The eternal contrast between gradations of dark and light is one of life’s great dualities. That which seems permissible under the cover of darkness feels transgressive in the daylight, and as I discovered this past weekend, the hedonistic excesses of the night feel even more raw and exposed when bathed in the milky glow of a midnight sun.
Let me set the scene for you: I’m in Neskaupstaður, a remote town on the east side of Iceland that’s nestled by the looming specter of the Norðfjörður fjord and sports a robust population of 1,437. Every July, this sleepy hollow is overrun by scores of music fans hellbent on soaking up every last intoxicating drop of Eistnaflug, Iceland’s biggest (and only) multi-day metal fest. The organizers always pepper their broad lineup of homegrown Icelandic talent with a smattering of international guests, and 2014 featured appearances from At The Gates, Havok, Zatokrev … and last-minute additions Bölzer. Judging from the response the commanding Swiss duo got from the roaring crowd of diehards and drunkards who greeted their death metal machinations, whomever greenlighted that particular decision knew what they were doing.
It was a good week for songs. Any week whose 5 Best Songs includes seven artists including Danny Brown, Ezra Koenig, Jessie Ware, Rustie, SBTRKT, Shura, and Spoon? That is a good week for songs. And you know what? You could maybe even argue that a few others shoulda been squeezed on there, too. Do that in the comments. Have a great weekend in real life. Spin these tracks in both scenarios.
Ask anyone old enough to drink what they think emo is, and you’ll get about as many different responses as people willing to answer. They’ll just about all be right, too (if Last.fm is any kind of reference, anyway). Everyone’s nebulous identification and loose understanding of the genre is both its best and worst quality — emo is just so damn personal. No matter if you credit Rites Of Spring or My Chemical Romance for introducing raw, bleeding-heart emotions into the lexicon of punk and hardcore, the bands you listen to and define as “real emo” are undoubtedly among the most important to ever appear in your life. And yet there was indeed a solid stretch of time, roughly under a decade, when everyone who cared to could wholeheartedly agree on what the hell emo actually was, and they could not get enough of it. I like to refer to this as the Golden Era of Emo. Starting in the early ’90s and sputtering out just after the turn of the century, it was an exciting period for underground punk and hardcore scenes. The Golden Era gave emo its unequivocally best songs, and it also birthed a number of bands and artists who would go on to become both huge commercial successes and revered darlings of independent music. This wasn’t when the term “emotional hardcore” was coined, nor was it when emo became a household word; this was that perfect pocket of time when a specific kind of unabashedly earnest rock was able to incubate out of the spotlight and thrive amongst a tight-knit group of eager and unjaded peers.