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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.

The term “black metal” can mean almost anything these days — sublime post-rock (with screaming), bracing post-punk (with croaking), experimental sound collage (with portentous spoken word), and, occasionally, wordless cosmic twaddle (with synths and not much else). All of these things borrow from black metal, but none really embodies the true spirit of black metal in the traditional sense. (“The True Spirit Of Black Metal” sounds like a sacrilegious holiday musical in the making, doesn’t it?) Orthodox black metal, on the other hand, stands in opposition to black metal dabbling. If black metal has a cold, self-contained center, it’s orthodox black metal, which is sonically ominous, universally Satanic, and disconcertingly intense in its commitment to impenetrable ideology — which is what makes it so fascinating to explore.

Yeah, it was Weird Al Week round here — from “Foil” to “Handy” to “Tacky” to “Word Crimes” to “Sports Song,” Al coulda claimed spots 1 – 5 on this week’s 5 Best Songs and no one would have disagreed except on the order in which those songs were presented. But we’re taking the Accordion Man as a given, and putting our focus on five other great songs. They’re equally worthy, if not half as funny. Check ’em out below, share yours on the comments, and have a great weekend.

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