A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EMO TWINKLE
this is a reworked version of something that originally lay dormant in the deepest depths of my archives
I originally drafted this post in 2016 and never finished it. What follows is significantly altered from its original version— not only has it been finished, but I had to go back and rewrite several sections to better reflect my ever-evolving opinions (as well as to update it, since it had become woefully outdated over the last 5 years). If you like what I have written here and want to support me, please do not hesitate to subscribe to my Patreon. If you’d prefer to show your support with a one-time donation, my Venmo is xyoudontneedmapsx. Also I don’t really know very much about Proper Music Theory so if anything here doesn’t sound quite right, that’s probably why. But I did my very level best!
I'm going to level with you all; I'm an emo elitist. In my opinion, the best emo records are, like, the Food Not Bombs benefit compilation Inchworm put out in 1994 and the Honeywell/Reach Out split 7"; the “REAL EMO” copypasta isn’t even accurately elitist enough in my eyes. So yeah, while over the course of my life I’ve had to slowly reckon with the fact that genres change over time in both sound and culture— a synthetic aesthetic dialectic, if you will— I’ve always had conflicted feelings about Twinkly Emo™, which is currently recognized as the dominant form of emo in most in-the-know circles. To be quite honest, I’m legitimately a little less annoyed when people refer to My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy as emo— at least with those bands, you can clearly and concretely trace their origins back to *frink-snort* ee-mo-tive hard-core with relative ease. Meanwhile, a decent chunk— nay, the vast majority— of modern bands who are tagged as emo (or as “DIY Twitter bands,” which basically just means “emo” now anyway) sound considerably closer to math rock or even just straight-up indie rock than anything else. Does this make them bad? By no fucking means— I adore a ton of these bands, work with several of them sometimes, and find many of them to be genuinely dope people. Does this make them not emo? The answer’s a little more complicated than you might think, and it lies within the history of the Emo Twinkle.
Phase Zero: The Before Time
Years and years before Guy Picciotto ever woke up choking on a piece of past caught in his throat, before Grant Hart ever thought it wasn’t funny anymore, before Emo Philips was even in high school, the 60s happened. For the purposes of this newsletter (and assuming most anyone reading this is familiar with their proto-punk history and whatnot), I’ll skip most of the roughage— the 60s were arguably the most important decade in the history of rock music— and zero in on the 1966 release of “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds (which, not-coincidentally, would later be covered by Hüsker Dü, as I’ve written about before).
Now, I’m not necessarily arguing that this song was revolutionary. The Beach Boys were simultaneously experimenting with even more complex melodic arrangements, from a baroque perspective, that same year with Pet Sounds, and even the previous year Bob Dylan had helped usher in the folk-rock era with his shuffling, exploratory Highway 61 Revisited (in a much more seamless fusion than on Bringing It All Back Home). However, while both these artists are pieces of the protozoan-emo puzzle, I still think this Byrds is the most significant for a number of reasons. Roger McGuinn’s style on this track isn’t without precedent— the riff was taken directly from John Coltrane, and his technique is influenced by the sitar playing of Ravi Shankar (as was the style of the time)— but the subtle and gentle distortion, the rapid picking, the arpeggiations, the jazz and folk flourishes, and the way the chiming chords in the verse complement the vocal harmonies were all extremely influential, even fundamental, for a following generation of American and British rock fans. In addition to these three key influences, psychedelic garage rock (The 13th Floor Elevators in particular— I can’t remember where I heard it, and it’s probably apocryphal, but supposedly they got their guitar tone by jamming screwdrivers into their amps) also can’t be discounted.
The dawn of the 70s brought with it some other quietly essential influences, some more subtle or embryonic than others: John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival (if you don’t believe me, just check out the solo from “Proud Mary”); Nick Drake was far from the only singer/songwriter to utilize fingerpicking, but the sheer force and intricacy of his technique was unique in and of itself; the playing techniques of Neil Young and Gram Parsons, which cribbed from folk, country, the blues, and bluegrass; the lush yet concise power pop of Big Star; and, of course, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, though far from the first or even thousandth album to blend acoustic guitar interplay with lightly intricate electric guitar and bass lines, was one of the most triumphant, affecting, and long-legged (this is what I’m talking about, and it’s probably in the shortlist for top 50 best songs ever made at the very least).
