor from our capital city’s emotive hardcore bands and deflated it of machismo. In the popular consciousness, emo is known as the sound of sniveling weakness and self-obsession, of slashed-open hearts and shredded vocal cords, of unseemly LiveJournal screeds and shameless self-pity. Given the predominance of white males in emo’s ranks, such withering catharsis scans as mansplaining at its most hypersensitive. It’s an over-correction from Tim Allen’s concept of the man’s man that ends like most over-corrections: with an ugly crash. Emo can be beautiful, but it ain’t pretty.

This was a genre born of prosperity and privilege at a time between the Cold War and the War On Terror. America felt invincible, and the only thing Midwestern whiteboys had to cry about were bad breakups and existential crises. Though the style never fully went away, it more or less died out in the underground that birthed it not long after the turn of the millennium, when the sound mutated into plasticine mall-punk and flatironed metalcore and became the province of teenagers only.

But like all musical styles, emo is due for a 20-year resurrection this decade. Right on cue, a new wave of bands has emerged to let their meek flags fly in the age of the selfie. The movement isn’t exactly nascent; key players like Algernon Cadwallader and My Heart To Joy have already come and gone, and a dense network of groups flourishes on Bandcamp, replete with its own emasculating lexicon (Twinkle Daddies???). It’s still a distinctly underground phenomenon too. None of these bands seemed primed to cross over in this pop climate without a Fall Out Boy-style digital makeover, and the bands that influenced them in the first place were never more than cult favorites anyhow.

Still, it’s worth noting the sheer quantity of bands picking up this mantle and doing something worthwhile with the sound. There’s a critical mass of worthy emo practitioners out there, many of which might even strike a chord with your average indie rocker. A significant chunk of them are aligned with Boston’s Topshelf Records, the standard-bearer for the emo revival. Stereogum’s chief metalhead Michael Nelson frequently cites Profound Lore as the best label in metal, the imprint responsible for releasing the awesomest, most groundbreaking music in the genre. Topshelf plays a similar role in this new wave of emo; it’s the label home to a wide range of the genre’s best bands, many of which I’ve compiled into this primer.

It goes without saying that fans of previous waves of emo will find something to like about these bands. So if your crusty old CD wallets are stuffed with Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, the Promise Ring, American Football, Pedro The Lion, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Braid, Texas Is The Reason and the like, you’ve either already discovered some of these bands or you just hit the jackpot. Those of us who don’t know Kinsella from Kinsella might be a little more leery of this scene; with that in mind, I’ve opted to use the RIYL category to draw parallels with alternative and indie rock artists that are more typical of Stereogum’s coverage, so as to build a bridge for the emo-illiterate among us.

OK, ready? Grab your tear-stained journal and get ready to scribble down these names.

A Great Big Pile Of Leaves

City: Brooklyn, NY

Sound: Jens Lekman goes pop-punk

RIYL: The Smiths, Broken Social Scene, Belle and Sebastian, Jens Lekman

Latest LP: You’re Always On My Mind, a melancholic yet propulsive set that sounds as brisk and autumnal as the band name implies.

Where to start: A title like “Snack Attack” might imply a cutesy non-entity, but it’s really just an indication of the whimsical spirit that always undercuts the romantic longing in AGBPOL’s best songs.

Balance And Composure

City: Doylestown, PA

Sound: Modern rock with Alternative Nation roots and shoegaze sheen

RIYL: Foo Fighters, Deftones, Idlewild, Silversun Pickups

Latest LP: The Things We Think We’re Missing, an album that would seem unstuck in time except for the complete lack of surreality; it’s an immediate, grounded, physical listen that just happens to sound airlifted in from 1998.

Where to start: The triumphantly dour single “Reflection” shakes off its resemblance to nu-metal with a monumental hook and a grandiose sense of dynamics borrowed from so-called “glacial” post-rock bands.

Crash Of Rhinos

City: Derby, UK

Sound: Bleary eyes, heavy hearts, can’t win

RIYL: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Archers Of Loaf, Battles, The Dismemberment Plan

Latest LP: The aptly titled Knots, a raging current of mathematical guitar figures and howled harmonies.

Where to start: “Opener” is actually not the first song on Knots, but its wounded arpeggios, hoarse howls and marauding drum tumbles set a scene as vividly as any rock song in 2013.


City: Gainesville, FL

Sound: Wind-sprint anthems for winded twentysomethings

RIYL: Japandroids, the Hold Steady, White Lung, Pretty Girls Make Graves

Latest LP: Broad Shoulders, a blistering compendium of energized ravings, emotive guitar lines and rhythmic ca-chunk ca-chunk set to the most classically emo song titles imaginable (“Librarians Kill For That Kind Of Quiet,” “Apology Not Fucking Accepted,” “I Watch A Lot Of Jackie Chan Movies”).

Where to start: Seven-minute Broad Shoulders closer “Sorry I Can’t Stick Around” is like riding an agony-fueled rocket all the way to its sputtering crash landing.

Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)

City: Fenton, MI

Sound: Marriage-core

RIYL: Superchunk (via Get Up Kids), Death Cab For Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Built To Spill, The Microphones

Latest LP: Technically that’s 2009′s What It Takes To Move Forward, but the flurry of splits and EPs since then means you could really tumble into their discography anywhere and get the gist.

Where to start: There’s so much music out there that this feels a little like closing your eyes and pointing to a random word in the dictionary, but “It’s a fate we can’t escape. Someday we will all pass away.” captures a many aspects of Empire! Empire!’s appeal, from the comically elongated song title to the multi-segmented structure to the intersecting high-range guitar prisms to the whimper/wail vocal spectrum to classically emo lyrics like “This is how my heart broke.”

