Even though it’s 2018, I am going to wind back the turntables to the early 2000s, when emo music was thriving. I have chosen five albums that I felt crafted my taste in music, as well as a few albums that came out this year that I feel are worth checking out.
I was raised by an old-school emo. My father has loved Fall Out Boy ever since their debut EP, and we played our copy of From Under The Cork Tree until the CD case fell apart. Singing along at the top of my lungs to “Dance, Dance” and “XO” while riding down I-25 at 50 mph was definitely a highlight of my middle school experience.
Fall Out Boy is one of the bands that beautifully crafted pop punk into what it is today, with Patrick Stump’s heart-wrenching vocals that had every emo kid singing along to the upbeat tunes and melodramatic lyrics. This album shaped my music taste today.
Blink-182 was the first real concert I ever attended. I was in third grade, and even though Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge were drunk, playing less than well, everyone in the venue was hyped out of their minds. We all screamed the lyrics to “Dysentery Gary” in unison, while kids crowd surfed and ripped off their shirts.
It was the first time in my life I had experienced that kind of energy from a crowd, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I went home and listened to Enema of the State on repeat on my CD player, memorizing every word, determined to fulfill the emo that was ingrained deep in my DNA.
I got into My Chemical Romance when “The Black Parade” was playing every fifteen minutes on the rock radio stations. The older I got, and the deeper I fell into my teenage depression, the more I began to love and appreciate the music they made. When I was in ninth grade, I discovered their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Gerard Way expresses his raw emotion about trauma and heartbreak through unrefined vocals, heavy bass, and intensely depressing lyrics.
Even though every track on this album is absolute gold, there are a few songs that take the cake. “Headfirst for Halos,” “Our Lady of Sorrows,” and “Cubicles” are the core of the album. A brief look at the lyrics from “Headfirst for Halos” makes it apparent why any depressed teenager would connect deeply with this album:
“And I think I’ll blow my brains against the ceiling,
And as the fragments of my skull begin to fall,
Fall on your tongue like pixie dust, just think happy thoughts.”
This record holds a special place in my heart, and still is my go-to when I fall into a depressive episode.
For some reason The Pixies never had much radio play in America besides “Where is My Mind?” and “Here Comes Your Man,” despite being extremely influential in early grunge rock. Even Kurt Cobain admitted that the band strongly influenced Nirvana’s hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” As a teenager, “Surfer Rosa” was constantly on repeat while I was brooding in my room.
Despite the numerous songs on that album that I hold an emotional connection to, “Cactus” and “Where is My Mind?” will always be my top jams. The beautifully haunting vocals and grimy instrumental sound makes The Pixies a band you can dance to, but also cry with when you need to.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an album by Against Me! which talks about lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s experience as a trans woman in punk rock. I discovered this album in 11th grade, after coming out as a trans man to many of my family and friends. The title track of the album talks about being judged for not passing as the gender you identify with.
As a very feminine and non-conforming trans man, I am misgendered and disregarded often. Grace puts the pain of gender dysphoria to music, wearing her heart on her sleeve. This is still the song I put on when I’m tired after a long day of people telling me who I am.
So what am I listening to now? This year Princess Nokia dropped the record A Girl Cried Red, the emo album we all needed in middle school. Nokia mixes flow and rhythm with soft, harmonious vocals, portraying soothing affirmations and relatable emotions. “Look Up Kid” is by far the best song on the album, sending a message of love and understanding to her audience.
Even though this strays from my typical type of music, Princess Nokia is a part of the post-emo revival that is starting in hip-hop, but differs from others who are less talented. This resurrection of emo is exciting, and I look forward to more works from Princess Nokia.
I have been a fan of The Wonder Years for a while now, but the only reason I actually listened to Sister Cities was—surprise—my father. I also was lucky enough to see them live when they toured this album playing with my favorite band, Tiger’s Jaw.
This album is so revolutionary for them because it is moving away from the more punk side of pop punk, and shows that their music is evolving. “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me” is my favorite song on the record; the lyrics about dealing with depression, loss, and loneliness manage to end on an uplifting note of hope. This album helped me get through a pretty rough breakup, and even though it only came out a few months ago, it already feels like a pop punk classic.