While much contemporary rock of the 70s was known for being heavily derived from the blues, classical music and even sometimes showtunes were a heavy influence on the progressive rock of bands like ELO, Yes, Pink Floyd, and so on (you know: all the things that punk was created in rebellion against). While all these influences might seem painfully uncool now (and were certainly considered uncool then), I’m more than willing to bet there are many emo guitarists who were heavily influenced by Pink Floyd— I’m thinking of Boys Life and a lot of the early Deep Elm roster, specifically. Now, these bands weren’t so much specific sonic or even aesthetic touchstones so much as they were unconsciously embedded in the minds of the musicians, but I find it noteworthy nonetheless.
Note: This was sticking in my craw so I went back to my copy of Nothing Feels Good by Andy Greenwald, and right on page 118, the founder of Deep Elm talks about how emo is reflective of the mixture of his own tastes— punk rock and Pink Floyd.
By the time we get to the early 80s, as many post-punk and goth bands were reconstructing punk sonics and structures with affectations from the abandoned influences of prog rock as well as other avant-garde touches, you also began to see a wave of post-punk bands that were taking from the influences I outlined earlier. For example, the Minutemen’s D. Boon, terse, wiry, and jazzy as his playing was, was also pretty heavily indebted to John Fogerty (some may disagree with the assertion that they had anything to do with jangle pop; in my opinion, they were certainly adjacent, at the least, they just had a more full-throated and aggressive approach), as did R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and his heavily roots-rock-oriented approach. Johnny Marr of the Smiths engaged in full, unabashed Byrds worship at any opportunity, while David Bowie was the number one influence on the Cure in pretty much every capacity (though in addition to Ziggy, they also ended up taking just as heavily from the Berlin Trilogy, especially *Low*, during their Goth Period, and the overwhelming art pop of Hunky Dory after).
EDIT: As some repliers have pointed out, it’s definitely also worth bringing up Mission of Burma in this context, especially these two masterpieces. See also: bands like the dBs and Let’s Active, the early work of Tommy Keene, and Paisley Underground bands like the Dream Syndicate.
The cross-coastal friendliness in the underground scene resulted in these influences being cross-pollinated and mutated every which way but loose; Hüsker Dü’s aforementioned cover of the Byrds would not be nearly as visceral or evocative if not for Bob Mould’s out-of-fucking-nowhere guitar tone, which was heavily influenced by the cascading layers of fuzz and noise of the Cure (as well as artists like the Psychedelic Furs and Siouxsie & the Banshees). The Cure and R.E.M. both similarly influenced Dinosaur Jr, which, in tandem with their heavy country-rock bent and their ear-bleeding, Black Sabbath-esque pummel, resulted in somewhat of a secret jangle pop record hidden beneath walls of noise, distortion, and solos with You’re Living All Over Me.
While Dinosaur Jr is a little late to prefigure emo itself, the band would prove to be an undeniable influence on later waves of emo, both directly and indirectly; Hüsker Dü, however, were one of the biggest precursors of first-wave emo (see here), along with Articles of Faith and Squirrel Bait. However, with the D.C. kids of Revolution Summer themselves, one influence ruled above all as they were attempting to transition from knucklehead fight music to something slightly more progressive: the English post-punk band Empire. The ex-Generation X band released precisely one record of note, Expensive Sound, and faded into oblivion. I’m still not sure if anyone beyond that initial group of, like, thirty or so D.C. hardcore kids gave a fuck about them, but that record was essential to the development of first-wave emo.
Phase One: Dinosaur Emo
Most entry-level emo nerds would point to Cap'n Jazz as the starting point of the emo twinkle; while that's certainly a good start, I'd argue that you'd have to start a bit earlier. Back in the late 80s, "emocore" was solely associated with the D.C. Rev Summer bands, which hewed somewhat more closely to a melodic hardcore blueprint. However, even in Rites of Spring and Embrace, you can hear hints of that jangle— it’s not full-blown noodling yet, but it’s there in the tone and style of Michael Hampton’s work in Embrace particularly, like on the song “Dance of Days.” And by the time of their swan song EP, Rites of Spring were already leaning into their Joy Division influences even harder and producing something much softer and… janglier.