Everyone Everywhere

City: Philadelphia, PA

Sound: Fiery indie rock with a soft heart and a widescreen scope

RIYL: The Mountain Goats, Death Cab For Cutie, the Microphones, Broken Social Scene, Jens Lekman

Latest LP: Everyone Everywhere (2012), the second of two self-titled records that show a way Death Cab could have evolved instead of the pop trajectory they chose.

Where to start: A driving-yet-dreamy composition like “The Future” is possibly the seasoned indie rocker’s easiest entry point into the emo revival.

Into It. Over It.

City: Chicago, IL

Sound: Studio rat singer-songwriter emo

RIYL: Death Cab For Cutie, the Decemberists, the Mountain Goats, Wilco

Latest LP: Intersections, an album that’s definitively emo despite purposeful noise-pop arrangements that bear the marks of Modest Mouse/Califone producer Brian Deck.

Where to start: Intersections opener “New North-Side Air” lives up to its name; like the rest of the record, it’s a breath of fresh air for the emo archetype.

Joie De Vivre

City: Rockford, IL

Sound: ”Just dudes doing what dudes do best; being dudes”

RIYL: Neutral Milk Hotel, John Vanderslice, Superchunk, the Wrens, Los Campesinos!

Latest LP: We’re All Better Than This, a richly arranged batch of heartstring-wranglers buttressed by enough self-awareness to title songs “High School Me Would Have Been Pumped,” “I’d Be Upset If I Broke Up With Me Too” and “Wait Wait Wait… How Soon Is Now?”

Where to start: Joie De Vivre is an archetypical emo band with a little perspective — call it self-effacing solipsism — and in keeping with that ideal, a song titled as baldly as “I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago” functions as both an archetypical emo song and a knowing wink.


City: Middlesex, NJ

Sound: Post-emo

RIYL: Sigur Ros, Death Cab For Cutie, Pinback, Muse, the Wrens

Latest LP: Owel, a swooning mishmash of every emotive alternative archetype that manages to come off as kaleidoscopic vision, not haphazard jumble.

Where to start: Those jonesing for Jonsi will lose their shit during album opener “Snowglobe,” which could have been culled directly from ( ) if not for its distinctly American keyboard figure — and I mean that as a compliment.

Touché Amoré

City: Los Angeles, CA

Sound: Screamo tantrums at breakneck speed

RIYL: At The Drive-In, Converge, Fucked Up

Latest LP: Is Survived By, a furious half-hour of scorched-throat urgency via Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon’s Deathwish, Inc.

Where to start: “Just Exist” sounds like all Touché Amoré songs sound: guitars galore, humongous stadium drums, pained poetic self-flagellation pumped full of life by fearsome coarse-throated delivery. It’s a quarter-life crisis manifesto set to the sounds of adolescent hormonal freakout.

The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

City: Willimantic, CT

Sound: And you thought the band name was over the top…

RIYL: Los Campesinos!, Built To Spill, Explosions In The Sky

Latest LP: 2013′s Whenever, If Ever, a gorgeously ambitious sprawl of bleeding hearts and far-flung instrumentation.

Where to start: The relatively understated ballad “Low Light Assembly” has a lovely, life-affirming video, but for a better approximation of all the band’s modes, the explosively neurotic “Picture Of A Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay” is your best bet.

You Blew It!

City: Orlando, FL

Sound: Big feelings, big sound

RIYL: Japandroids, Superchunk, Okkervil River, Cymbals Eat Guitars

Latest LP: Grow Up, Dude, a scrappy yet thoughtful set of angsty anthems.

Where to start: You can’t go wrong with any of the killer choruses on Grow Up, Dude, but proper opening track “Pinball House” is a singalong for the rafters, for the stars.

Check out all these songs in a single Spotify playlist here.

Comments (167)
  1. But what does this have to do with Drake?

  2. No Dads? No Joyce Manor? No Snowing? (I know they broke up, but still)

    Still a good list, and I definitely have to check out some of these groups I’ve never heard of before

    • I will say Balance and Composure did nothing for me. It just sounded like Incubus or something

      • I think they’re one of those bands that land just on the right side of things. “They’re like Incubus…but good!” The album doesn’t live up to “Reflections,” but it’s solid.

        Another band like that is Earl Greyhound. They’re like Lenny Kravitz…but good!

      • Balance and Composure remind me Jupiter era Cave In. That album came out in 2000 damned if it wasn’t one of the best crossovers into post-hardcore emo that I ever heard. That album still amazes me.

        • Slightly similar tangent but not really as I’m not sure if I could categorize Cave In under the emo or post-hardcore umbrellas — they were always more of a metalcore thing, no? — but their major label debut (and only album on a major) Antenna, while panned years ago, probably would have been lauded today with other metal pop crossovers like Torche and Baroness.

    • Decent list, but the best thing from this is finding out about Dads. Thanks!

      Too bad Gates was missed from this list too…

    • Dads should definitely be on this list.

  3. Dads. Their “Pretty Good” EP is amazing. Seriously.

  4. Interesting. I’ll have to check a few of these out when I get a chance. I for one was not particularly excited about the idea of an Emo Revival, but there are a handful of bands sitting in the RIYL sections that could get me to investigate….

  5. You know what’s odd, with the exception of a semi-reference to the Get Up Kids and I guess the shout out to At The Drive-In (maybe), there are no actual emo bands in the RIYL section. That seems strange. So I’m just going to say it: it’s OK to reference Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Cap’n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, Promise Ring, Rainer Maria, Saves The Day, Braid, Appleseed Cast, etc etc etc without feeling shame.

  6. Um, Title Fight? But for real, saw them at Gilman on Saturday and got kicked in the face no less than 5 times. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.

