It’s Consequence’s 15th anniversary, and all September long we’ll be publishing a series of retrospective pieces encompassing our publication’s own history — and the entertainment landscape in general. Today, Associate Editor Abby Jones runs down the best emo albums of the last 15 years.
Emo was in a weird place 15 years ago. In 2007, rock’s most misunderstood subgenre was on the brink of a total overhaul — sentimental pop-punk bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance had already released their most career-defining projects, bringing a close to what we now know as third-wave emo and clearing the path for something new in its wake.
Around the time Consequence was founded, fourth-wave emo — a.k.a. the emo revival — came in swinging, twinkly guitars and all. In a lot of ways, the subgenre was going back to its roots; this new crop of impassioned indie rockers sounded like Sunny Day Real Estate, proclaimed their love for Rites of Spring, and openly admitted to ripping off Cap’n Jazz. By the early 2010s, the emo revival had fully taken over.
You could argue that emo is in an even weirder place now. It’s no longer rare for blogs and forums that once detested the genre (yes, we’re probably guilty, too) to now praise it. Many would say we’re now well into emo’s fifth wave, although plenty of revival-era acts are still adding onto their already-prolific discographies with no signs of slowing down. Bands who have been broken up for less than a decade can announce reunion tours, and those tours can sell out.
But this is not the place to discuss what is or isn’t emo. Today, in honor of Consequence’s 15th birthday, we’re just here to round up some of the very best twinkly, mathy, whiny, and emotive releases of the past 15 years.
15. Origami Angel – Somewhere City (2019)
On their debut album, Somewhere City, Origami Angel — the D.C. duo of Ryland Heagy and Pat Doherty — flip the trope of suburban angst on its head: What if we actually could get out of here, and what if the place that awaits us is infinitely better? What if that place is within arm’s reach? Whimsical and vivid, Somewhere City is just as awe-inspiring as the metaphorical location.
14. Title Fight – Floral Green (2012)
If you’re of the mentality that real emo can and should only stem from post-hardcore, then Title Fight might be about as real as they come on Floral Green. The Pennsylvania band’s sophomore album saw the one-time pop-punk underdogs suit up for the big leagues with a more cosmic, heavy sound, while still putting their soaring melodies at the forefront.
13. Dating – Outminded (2012)
Outminded often feels so singular that it’s obvious it could have only come from Scandinavia. Swedish band Dating spin elements of noise, post-punk, and shoegaze into their gothic breed of emo, feeling at once all-consuming and macabre. While Outminded may not have garnered the same popularity as other albums on this list at the time of its release, it’s the type of underground project you can envision current bands pointing to as an influence.
12. Glocca Morra – Just Married (2012)
Though it might be easy to pit Glocca Morra among their fellow emo revival peers — a value-brand Snowing, a less pop Joyce Manor — it’s equally difficult to deny that what they do, they do well. When it comes to point-and-shout-along hooks, the band’s second album, Just Married, hits the nail on the head.
11. Street Smart Cyclist – Discography (2014)
Before Willow Brazuk, Nate Dionne, and John Galm formed Snowing, they were three-eighths of the similarly math-influenced band Street Smart Cyclist, who put out three EPs in just as many years before their dissolution. Admittedly, Discography isn’t a proper album, instead comprising pretty much everything SSC put to tape. But their short time together doesn’t mean they didn’t take themselves seriously: A now-hilarious statement from the band’s Jon Geeting almost exactly 15 years ago asserts that the band isn’t “emo in that pejorative MTV definition where we cry about girls,” and they have the grounds to say that because they know Rites of Spring and Moss Icon.
If that statement tells us anything now, the first is: We’ll never land on a single definition of emo. Secondly, unlike the aforementioned late ’80s bands, SSC’s main goal was “to have a killer time and get real happy and shrug off all the bullshit of a young person’s life for just a 15 minute set, and take our shirts off.” If you haven’t caught on already, that seems to be what the revival was all about.
10. Foxtails – III (2017)
One spin of Foxtails’ III and you’ll hear everything from math rock to shoegaze to hardcore to jazz. Tying it all together is the band’s unfettered ferocity, and particularly that of vocalist Megan Cadena-Fernandez, who seamlessly wavers between a delicate croon to a piercing, bone-chilling scream. Foxtails’ musical and lyrical intricacies belie the restrictive “screamo” label.
09. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – What It Takes to Move Forward (2009)
With their debut album, What It Takes to Move Forward, Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) were one of the key fixtures in sparking the emo revival in the late 2000s. Perhaps best captured here, their sound feels faithful to its ‘90s predecessors like American Football, Rainer Maria, or Mineral, though they thankfully also had the smarts to lead a renaissance.
08. The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever (2013)
Unless their band name didn’t already give it away, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die delight in the grandiose. On their debut album, the Connecticut band employ piano, cello, and trumpet to create their signature sweeping sound, which can feel cathartic, victorious, and theatrical all at once. But TWIABP were smart enough to hold back before Whenever, If Ever ever became self-parodying. It’s such a fine line that few have successfully followed the same formula after them.
07. Snowing – I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted (2010)
The “Years Active” section on Snowing’s Wikipedia page reads as follows: “2008–2011, 2016 (reunion), 2019 (reunion), 2022 (reunion).” Not that we’ve really been keeping track, but three reunions for a band who only put out one full-length record might be a world record. Though some more devoted fans might sway towards the harsher sound of Snowing’s 2009 EP Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit, I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted is the type of album to conjure nostalgia for times in your life you thought you’d never want to endure again.
06. 파란노을 (Parannoul) – To See the Next Part of the Dream (2021)
Perhaps the biggest change to happen to emo in the past 15 years is that we’re all online now. Such is the case for 파란노을, a.k.a. Parannoul, a mysterious Seoul musician whose To See the Next Part of the Dream became the rare, coveted Bandcamp success story. Blending the energy of Midwest emo with the distorted, dreamy atmosphere of shoegaze, the record feels like what you might imagine emo would sound like in utopia.
05. Oso Oso – basking in the glow (2019)
Jade Lilitri, the main force behind Oso Oso, should be the first name that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “emo-pop” if it isn’t already. basking in the glow, his third album under the moniker, is less concerned with accepting perennial dread and instead aims at the possibility of — gasp — becoming a better person. “I’ve been making progress in microscopic strides,” Lilitri sings on the sweeping highlight “the view,” embodying all the catchiness and assuredness of “The Middle” without the triviality.
04. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There (2014)
You could call Home, Like Noplace Is There a romantic record, but to call The Hotelier romantics would be ill-fitting. Bold, relentless, and seemingly limitless, the band’s sophomore album deconstructs the dark sides of partnerships in a number of forms, from the dynamics of abusive relationships to the inconsolable guilt of playing hooky from a loved one’s funeral.
03. Brave Little Abacus – Just Got Back from the Discomfort — We’re Alright (2010)
Arguably the most experimental group on this list by far, nobody has done anything that’s sounded quite like Brave Little Abacus — or at least, nobody else has been able to pull it off. Their second and last album, Just Got Back from the Discomfort — We’re Alright, is unpredictable in a way that still feels just as thrilling and exciting now as it did twelve years ago.
02. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again (2014)
Ask Joyce Manor frontman Barry Johnson for advice on making an album, and he’ll probably tell you to just make it shorter. But he walks the walk, too: Never Hungover Again comes in at just under 20 minutes without a second wasted. Here, Joyce Manor distill everything you loved about pop-punk in your teens — meditations on being an outcast, being in love, living in suburbia, or some combination of the three — into a smart, concise package with riffs rivaling those of Blink-182. Even if you’re old enough to have a laundry list of liquors you can’t smell without gagging, Joyce Manor prove there’s still plenty of fun to be had and even more angst to be felt.
01. Algernon Cadwallader – Some Kind of Cadwallader (2008)
Algernon Cadwallader never took themselves seriously, as indicated in an oft-referenced quote from a 2008 interview with the trio: “We’re a DIY band from Pennsylvania. We sound like Cap’n Jazz.” Say what you will about deliberately copying your predecessors, but few have done it better than Algernon, who took the freewheeling spirit of Cap’n Jazz’s only LP and ran with it until it became something entirely their own.
It’s no wonder that Algernon Cadwallader’s debut album, Some Kind of Cadwallader, is often cited as the album that truly got the gears of the emo revival turning. It’s indicative of a band who have a deep love and understanding of the genre, but can still turn it into something peerless. Watch any video of the recently-reunited band during their heyday, and you can see exactly how their playfully expressive demeanor caught on — of course it started an underground revolution.