While there were lots of hardcore bands going down a college rock route at the time, including D.C.’s own Government Issue, I will say there is still a difference between the jangle and the emo twinkle. Here’s where things get slightly more interesting. Just a little ways east, in Annapolis, Maryland, you have the Hated, who had actually started in 1984 during the lead-up to Revolution Summer but by the late 80s had managed to fuse their Dü-y blend of pop and hardcore with sweeping, melancholic folk harmonies, resulting in languid epics of charmingly scrappy beauty like this one.
Then, in 1988, another Annapolis band, Moss Icon, debuted with their self-titled EP, which included songs like “I’m Back Sleeping, or Fucking, or Something” and “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die” that showcased a new approach to the Revolution Summer sound— still forward-thinking and dynamically innovative, but with more of the out-and-out violent aggression of hardcore’s earlier days wrapped back into it. This time, though, the laceration was directed inward.
Moss Icon presaged the basement emo style of the 90s with a sound that fused extreme loud/soft dynamics, sharp crescendos, innovative post-hardcore song structures, a far more emotive vocal style, and Jonathan Vance's personal-political stream-of-consciousness lyrics and occasionally harshly shrieked vocals. While all of these would become hallmarks of the 90s emo scene, perhaps the most relentlessly copied element of Moss Icon's sound is legendary guitarist Tonie Joy's "emo-peggio" style. Joy later brought his talents to equally creative ventures, like the noise rock-tinged NYHC of Born Against and the chaotic spazzcore of Universal Order of Armageddon. What made these twinkly riffs so interesting is that they really hadn't been done before; Joy typically played his guitar with, seemingly, a ton of influence from Bob Mould and Johnny Marr, along with some doses of jazz and psychedelia (which he’d later explore more fully in bands like Breathing Walker and The Convocation Of…), and then alternately picked it clean or ran it through a shitload of distortion. These twinkles were direct predictors of Midwest emo; they are incredibly pretty and are mostly structured around arpeggios. Although not particularly mathematically complex, it's easy to imagine one of them in, say, a Christie Front Drive song. One of my favorite examples is the “Memorial” b/w “Moth” single; the A-side is an extremely straight-forward prototype of the emo twinkle, while the B-side takes that and flips it into something much more textural and atmospheric.
Of course a band as trailblazing as Moss Icon launched a never-ending stream of aesthetic copycats, despite the limited availability of their early output and the fact that their sole LP was released posthumously in 1994. Some bands, like Still Life, took more inspiration from Moss Icon's cinematic nature, and adapted it to their thick, chunky riffs; these bands basically sounded like sad versions of Integrity, for lack of a better description. Other bands took more influence from the actual way Moss Icon put their songs together. See Native Nod, who sound like a more energetic update on Moss Icon’s original ideas.
This is a super-influential 7" in its own right; in particular those riffs at the beginning of "High Tide In Alaska" and "Back to Mimsey" seem like the blueprint of much of Midwest emo.
If you want to know what separates these basement emo bands from the likes of the more chaotic San Diego and Bay Area bands of the same time period, like Heroin and Portraits of Past, it was that those bands had few-to-no twinkles and were more focused on full-bore aggression. Both types of bands were released on labels like Ebullition, however, so the scenes are basically conflated in retrospect, or else they are mistakenly referred to as screamo.
Drive Like Jehu are not quite emo, but like Nation of Ulysses and Fugazi, are massively influential on the scene. Their tightly-wound, noisy post-hardcore heavily foreshadowed math rock in the same way that Slint's meditative, slow-burning cacophonies foreshadowed post-rock. (Slint’s 1991 release of Spiderland is also a pretty seminal early influence on twinkle, feeling fairly of a piece with the Moss Icon material that was being released contemporaneously.)
Easily the most representative song from this time period. Quietly pensive twinkly riffs that crescendo into a sobbing, cathartic, octave chord-driven climax? That's what I call Dinosaur Emo! Of note is the progression they took from their prior emo band Sinker-- Indian Summer have a lot more influence from slowcore practitioners Seam and Codeine, which seeps into their melancholic guitar work.
Phase Two: Midwest Emo
When boring dorks who pretend to have a personality talk about "real emo," this is normally what they're referring to. Prior emo bands were in many ways inextricable from the larger hardcore scene, often playing next to metalcore and powerviolence bands. Though Midwest emo bands started out in this vein— on Fourfa, Andy describes reading a Christie Front Drive review that called it “music for hardcore kids to make love to”— as the 90s wore on, certain bands began to cultivate an audience that would today be referred to as "hipster." They played to college crowds, and although they were nowhere near as popular as, say, Pavement, they were several rungs up the ladder from bands like Endpoint and Navio Forge.