    • Yes! Was going to post the same thing. Love, love Title Fight. They’re gonna be playing here on Friday night but unfortunately, I’ll be outta town. On the upside, I’ll be out of town to see NIN on Saturday so can’t complain.

      A couple other good bands that I didn’t see mentioned: Daylight, Seahaven, Defeater, Citizen, Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw… god, there really are so many. Oh! And Basement! Even though they broke up last year, which devastated me, Colourmeinkindness was in my top 3 albums of 2012.

      • It looks like Trent is mixing up his setlists slightly on every show stop. I’m excited to see what gems you get to hear!

        • Omg, I know right! I’ve been keeping my eye on nintourhistory.com for the past week. “I Would For You” has been played once, so that excites me. Either way, I know I’m going to be more than satisfied. It’ll be fun comparing notes once both our shows are completed.

  7. I was so looking forward to a list like this. I got hooked on Into It. Over It. through Augusta, GA and discovered The World Is a Beautiful… but was hungry for more. Thanks for making it easier on me. Y’all should do one of these lists on the new wave of pop-punk bands, too (Radiator Hospital, All Dogs, Sidekicks, The Ambulars, basically everyone on Salinas….).

  8. uh, I look back at the 00s emo revival and cringe. Yellowcard, Story of the Year, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, Dashboard Confessional, Say Anything, Taking Back Sunday and such. Do we really need more stuck up nasally whiny white kids bitching about first world problems again?

    • What you’re referencing is emo’s hair metal period. This article has nothing to do with that. There were great bands that existed before this era.

      • Fall Out Boy, Dashboard and Taking Back Sunday all made some pretty suck albums as well.

        • Sick records, SICK oh my god. Although I’m sure there are plenty who would agree with my statement as is.

          • True, and those guys (and several other mid-2000s bands) always said it was a subgenre classification labels/music media wildly pinned on bands that were not actually from (or even liked by fans of) the late 90s emo tradition.

            I finally got around to listening to several of the bands Richard Kuta mentioned — They covered a ton of stylistic ground… and very little of it made me think of that whole SDRE, RoS, Mineral thing I remember from my teens. Honestly, it seems like any band with a capable male vocalist got called “emo” during the 2000s.

            It would be really cool if we could celebrate these new bands, who actually do sound like the 90s bands I mentioned, AND finally let a bunch of older bands off the hook for being incorrectly lumped together as “emo” by the hype machine.

          • Tell All Your Friends – classic as fuck! (It’s in a holy trinity with Deja Entendu and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (with Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count close behind) for me)

        • First TBS album is classic. Then again, I was 14 when it came out, so of course I loved it.

          • Fall Out Boy can write a tune. I’m not a fan, but their stuff is really not bad and they don’t deserve to be the shorthand for bad mall emo. Taking Back Sunday sprung up when I was fading from emo, so I never gave them the time of day. Dashboard was the reason I couldn’t stomach emo anymore, even though I quite liked Further Seems Forever (a band that more than a few of these bands sound like).

    • Not going to take the bait in defending any of the bands you mention, but by GOD I will defend the right of white boys to bitch about first world problems – they have made some truly great art. Like, to varying degrees, most of the stuff on this blog that isn’t hip hop or dance.

      … Oh hell, I’ll take the bait too and say that Tell All Your Friends was damn fun and well-executed.

    • Those guys aren’t actually Emo… they were just pinned that by the media. It’s like calling Avril Lavigne punk. It’s easier to sell.

    • “Do we really need more stuck up nasally whiny white kids bitching about first world problems again?”

      I believe that question can be applied to far more than just music being labeled “emo”. However, new teenagers come into being every year, so the answer is probably yes.

    • you do realize that the majority of Western art/poetry/music is historically and consistently monopolized by upper class whites “bitching about first world problems”?

    • I live in the first world, so yes.

  9. I think this list could have done with some La Dispute or Mewithoutyou

    • Yes! Ten Stories is such an amazing album.

    • mewithoutYou are, in my opinion, the band most unfairly ignored due to the elite indie music press’s mid-’00s emo/”scene music” blackout. Brother, Sister in particular is a fucking accomplishment and easily in my top ten for ’06 (along with Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, another unfairly ignored album). Name another album that seamlessly blends Fugazi and The Decemberists–seamlessly being the key word. It works. It sounds natural. It sounds obvious. And Aaron Weiss’s lyrics are poetry.

      • A –> B Life was such an incredible record. I remember hearing it when it came out and being blown away… especially because at the time they were billing themselves as a Christian band (are they still doing this?)….. not that that should really matter, but sort of does anyway for superficial reasons. Anyway, that record blew me away musically, lyrically, and when I saw mewithoutYou play in a tiny coffee shop, they just tore up the room. It was fabulous. A -> B Life is still one of my favorite records.

      • I was all over Brand New”s “The Devil and God are Raging inside me”. Great album, regardless of what genre package it came in. If thats what emo is capable of, then thats a real shame that I havn’t heard any records in the emo mold that sound like it. That record had art and heart to it.

      • Both very true, I do enjoy them. If you’re an astute listener give Gig Life by The World is a Beautiful place a listen for a treat!

  10. Didn’t you guys include All Dogs in your best new bands list? They deserve mention here you did refer to them as emo in that feature, and I really liked “Farm”.

  11. Yay! I love Balance and Composure. Though I think “Quake” from their previous record is a better song. And I’m still waiting for my new Brand New album.

  12. Man… a whole lot of mixed emotions about this supposed emo “revival”. On one hand, glad that these bands are some critical attention from the more omnivorous press (no one’s going to be converted by a “best new music” (that’s literally what it’s called) on punknews.org). On the other hand, it’s a tad patronizing that the same press that used its critical leverage to pan the #&*$ out of emo at the start of the decade then ignored it outright for another decade or so, is suggesting this narrative that all the good bands are emerging NOW, and they’re all good for reasons that didn’t apply to the bands they panned or shunned. When P4K’s TWIABPAIANLATD review said emo was “reemerg[ing] as a viable, visible genre of independent rock” it was, like… I don’t know, when the popular girl in high school complements the nerd’s outfit? I’m just thinking, “there is no way your intentions with that gesture can be pure, and if they are, the proper way to start off is with an apology”.

