When new movements or “waves” of music start, there is typically a turbulent influx of artists. This leads to much music being overlooked because of the sheer breadth of artists rearing their heads in the same short period. Additionally, some artists make it big only to have some of their best albums overlooked. As a 90s kid, my teenage and young adult years saw an influx of Emo, Punk, Pop, and Hardcore music, which stays with me to this day. This scene was often referred to as the “second wave” of Emo/Post-Hardcore. Typically, it refers to bands that started in the first decade of the 2000s. I was discussing an album from this wave with a friend, and we both felt it was sorely underrated. After that discussion, I ran with the idea and came up with some other underrated albums from the same scene. Hopefully, below you will discover at least one album to add to your listening repertoire.
The first album I would like to discuss is Crash Love by AFI. AFI had been a band for 15 years and had released 7 studio albums by the time Crash Love had come out. They had started out as a Horrorcore band but had slowly changed their sound. Starting with Black Sails in the Sunset, they had begun to incorporate Emo, Post-Hardcore, and other Alt-Rock sounds into their music. With Sing the Sorrow, we saw a more melodic side of the band and more incorporation of the Emo/Post-Hardcore elements. The album that followed, DECEMBERUNDERGROUND, fully entrenched them in the second wave of Emo Rock. It was also their first album to fully embrace synths and other electronic sounds. Crash Love came out next, which failed to meet the commercial standards or critical success set by the success of the last two albums. As someone who first became a fan during Sing the Sorrow, I felt it was a natural progression for the band. For me, commercial and critical success is not the driving factor to enjoying an album. However, it does increase the album’s exposure to the general listening public. I thought the songs were tight and flowed nicely over the progression of the album. It is an album that I can listen to front to back. Still, it seemed to alienate a lot of fans. It was much more straight-up Emo Rock, melodic and theatrical sounding than anything they had done before. It is for these same reasons that I enjoyed this album. It’s not the AFI on Very Proud of Ya or even Sing the Sorrow, but taken at face value, it is an exceptional album.
A second album is The Weak’s End by Emery. The Weak’s End was Emery’s first formal album. I remember personally discovering Emery by chance back in high school on Limewire of all places. The song “Walls” was mistakenly labeled as being by Senses Fail. I remember being blown away by the song and immediately had to discover who this band was. About 30 min later, I found the whole album and listened intently. It was intensely more progressive than many of their peers, with the use of sudden time signature and tempo changes. Lyrically, they were angsty enough to fit in with the Emo and Post-Hardcore scene. However, they painted a much more psychedelically esoteric message with their words. Emery went on to make several other great albums, experimenting with different styles. The Weak’s End is one I always find myself coming back to though. As this music starts to age, it seems that many have forgotten or never discovered The Weak’s End. I have never once heard them mentioned in any discussion about the second wave scene. Perhaps it is because the album was not a giant commercial success or because it was too progressive for many to consider it in their discussions. Either way, the album is a must-listen.
The Same Old Blood Rush With a New Touch by Cute is What We Aim for is the next album on my list. The album enjoyed some success with minor hits like “Curse of Curves.” However, the band only made one more album before calling it quits. It was also criticized by many for its over-dramatic lyrics about fake IDs and high school clicks, which I thought was unjustified; they were high school kids, writing about what they knew. Plus, I dare you to listen to this album and not start singing along to one of the songs (even if it is secretly and in your head). It’s a sugary sweet Emo Pop album with infectious hooks and the catchiest choruses you can imagine. Yet, despite its musically viral nature, the album appears to have disappeared from the minds of listeners.
Perhaps the most classic-sounding of my selected albums is Stories and Alibis by Matchbook Romance. They had, what I always referred to as, the classic 2000s New York or east coast Emo sound (think early Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, or Senses Fail). Tracks such as “The Great Fall (of all time),” “My Eyes Burn” and “Promise” are absolutely essential listening for fans of second-wave Emo. I will be honest, I had forgotten about this album myself, until recently, when I decided to make a playlist filled with Emo music. A track from Stories and Alibis came up in my playlist suggestions. I ended up listening to the whole album and remembering how good it was. It hits what became all the classic Emo tropes, however, they did it in a way that just really worked. Part of it was how natural and unforced the songs were. Another was that these guys were a higher caliber of musician than the typical high school/college Emo bands at the time. Unfortunately, as with Cute is What We Aim For, the bad was short-lived. They lasted only one more album before calling it quits. As this music ages, I am starting to see more lists of the best albums of the 2000s Emo scene. Somehow, I have not seen Stories and Alibis on a single one. It’s a crime and hence why they were placed on my list.
The last album I have placed on my list is Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance. My Chemical Romance was huge and made four fantastic albums before calling it quits. Danger Days was the last of those four. Danger Days did enjoy both commercial and critical success. In that sense, it seemingly does not fit in with the other albums on my list. However, this album came out in the wake of the biggest albums of the decade, The Black Parade (My Chemical Romance’s previous album). It led to Danger Days being easily forgotten by the average music listener, especially with time. Danger Days was a smart, beautifully written Rock opera that expanded their sound while holding onto the best parts of their previous album. Looking back over a decade later, Danger Days holds up to anything MCR has done.
Think about what type of music you love? What do you feel are underrated or forgotten bands or albums? Better yet, ask your friends their opinions and find something new or overlooked. If you are a fan of the second wave Emo/Post-Punk, start here. I promise you will not regret it.
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