ICYMI is a series where I review and recommend old albums that you may have missed. I used to write them in a #music Slack channel at a previous job, but now I write them here.
Y'all, I love emo music. As you can tell, I have a range of emotions and I have "sad boi" tendencies for sure. So this shouldn't love of emo music shouldn't come as a surprise. All the same, I'm here to tell you that emo gets a bad rap.
When you think of emo music, you probably think about those bands from the mid-2000s like My Chemical Romance or Panic At The Disco. Music for dramatic theatre kids. And sure, those are emo bands, but they are just one era of emo! I would argue that those bands made some good music BUT it's definitely not the apex of the genre.
The emo music that you're thinking of is what is called the "second wave". The first wave was in the 90s with bands like Cap'n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, American Football, and so on. The first wave has lots of good music that has aged pretty well. The second wave is the pop apex of emo with the bands listed above. The third wave, also called emo revival, is what I want to talk about today. It ran from the late 2000s to early 2010s and hearkened back to the first wave of emo. All art reflects the tastes of the time, third wave emo is no different. Musically, to me at least, it sounds lot like the rest of indie rock of that time period. Only, instead of nice melodies, you have shouting and general chaos.
Let's start with a practical example: Glocca Morra's Just Married from 2012. You got jangly guitars doing math rock riffs. You got a lead singer screaming about the first year of marriage and being a fuck up. And you have a drummer just doing his thing. These are all things that I love.
Here's your anniversary
Ten years down the drain
- Anniversary Song
I am a sucker for concept albums and the concept for this one is simple: the first year of marriage being rough. It's even rougher if you are, for the lack of a better term, a fuck up. Being a fuck up myself, I know the pain points. When you are single, you can stay up late getting in all sorts of trouble at the bar. If you're lucky, you start to settle down, find someone that can deal with you being a fuck up. And maybe they are a fuck up as well and y'all can be a fuck up together.
You date and it goes well. You still have that escape hatch, though. You can leave if things get out of hand, they can leave if you're too intolerable. There's love, but nothing is permanent. And that's fine for your early 20s, but once you start approaching your 30s, you look around, and the friends that you were a fuck up with are settling down. They seem to have their shit together, you should do the same.
The protagonist of this album is going through it. They seem to be married on some songs, but on others, they seem to be dating. In any case, they have regrets about their life. Whether it be people around them moving on, shacking up or past loves evolving as people. All of this shouted with blaring guitars.
This is what I love about emo: even though you grow out of your teenage angst, those feelings are still right there under the surface. We should have music that speaks to that angst like we were teenagers but about topics more relevant to our current lives. (Which is not to say that this can't go sideways, some emo artists are creeps that use this emotional bluntness as an avenue to prey upon teenagers, fuck Brand New, Jank and all the other creeps.)
I remember going broke at the bar
I remember doing drugs in my car
Please don't hold my hand, I need to get up
Derrida, I don't know what I'm doing
Derrida, I don't know where I am
- Ya'll Boots Hats? (Die Angry)
I have two distinct mindsets where I have listened to this album the most. The first is riding the train home from the bar drunk. It's angry, there is screaming and it goes perfect with that ride. During those times, I was frequently single and regretting past relationships, so this was very cathartic to hear during those rides home.
(As an aside, the only friend I have made on the train was listening to this album and I had to say hi. We still text about emo music, sup Brennan!)
The second mindset is sober while in a relationship. That's where this album really shines. It really is about "this is your bed, you made it, you need to sleep in it." This is where I find myself these days.
Spent my winter in some old apartments
Getting stoned and doing nothing
Spent my summer in your parents' bedroom
Watching Casey make her own choices forever
- Eat The Fucking Snow
The above quote is from the best song on the album. It's about being snowed into an apartment and remembering fond memories of the past, but also having regrets. It has a breakdown at the end and keeps changing speeds all throughout. It really is thrilling, but back to my bullshit.
I've been thinking a lot about this sketch from I Think You Should Leave lately.
I used to be a piece of shit. I'm not anymore, but I used to be, people can change. Regardless of your past, you are worthy of love. Also, sloppy steaks is just so funny.
I only bring this up in this context because I am at a crossroads. I am looking at getting engaged in the next year to my partner. At the same time, I have to contend with my somewhat scuzzy past and that I deserve love. My past is not going to bring down the future my partner and I are planning. I also know that I need to continue to evolve, change is a constant in relationships.
Marriage is a little scary to me, all the same. I want to be with my partner and we've been rolling with the changes in our relationship so far, but just as the past is not the present, it is not the future. With the escape hatch going away, can we continue to grow? I think we can, but the fear is still there.
Bury in the awful taste you left
When you went off finding yourself
Where does that leave me?
My friend, in love again
It's me and Geniene
- Me + Geniene
The above lines are the final lyrics on the album before cutting to a very funny police call recording of a cop that ate too many edibles with a twinkly guitar outro. It's the perfect outro that sums up the thesis of love. You can be in a relationship and be a couple of fucks ups. These are things that belong together.
Enough about me, though, let me actually leave some final notes on this album.
Glocca Morra was from Miami but moved to Philly. Zack Shwartz, the front man, is a very active musician that went on to front Spirit of the Beehive and draag me, both of whom's music I love and can see stems of in this album. As is tradition with most emo bands of this era, they are never getting back together, so all we have are the records they made. Their other EPs, especially Ghoul Intentions, are worth checking out, though none of them are as long or cohesive as Just Married.
If you find this album interesting, let me recommend the following albums:
- Algernon Cadwallader's Some Kind of Cadwallader - The pinnacle of the Philly emo revival scene, might be better than Just Married, depending on my mood that day.
- Hop Along's Bark Your Head Off, Dog - Also from Philly and has a shouty lady singer with an amazing voice.
- Chalk Talk's Bad Influences - A very short EP and I describe as "Vampire Weekend ass sounding emo".
- Owen's The Avalanche - An acoustic emo album about divorce and the death of a parent.