    And yeah, I’m more annoyed by P4K in that regard than the fact that Stereogum kindly posted a list of really great starting points for people who are getting into it, but at the same time, I don’t remember the last time Stereogum gave any love to an emo band that wasn’t on this list or wasn’t within the last year. Like, were you guys waiting for someone’s permission? ‘Cause you kind of missed out on a lot of really great emo between ’06 and ’12 (although readers astutely voted Brand New’s “Daisy” into the top 50 in 2009, which made me smile).

    If anyone’s looking for more good stuff in this vein – Their / They’re / There is probably the best Kinsella project (either one) since American Football, Dads are on their way up, and the webzine Musical Mathematics has put out a bunch of great comps for free online (it’s where I found Everyone Everywhere last year)

    • This. All of this. It’s so weird that Pitchfork is now embracing the scene they worked so diligently to destroy (anyone remember just how vicious those old Joan Of Arc reviews were? yeesh). Early 00s Pitchfork is one of the most fucked-up, damaging legacies in music. Guys like Brent Dicrescenzo, Chris Dahlen and, yes, Ian Cohen were such hatchet men that they helped curate a really callous, exclusive indie culture that still, unfortunately, exists to this day, despite P4K’s attempts to be a more open-minded music source.

      It probably reached a head when P4K ripped Travistan with such wrong-headed, dick-swinging vigor. It’s not a great album, but their vitriol really clipped the wings of a strong creative voice and I think they recognized that they overstepped things. I think emo is making a “comeback” among critics because a lot of people crave indie music that still exercises some muscle. I think people are a little worn out on the indie culture that was, at least in part, created by Pitchfork.

      Or I could be totally wrong.

      • Dick-swinging is the perfect way to say it. I always hated those reviews, and how they killed their comments section, and how they’d change album scores, and how arbitrary their scoring is. Pitchfork hasn’t turned me on to a new band I’ve been excited about since 2005.

      • …although, to be fair, I AM sort of a Brent Dicrescenzo apologist. Firstly, I can barely tolerate listening to Joan of Arc, and second, for all its dick-swinging (love that choice of words), he wrote some pretty hilarious, creative reviews. The consensus seems to be that them cleaning up their act and getting “objective” was a good thing, but I think their old gonzo style was appropriate at the time for their limited audience – you have a lot more freedom when you don’t exercise such monolithic power.

        In fact, I don’t even blame them for slamming emo at the time – I just think it’s disingenuous of them to embrace it without putting any effort towards reevaluating its legacy and its merits.

      • Yeah, people are craving some edge. I’ve been waiting for more intense bands to finally emerge into the indie-sphere. The indie you refer to as being created by P4K or whatever is reaching it’s own hair-metal era. It’s actually become quite mainstream and rather dull. I want some GRIT.

        Having said that, I never thought it would surface as a full on “let’s make this shit happen” emo revival. But it does make sense I guess. I’ll welcome that sort of grit back if it means shaking things up a bit.

        I’m just glad Deftones and their post-hardcore leanings are finally being respected after all these years.

        • Speaking of Deftones respect, did anyone read Ian Cohen’s Palms (Chino Moreno + ISIS) review a few months back? It was basically slathered with apologetic compliments to Deftones, a band P4K has never bothered covering in their prime of the last decade. I get that Deftones doesn’t exactly fit into this “emo revival” by association mostly, but it’s a similar thing we’re seeing with the sudden respect for like-minded bands of yore, and the groups they’ve influenced today.

          The article in question: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/18260-palms-palms/

        • I think P4K’s relationship to Deftones is a pretty illuminating parallel – since P4K’s audience already KNOWS the kinds of bands Deftones were associated with back in the day, the momentum required to overcome readers’ prejudice and convince them that the band is actually SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY to their supposed “peers” might be too much (I have a few Deftones records myself, btws… funny how that works).

          Emo, and metal too, come to think of it, are in a very different position – the public face of these genres has been in decline for so long that readers no longer have any frame of reference for what’s going on. It becomes much easier to latch onto a certain sound or record label (Profound Lore, Topshelf) and declare THIS the gold standard when you don’t have to bother explaining what exactly sets them apart from their peers, since no one even knows who those peers are anymore.

          Don’t get me wrong, both labels have consolidated a lot of talent, but it could have just as easily have been Seasons of Mist and Deep Elm, or Ajna Offensive and Count Your Lucky Stars. The fact that it’s so arbitrary is one of the most frustrating parts.

          I think what the genre really needs is a respectable media source FOR the genre, staffed with a bunch of discerning and intelligent writers with some real depth of knowledge and a critical eye (sorry, absolutepunk – you’re just kind of hype men). Think of what Resident Advisor did for electronic music, or what Invisible Oranges did for metal.

      • What Pitchfork did to Travis Morrison was shameful. Travistan was not a very good record, but they effectively destroyed the man. That infamous review is the whole reason he dropped out of music altogether for a while.

        • I’ll say this though, All Y’all is GREAT, but P4K still found a way to shit on it.

          I generally agree that their gonzo style was fun in those early days (99-02/03) and that some of that emo stuff deserved a beating, but there was a period where their take no anarchic style and their cultural influence collided and they really did some unfortunate things with a wider audience lapping it up. One of the results is that we’re currently having to endure indie’s hair metal phase.

          • All Y’all is good, and I am not ashamed of thinking that way at all.

