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Fifth-wave emo this, fifth-wave emo that, thirtieth-wave emo the other… In the midst of all this self-categorization and attempts to delineate the history of the genre, sometimes it feels like the actual music ends up being lost to time. While I’m no stranger to painstakingly outlining the history of emo myself, I admit that I, too, can get a little too caught up in the particulars, and in the micro-managing of micro-genres. In my opinion, the job of the historian shouldn’t be just to memorize the facts and figures and order of events— it should be to analyze, and to uplift those things that the “common knowledge” interpretation of history tends to omit.
So in that spirit, I wanted to take a look at what I consider to be the first golden age of emo: the 90s. This was a time in which the genre was growing at a phenomenal rate and the sounds were evolving and splintering every which way, and because of the various popular narratives surrounding emo (some of which prioritize the twinkly bands, others of which prioritize the emergence of emo pop at the turn of the millennium), some bands and albums have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle.
I’d love to make this a recurring feature, since there are so many bands that I’d love to talk about, but for the sake of brevity, I’m limiting this first installment to 5 records. To me, these bands symbolize styles and sounds of emo that just aren’t talked about enough, and maybe were never talked about at all outside of their hometown. I also recognize that obscurity and over/underratedness are extremely subjective; some people would consider a relatively popular (in their time and place) band like Ashes to be obscure and underrated, while others who, like me, spent their formative years trawling mediafire blogs for 7”s that had runs of less than 100, would consider a band like Sideshow or Ordination of Aaron to be an overtly obvious cut. With that in mind, I tried to split the difference and offer some records that I think would be new to most people, and fun to revisit for those who are already in the know.
With that out of the way, let’s get into it!
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