Friction, who morphed into Braid, are perhaps the patient zero of this style of emo. Listening to the Friction discography, you can hear the transition from a more idiosyncratic hardcore sound into a more streamlined, indie-oriented sound. Braid themselves played simmering math pop which laid intricate, deeply melodic guitar work over shifting hardcore rhythms. Songs like "Killing A Camera," in my opinion, are closer, aesthetically, to the work of Deadguy and Coalesce than most would suspect, while maintaining a glittering, catchy sheen through their tight musicianship and a rough punk edge due to the vocals.
The opening guitars here sound somewhat similar to progressive 90s hardcore bands like Groundwork and Downcast, with influence from jangly college nerds like Polvo and Thinking Fellers Union.
Boys Life and Christie Front Drive, who are in my opinion the twin poles of Midwest emo, took from the lurching, epic post-rock and intricate math rock of their Kentucky/Missouri surroundings and the shimmering catchiness and anthemic fizz of 90s pop-punk/indie rock bridge act Superchunk (albeit a version of Superchunk on heavy benzos), respectively. Both of these approaches lent themselves well to a specific kind of twinkle; where Braid maintained a certain chaos to their guitar work, sounding like two drunken, dueling Johnny Marrs, Boys Life orchestrated their arpeggios to twist around each other and culminate in explosions throughout their songs. Christie, meanwhile, structured their songs around these gorgeous, elongated melodies, and the only way these melodies could come to life is through the guitars, which never actually play the melody, but dance around it with grace and aplomb.
Essentially, I'm using a lot of words to describe these bands' curious guitar work, all of which is rooted in that original Moss Icon twinkle I described above. If I've said it before, I'll say it again: every 90s emo band carries influence from Moss Icon, knowingly or not.
Which brings me to Cap'n Jazz. Featuring members with roots in several basement emo and hardcore bands, including Ten Boy Summer's Davey von Bohlen, Cap'n Jazz blew through any preconceptions one may have had about a Chicago hardcore band. Cap'n kept the punky energy but, inspired in equal parts by Friction and sister band Gauge, as well as the funk rock of Jane’s Addiction, jacked up the rhythmic complexity and intricacy of the twinkles. Guitarist Victor Villarreal took a surrealist, impressionistic approach to writing his parts; influenced by anything from improvisational jazz to flamenco to Iron Maiden and Rush, Villarreal melded perfectly with Sam Zurick’s bubbly bass and bounced off Davey von Bohlen’s own stylistically inventive guitar work to create something that felt as free-flowing and abstract-yet-visceral as Tim Kinsella’s free-form poetic lyrics and yowling vocals. Although they weren’t popular by the time they initially broke up (their sole album, Shmap’n Schmazz— I refuse to type out the long version of the title— was released in 1995 just a smidge before the band imploded), both the band and their descendants would prove to be boundlessly influential.
Von Bohlen went on to form the Promise Ring, which scrapped the maximalist approach of Cap’n Jazz for a more considered, post-punk-informed approach, before slowly morphing into an outfit with full-blown power pop inclinations. Sophomore album and breakthrough effort Nothing Feels Good saw the band blending low-key, textural washouts of guitar with effervescent and driving bass work, wrapped up in neat little catchy packages supplanted by von Bohlen’s delightfully unorthodox vocal approach. By the time of their 1999 follow-up, Very Emergency, they’d sanded down the approach and cranked up the guitar to create something even more straightforward in its hooky inclinations.
1999 also saw the release of the sole (well, it used to be) LP by American Football. Led by Mike Kinsella, former drummer of Cap’n Jazz (and, obviously, the little brother of Tim), American Football played a type of music that I’ve taken to referring to as elevator-emo: not exactly mathy, but very focused on building mildly complex melodies out of soft, jazz-derived interlocking guitars, augmented by sleepily creative drum patterns and the younger Kinsella’s perishing, almost unbearably earnest vocals providing occasional splashes of additional texture. It’s chillout music— and almost completely without precedent as far as “emo” as it was known went. While there had been softer emo acts before— and in 1998, Mineral’s final album EndSerenading saw them pushing further into a sleepy, slow-build approach than ever before— American Football was probably the very first one to have no shred of “emotive hardcore” in its sound, its affiliation with the genre almost entirely dependent on Mike Kinsella’s prior relationship with Cap’n Jazz.