            But yeah. P4K was fun for a while, but when they realized the power the wielded over people who like indie music, became tastemakers, is when things got really bad. For a while, they were hype men for certain trendy bands and simply murdered everything else, especially if it was even a hint “mainstream”. They crushed bands for being too different from their old work, not different enough, changed scores… it was an ugly time to like anything not Pitchfork approved.

            They are getting much, much better, although they are still far from perfect. They at least seem to be a little more aware of the consequences of their power.

          • “take-no-PRISONERS anarchic style”

            Gah, bad proofreaders like me NEED an edit function.

    • > there is no way your intentions with that gesture can be pure

      I know this feeling so well because the term “emocore” basically gained initial popularity as an insult. It was music that wasn’t “hardcore enough” and involved “feelings.” I was appalled to hear it applied more and more widely and I don’t think it will ever fully shed that legacy of derision.

      As I said to college radio friends in the late 90s… could we pick another word? ANY other word? Apparently not, but I don’t know why.

    • One of the last frontiers of music coverage that sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum have not really covered are the more — how would I say this — the juvenile? punk and hardcore scene (and not talking about the indie punk and hardcore types like Fucked Up, Iceage, etc.) Basically, the bands that PunkNews.org, Alt Press and Absolute Punk have been known to cover over the years. With nothing really there to set apart the indie / alternative sites these days, maybe they’re looking at this as a way to branch out and reach a different type of audience and get a new chunk of traffic coming their way.

      Just thinking out loud here — I, too, don’t really trust the sincerity of how this “emo revival” is being handles. You can’t just sleep on three albums by Touche Amore and then just decide one day, “Hey, let’s start covering them.” If sites like this did that to Grimes or Vampire Weekend, they’d be done for.

      • Yeah, I feel you. Two years ago, The World Is A Beautiful Place…., Title Fight, Touche Amore, Modern Life Is War, etc. would be getting no coverage on sites like these but that’s really been picking up recently (one of the things I like about your blog is how much you’ve been on that shit for so long).

        One more frontier: Nashville country? I know, I know, there’s a lot of garbage. But listen to Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park and tell me that album doesn’t bang front to back. And that whole Pistol Annies crew know what they’re doing.

        • P4K should be doing with country what they’ve done with metal – get a few ringers in to suss out the best stuff for newbies.
          I love looking back at P4K’s old decade lists and marveling at how narrow the scope is. I mean, Stosuy was there a full decade ago, but even then it seemed like no one knew the first thing about metal. Or country. or or or…
          I’ll give them credit, the site has broadened things in recent years (the site owes a debt of gratitude to Dominique Leone. His reviews of the Yes reissues were a major step for the site) and the writing, with a few exceptions, feels less like a college newspaper, but it’s really a shame they developed so much clout before they really got their shit together. They did as much damage as the did positive.

      • This is such a great discussion.

        I’d add ska to the frontier of uncovered “juvenile” music, but I can’t blame the lack of discussion on P4k. They endorsed the Specials on their Top 100 Albums of the 1970s list, and I feel like the Beat, the Selecter, or even certain 1st-wave groups would also get a pass if reissued tomorrow. The problem is that the ska scene has been completely devoid of new ideas since the very early 2000s, and new ska bands can generally be classified into one of three categories: terrible punk/ska, terrible soul/ska, and terrible “trad” (traditional) ska. Fans of these groups also fall into one of three categories: friends/family members who are afraid to give honest feedback, high school ska kids who pine for the good ol’days which were actually not that great, and people who just happen to like horrendous music. This is the stuff that’s been dominating ska nights at bars and VFW halls for over 10 years now.

        …which is a real shame, because there’s SO much untapped potential. There’s nothing structurally wrong with ska as a musical genre, and I wonder how many listeners realize that “House of Cards,” one of Radiohead’s best songs, is essentially a ska song. I even remember listening to Destroyer’s Kaputt – my favorite album of 2011 by far – and thinking how amazing it’d be if someone were to make a ska album using the same techniques (e.g. heavily reverbed/delayed horns, a cohesive aesthetic, and, most importantly, balls-ass-amazing songwriting).

        As a fan of both ska and indie whose only friends are either ska fans who hate indie or indie fans who hate ska, I can’t say this stuff to anyone I know personally. Help me, internet, you’re my only hope.

        • el goodo, I’m feeling you.

        • I fail to see how “House of Cards” is ska at all…?

          • It’s all in the drums and rhythm guitar. The kick and the snare (or, in this case, rimshot…I think) are hit simultaneously on the 3rd, 7th, 11th, and 15th beats while the hi-hat fills out the rest. That’s a traditional 1st-wave (i.e. 1960s Jamaican) ska beat…right down to the little kaKA-KA fill that Phil keeps doing. Add that guitar riff Ed’s strumming on all the upbeats (except 8 and 12), and you’ve got yourself a ska song. That’s technically all you need…no horns, checkers, suits, “ska” puns, or awful dancing required.

          • Hmm. Stretching it a bit. Thinking of it sped up, I can hear the rhythmic similarities, I suppose. I see what you’re getting at, but by that logic it could be any number of different genres depending on which element you want to break down.

          • Good point. I’m sure we’d have an equally difficult time narrowing down what is or is not a rock song, pop song, R&B song, etc. My point is that ska is one of the few remaining genres of music not covered by mainstream critics, mostly because output has been – with very few exceptions – atrociously bad for over a decade, and it’d be nice to see it mature, experiment, evolve, and become part of the conversation like other genres. It’s a musically limited format, sure, but so are reggae and dub…and they managed to grow and change, as well as (for a long time, at least) produce a ton of incredible, influential artists. It’s been called novelty music, but so has almost every other genre at one point or another. The problem is that ska has been the same for so long that it’s become almost completely resistant to change…and terrible for so long that everyone else rightly stopped caring a long time ago if they ever did.

          • True. I also think ska has always had a feeling of “silliness” to it. A sense that it doesn’t even take itself seriously, so why should a critical audience? It’s almost a joke genre. But, like you said, that might have more to do with the sub-par artists associated with the style more than anything else.

    • I agree. It’s a total of-the-moment thing. I like your analogy of the cool girl complimenting the nerd.

      In the very least, I think one thing that would help my digestion of this sudden resurgence is a new name. I think the word “emo” itself has completely lost any credible flavor, much like “dub-step” has today.

    • You are my new favorite commenter.

  13. Whoa, whoa, whoa… This is my expertise, as I’ve been covering this since 2010 on my old defunct blog — the very first post I ever wrote, I should add — and I just want to say that I am surprised it took THREE years for all of the tastemaker sites like Stereogum and Pitchfork to catch on. I’m not one to brag, but c’mon! THREE YEARS BEHIND ON THIS, GUYS!

    Second of all, I think this list is a bit too broad, and should have separated emo and post-hardcore revivalism (another thing that’s been stewing for years.) I understand there’s overlap in the styles, but they’re complete different sides of the noise spectrum. Touché Amoré, Balance and Composure I’d definitely file under “post-hardcore” (and you totally missed Title Fight, who are going to be huge-r! Daylight is great, as well.)

    Other than that, I just can’t get into Into It. Over It. It makes me sleepy in a non-Mineral way.

    • I was scrolling through the comments curious to see what you had to say about this Underscore, as I knew this is your forte. I will be forever grateful to your site for introducing me to Ovolv.

      I posted upthread about Daylight and a couple other bands I thought they missed, including Basement. Were you a fan of theirs? I’m still pissed they broke up last year and I think they pulled the plug too early, especially considering they could of benefited so well from this whole “revival” thing.

      • *Ovlov too, damnit.

      • I enjoy Daylight although I see them as more of a progressive post-hardcore band rather than an emo revival band. I honestly never gave Basement much of a listen (perhaps because of that plug-pulling?) but on that note, it’s too bad Algernon Cadwallader couldn’t hold on for a bit longer before calling it a day because they would have been at the forefront of this next gen scene. They had a strong fanbase even a few years back.

    • Nice I was going to say that none of these bands sounds like emo to my mind. To me these all sound like the “la-dee-da” aftermath of when emo jumped the shark and started to piss everyone off. Maybe Empire Empire is the closest.

      Not sure if you are complementing Mineral in your post but for me “For Ivadell” is my all-time favorite emo song. And probably my all-time favorite song in general.


  14. Do you think American Football will ever make another album?

  15. Boo, can’t hear these cuz i’m in canada. and i miss saves the day. what’s a girl to do

  16. As an unapologetic fan of this whole movement, I’m thrilled to see these bands getting some well-deserved coverage. However, I feel like some obvious front-runners were neglected (Glocca Morra, Modern Baseball, Owen, Pity Sex, Joyce Manor) if we’re going to lump all these diverse-sounding bands together. Also, the RIYL sections don’t really make sense to me…I saw very few bands that actually represented the sound of their attached band. Maybe there’s no need to provide people with unrelated reasons to listen to these bands: this is a sound that was obviously formed from mid-90s midwest emo, but it exists in its own right. It’s sometimes nostalgic and nasal but, hell, this is some good shit.

    Also: saw The World Is with Pity Sex and Dads this summer and I can tell you very few of the other shows I saw around the same time could compare. There’s a vitality to the live show with these bands that gives me the energy and enthusiasm of being at a hardcore show when I was 16, but doesn’t feel like it’s trying to recapture anything. It’s a hell of a party, like any show should be.

  17. Anyone else still love Brand New?

    • The Devil and God Raging Inside Me is great. I don’t care what anyone says about Brand New.

    • I’ve been listening to The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me again for the past week. It’s definitely a creative peak for them, but admittedly, I think the end of the LP begins to drag. We do need a new album from them, though. I think Daisy came out in 2009, which feels like eons ago. They’d probably achieve press from sites like this, especially considering The World Is a Beautiful Place… just opened for them and they’re in here.

      • Thoughts on Deja Entendu?

        • When Deja is good, it is really really good. I like when Jesse gets into his dark “I’m a manipulative asshole” phase and writes songs like “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis”. Also, “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” is the track that convinced me they could be more than a mall punk band.

          There are a couple of tracks that I think are duds, but I can listen to the record as a 25 year old and feel as good about it as I did at 15. That is more than I can say for a lot of albums.

    • I am kicking myself for not going to Riot Fest this year, apparently they killed it. When music sites like avclub ackowledge they played well, you know they played well.

      Daisy was a letdown, but Devil and God is a classic for me. A lot of my friends like to say Brand New is a nostalgic guilty pleasure, but I still love em.

    • They will always be so much more than a nostalgic band for me. Brilliant songwriting and one of the most impressive “evolutions” so to speak of any band I know. I saw them at Riot Fest in Denver a few weeks ago and I have to say they were the fucking best of the night. Amazing crowd and literally everyone was singing every single word. Magic

  18. Every winter I get out a magnifying glass and scour the Coachella fine print for Mineral or the Gloria Record. I miss Chris Simpson.

    I know the Touché Amoré dudes from around town and agree with Underscore that they belong on a different list, but they’re good guys that have worked hard for the success they’ve found.

    The only other band I’ve heard is The World Is a Beautiful Place…, whose record makes me nostalgic for the 90s, which is like nostalgia²—some sort of emo black hole. I hope these other songs make me feel that way, too. Thanks for making this list, I look forward to checking out the rest of the bands.