1999 continued to be a pivotal year for emo in other ways— Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and the Get-Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About saw both bands, previously indebted to the Midwest emo mold, taking their first tentative steps into more adventurous territories of pop craftsmanship. The success of the Get-Up Kids as well as the tender, melody-bruised hardcore of Saves the Day’s Through Being Cool helped usher in an era of emo that kept pushing itself to higher and higher commercial planes. While Clarity was initially a commercial failure, it sparked a cult fanbase and its artistic strides helped lay the groundwork for 2001’s Bleed American, which functionally made Jimmy Eat World the Nirvana of the emo set— humble, ultra-credible dudes with more roots in the underground scene than you could shake a stick at, who were suddenly responsible for representing everything about their chosen scene on MTV as millions of root-less copycats sprung up around them.
Phase Three: Twinkledaddies
Enough words have been spilled over the years about the MTVmo era (many of those by me!), and you can find discussions about the credibility, hardcore roots, and genre-relevance of any of those bands elsewhere. (My Bands You Weren’t Supposed to Like series beckons).
But while all that was happening, the underground emo machine continued to chug. The Deep Elm Emo Diaries series continued to showcase bands who were playing in the now-passe Midwest emo style well into the mid-2000s. Brandtson, Camber, Imbroco, Benton Falls, and countless others continued to exist, if not exactly thrive, as the years went on. But none of them seemed like they were about to anoint a new genre— if anything, they were playing second fiddle to screamo, which was experiencing a period of rapid creative growth at the time.
But around 2004, a new crop of bands had started to erupt, particularly in the Northeast. New Jersey yielded the Progress, an extremely earnest emo-pop act that nurtured a young Evan Weiss as he explored hardcore and screamo with bands like Map the Growth and the Funeral Bird, and eventually ventured into something a little closer to the territory he’d be known for with Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start. The greater Philly area had bands like Street Smart Cyclist (who had emerged from the ashes of more straightforward emo-pop act Audio Recording Club) as well as Algernon Cadwallader (who formed after the break-up of rough, scrappy emo-pop act Halfway to Holland— are you spotting a pattern yet?). Although they were significantly more atmospheric than outwardly energetic, Empire! Empire! (i was a lonely estate) started up in the sleepy town of Fenton, Michigan and began cranking out contemplative indie rock that owed a significant debt to the second Mineral album and the work of American Football. Similarly, a scene across the pond in England was beginning to take shape by this time as well, with the formation of This Town Needs Guns and the pre-Crash of Rhinos band The Jesus Years releasing their sole LP.
Sonically, this burgeoning sub-scene really drew heavily not just from 90s emo, screamo, and hardcore, but also hyperactive math rock like Don Caballero, newly-codified titans of indie rock like Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, and Death Cab for Cutie, melancholic twee pop like Belle & Sebastian, coffee-indie like the Wrens, sadcore like Carissa’s Wierd, and the post-Camper Van Beethoven school of early 90s lo-fi indie pop a la Guided By Voices, Pavement, and Sebadoh— the noise-pop guitar textures on Icky Mettle by Archers of Loaf seemed to be a de facto influence on many of these bands.
By 2008, something concrete really seemed to be fomenting in Philadelphia. Although Street Smart Cyclist had dissipated, Snowing was birthed in the aftermath and, with the release of that year’s Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit EP, started to gather a bit of momentum. The clear leaders of the scene, however, were Algernon Cadwallader and 1994!, both of whom released extremely influential full-lengths in 2008 (Some Kind of Cadwallader and Thank You Arms and Fingers, respectively). While Snowing tended to use its twinkles sparingly, in service of tighter and slightly more pop-oriented song structures, Algernon and 1994! were both much wilder and more reckless. Algernon’s clearest point of reference was Cap’n Jazz (although Algernon had a significantly more melodic, less avant-garde bent to them), while 1994! seemed to be drawing from the jazz-inflected screamo of Off Minor, but used the noodly guitar work to split the difference between aggression and sticky hooks. Both bands’ influence would be incalculable on the scene around them.