  19. Funny that P4K posted this today at the same time as Stereogum:


    The emo revival is official.

    • Hah. Go figure. I just downloaded that sampler last week. It’s pretty great, even for people who have following this “emo revival” thing for the past couple years as I have, I still found a bunch of new bands I’ve yet to discover. It’s just so odd to me to see P4K covering bands like Pentimento and Drug Church now.

      • Same. Downloaded the Everyone Everywhere album (2010) as soon as it came out. But I really hope P4K doesn’t turn into yet another machine that labels everything “Emo” in order to maintain hype. I saw the post on Iron Chic being emo… it really sounded like they had no idea what they were talking about.

  20. Dude, whoever wrote this shit is a fuckin’ noob.

  21. La Dispute and Defeater deserve some love, though they’re both more on the post-hardcore end of things.

    • I first saw La Dispute about five years ago when they were touring Vancouver. Holy shit, they burned that place to the ground. They might play the most furious, life affirming live show I have ever seen. I was instantly a fan.

      However, I will admit to rarely listening to their records, simply because the records can’t compete with the experience of seeing them live.

  22. My crusty old CD wallet and shoebox of 7″s are filled with the bands name-checked in the last paragraph, but the RIYLs have arguably two emo bands (Converge, ATDI) total.

    Unless you can give me something that truly sounds influenced by SDRE or TITR, I’m not going to waste my time with bands influenced by Muse of Death Cab for Cutie.

    If this is the best emo has to offer right now, bring down the tents because this ain’t no revival.

    • If it helps any of the recommendations stick, I’ve always considered pre-Transatlanticism DCFC a sort of honorary emo band. I mean, you can NOT listen to the climax in “Fake Frowns” or the “Ooh baby what a way to cut lengthwise” refrain in “Bend to Squares” and not think all-caps emo, especially the more subdued, indie-pop oriented stuff The Promise Ring and Mineral were coming out with around the turn of the millenium.

    • Keep in mind, those are bands to entice the non-fans. I for one was never huge into the “emo” scene, although I liked ATDI and a few similar bands. But if you’re gonna tell me some of these guys sound like some other bands I like, I just may check it out.

  23. Oh, also should mention, for some reason, Elliott is always missing from lists of the great emo bands. U.S. Songs and False Cathedrals are both top 5 emo albums, and “Calm Americans” is a top 2 emo song. Don’t ignore them just because their SEO sucks.

  24. 1) Does anyone remember colossal? if so there are there any bands like that out now a days?
    2) WHY DOES NATIVE ALWAYS GET PASSED UP IN THESE THREADS? Their rad people, as well as talented musicians/song writers.
    3) Reptilian would of been another band to add as well.

  25. So, is the decline of guitar rock over yet?

    Just downloaded the Top Shelf sampler, excited to have some new rock bands to discover.

    Totally agree with all the emo fans being emo that Stereogum and Pitchfork are only now covering their fave genre, and pretty much ignored/mocked it a decade ago when it was the sound of teenage angst. I had a bunch of friends who loved that music and ended up hearing it all the time, and yeah it was a little over the top whiny at times but sometimes it just rocked, and it was earnest and heartfelt to boot. Beats the electronic irony brigade as far as I am concerned.

    My own pet peeve about holes in indie rock blog coverage is music in Spanish. I can’t remember Stereogum ever covering any Spanish-language music, and the only stuff I remember on Pitchfork was a Hello Seahorse review, a Fania Records comp review, and an article about new bands from Spain. There’s a whole raft of classic bands from the 90s that indie fans would love if they had ever heard of them (Caifanes, Cafe Tacuba, Aterciopelados, Plastilina Mosh, etc.) and great stuff happening all over the place that mixes rock with electronic music and traditional genres like cumbia and tango (Bomba Estereo, Chocquibtown, Bajofondo, Nortec Collective, etc.). Hell, even the traditional genres have a lot worth exploring, Soundway Records comps reviewing Colombian and Panamanian music are mind-blowing.

    I’m gonna be muy bravo when you guys start covering this stuff in five years as if it came out of nowhere!

  26. I’m so glad this is happening because now there will be more bands that people call “emo” in addition to the majority of indie bands since any non-metal rock music the general population has not heard on the radio is automatically labeled “emo.”

  27. King of suprised Cloud Nothings didn’t make this list. Great band!

  28. I just realized there is hardly any female representation on this list (I spot one female in the pics above.)

    • Yeah, about that… it’s hard to come up with anything more than the easy answers as to why women don’t seem to have ANY voice in indie-leaning emo, now or then, but consider if you will – when was the last time you saw a woman doing a set in the Boiler Room? (a woman who wasn’t summarily accused of trolling, that is)

      • The topic actually got me thinking about emo’s storied history, and it made me recall this article from an entire decade ago written by Jessica Hopper about women in emo music, and how it has for the most part been a boy’s club: http://web.archive.org/web/20031002042645/http:/www.punkplanet.com/archives/00000004.html

        Right now, a lot of these bands don’t really sing about how broken hearted they are. It’s a lot of nostalgic look-backs on more innocent times, feelings of loneliness, isolation, growing pains, etc. If it does take the course of being male-dominated break-up songs, however, it’ll just go the way of sinking into another hair metal phase. Brand New and Taking Back Sunday pre-dated that era just by a few years, but I also can’t but look back on some of those particular two band’s lyrics throughout Deja Entendu, Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want to Be and notice how heartbreak songs became sexually demonizing stories about girls who were cheaters or had low self-esteem that needed to be validated through sex, thus inspiring the Hot Topic bastardization of emo (luckily, Brand New grew out of that phase quickly and took on more worldly issues.)

        Anyhow, since this list is so broad, I don’t see why bands like Lemuria, Hop Along and football etc. couldn’t have been mentioned.

        • Oh man… if she thinks the lady on the cover of Cursive’s Domestica was too “sad-eyed, winsome, and well-cleaved”, she would NOT be a fan of The Starting Line in the years to come (restating the obvious, I guess).

          For the emo purists who want to flash some feminist cred, there’s always Pohgoh (although it’s telling that I literally can’t think of another female-fronted 90s emo band…) (and that very, very few people ever cared about Pohgoh)

  29. I recently went back to some of my favorite ‘emo’ albums from the late 90′s/early 00′s (Promise Ring, Get Up Kids, Reggie and the Full Effect, Saves the Day, etc.) and I have to say not a whole lot of it held up for me personally. I still loved Get Up Kids’ first record and Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. But a lot of the rest of it didn’t have the same emotional impact that it did 15 yrs ago. The other ‘emo’ records from that time that I still love are more ‘emo leaning’ but mostly something else (ATDI, DCFC, Modest Mouse).

    I think what pulled a lot of people away from ‘emo’ is that it sort of got overtaken by the Fall Out Boys and the My Chemical Romances, who are imo good bands with catchy songs, but someone used the word “juvenile” which I’m gonna grab here. I know they are mostly ‘pop punk’ and not really emo but the friends I have now that are still into new emo stuff (including many of the bands mentioned above) just call it all pop punk.

    • Old emo records that hold up (for me)

      Promise Ring – Nothing Feels Good
      The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About (returned to this one recently and was shocked how solid it was. Wasn’t it supposed to suck?)
      Cap’n Jazz – Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards In The Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana …
      Sunny Day – Diary, How It Feels
      Mock Orange – Nines And Sixes
      American Football – American Football
      Chamberlain – The Moon, My Saddle
      Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (seriously. I know Clarity is THE ONE, but Bleed American is an amazingly good pop/rock record)
      Saves The Day – Stay What You Are

      Were Hot Water Music and Cursive emo? If yes, than all their early albums too.

      Listening to At The Drive-In now does nothing for me.

      • Interesting. At the Drive-in is probably the one that holds up the most for me. They have been a fixture on my favorite bands list but I never considered them emo at all. Maybe I am missing something on Something to Write Home About because i honestly never liked it as much as 4 Minute Mile.

      • Nines and Sixes absolutely. Mock Orange are like the indie rock secret handshake. If you don’t know, you don’t know. But if you know Mock Orange….then you know that’s what’s up.

  30. Crap… missed it the first time around. Oh well

  31. Parting thought from Greg Horbal of The World Is etc. -

  32. there is no emo revival no one actually cares about this scene

    • My, my, that was a quick turnaround! Well Chris, I guess you really showed me that you totally believed everything you wrote in that article.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • How can all guitar rock sound dated? What date are we talking about? 1967? 1977? 1987? Do synths sound futuristic? If I’m not mistaken, I think a whole generation of people thought they sounded futuristic in the eighties…

  33. I like this list. But I’d say that Grown Ups are the best emo-revival band

  34. If emo is supposedly reviving “guitar rock,” then…eh…eh…

  35. I’m really confused because I thought all of these bands were emo but they get no mention anywhere here, even in the comments?

    cursive, (early) bright eyes, jawbreaker, titus andronicus, desaparecidos, commander venus, joyce manor

  36. I’ve always imagined emo as one of the more musically flexible genres, but not stupidly so (like the all-encompassing blanket “indie rock”). I guess more people seem to think its about its about arpeggiated mathy guitars? It’s always been about earnest cathartic release for me, which is why I think cap’n jazz isn’t emo at all (their lyrics read like pavement)

    that said, early cursive is amazing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdlkYKdncm4

  37. But – what’s “marriage-core”?

  38. Hmm alot of these bands sound like Moving Mountains – but they always seem to fall under the label ‘post-rock’ even though they don’t sound much like any other post-rock band I’ve ever heard i.e. Explosions in the Sky, God is an Astronaut etc.

    • Agreed about MOV MOU, though their newest album is definitely much more laid back and mellow. Pretty much Caspian w/ lyrics. Nothing wrong with that, of course, I just love Forward and Pneumonia. But especially with your statement in regards to The World is a Beautiful Place, cannot wait to see them in November!

  39. The only band that ever sparked any interest from me in the “emo” classification is/was My Chemical Romance, and I’m not even sure if they fit into the “emo” class…..Do they?

  40. Hey Ya’All, Kind of Like Spitting with Ben Barnett actually coined the phrase “Emo Rock” in an interview.. Ben was the Music Director at School of Rock in Seattle for several years and he was AWESOME! Very passionate and smart and down to earth; the kids really related to him.

  41. Crash of Rinos reminds the Hot Water Music Band…
    so RIYL: tHWMb

  42. Last year it was Stereogum trying to tell us about the unsung virtues of Master P.

    Now I guess I’ll be reading about that particular jewel we never appreciated enough, probably Dashboard.

  43. No Thursday, no Finch, no Glassjaw, no Alexisonfire?

  44. All this did was make me sad about the fact that there isn’t more American Football in existence. But it was great to see them mentioned here so many times.

  45. One of the coolest “emo revival” bands, Foxing (Count Your Lucky Stars Records), released their debut LP “The Albatross” today. Peep it, http://countyourluckystars.bandcamp.com/album/the-albatross

  46. @kleenex don’t forget a big benefit of 4k is true 1080p-in-each-eye 3D. 1080p at 4″ looks nice and sharp and clear. Now imagine that in 3D, shrug, hey. :)

  47. I don’t understand why he would compare Touche Amore’s whiny seinfeld vocals to converge at all. Plus none of the bands that he compares to Japandroids sound like them.
    And most of these would be better described as dream pop or post rock

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