All of a sudden, the underground scene was frothing over with twinkly bands— bands that were actively attempting to dry the well of open tunings, odd time signatures, rapid arpeggios. Their sounds ranged from the Algernon Cadwallader school of Cap’n Jazz x 10 to something more woozy and American Football-inflected, but they were all scrappy and DIY as fuck. Philly experienced a rush of bands with “Boy” in their name (Boys & Sex, Boyfriends, Boy Problems). Midwest screamo bands like Lion of the North dissipated and members would end up going on to early twinkle emo godheads Grown Ups (or eventual post-hardcore titans La Dispute). Metal dudes from Chicago decided to put together a shimmering, math-inflected emo band called CSTVT. The twinkle seemed to be the dominant mode of communication— whether your song structures skewed more towards pop-punk or hardcore, whether your vocalist could actually sing or they just yowled with a throat full of bees, whether your production was clean or if your album was mixed with iPhone earbuds, one thing everyone seemed to have in common was a fascination with making a sound with their guitar that wasn’t shiny, wasn’t glittery, wasn’t sparkly— it was twinkly. There were approximately 5 trillion of these bands and I cannot begin to list them all here, but Sophie’s Floorboard is free.
As the 2000s became the 2010s, certain bands began to crest— by 2013, previously obscure bands like Dads and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die were names that anyone who read Consequence of Sound or even NPR would be able to recognize. 2014 saw massive breakthrough releases from bands like the Hotelier (Home, Like NoPlace Is There) and Modern Baseball (You’re Gonna Miss It All) that sold well and accrued monster fanbases. Although these bands had come up in the same “twinkledaddy” scene as long-broken-up heroes like Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing, often making their bones with DIY tours and splits, they also had a bit more of a polished approach to their music. You can still hear vestigial elements— “Life In Drag” displays the Hotelier’s roots in screamo and Boston hardcore, while You’re Gonna Miss It All is sprinkled with small flashes of the intricate, twinkly sensibility they surely absorbed from their Philly brethren— these bands were much more accessible, leaning into lanes like pop-punk and indie rock. Great they may be, but they would soon be obscured beneath mountains of exurban jock types who heard a few Turnover songs and decided to call their butt rock band “shoegaze” instead of “pop-punk” (both labels are wrong).
Note: The origin of the term “twinkledaddies” is a little fuzzy, but it’s most often cited as being invented by Shitty Greg of TWIABP on a tour with Hostage Calm and My Heart to Joy about a decade ago. As for using the word “twinkle” to describe this guitar style, Scott Scharinger of Dads started this blog in 2008 that he claims to be the origin; then again, Fourfa (from the early 2000s) describes “twinkly guitar parts” in their emo style guide.
Phase Four: Where Have All the Twinkles Gone?
By 2016, the original twinkle sound felt like it was dead and buried, or at least stagnant. So not only was that hyperactive branch of emo dead, it also felt like there were no bands playing anything remotely like “emotive hardcore” unless they explicitly self-identified as screamo (or unless they were Touché Amoré, I guess). What we were left with, in the emo scene, was mostly bands that played a blend of the twinkly stuff and the outwardly emo-pop stuff that watered down both the unabashed freewheeling nature of the former and the spritely hook-craft of the latter. I don’t need to name (Mom Jeans) names, but I’m sure we can all think of a few bands that fit this classification.
(I’m sure there’s some people who will accuse me of historical revisionism if I don’t mention them, so I’ll mention that JANK were a thing, and they played a kind of twinkly emo that prioritized party-time energy and lightning-fast note runs over anything else, and they’re canceled now, and they’re one of the very few canceled bands that I advocate not listening to in any capacity. Their style was admittedly influential, but I think any bands that do take influence from them do so in a low-key manner and take it in other, better directions.)
Which leads us to present day. Starting with bands like Commander Salamander, we’ve slowly seen a complete renaissance of twinkly emo bands that base their twinkles around gnarly riffs and exuberantly catchy song structures. Bands like Oolong, Gwuak!, Guitar Fight from Fooly Cooly, Arcadia Grey, niiice., Jail Socks, and countless others are doing, essentially, the opposite thing from the Mom Jeans wave of a few years ago. Instead of watering down the pop side or the twinkle side, they push both to their absolute limits, and throw in a wide array of outside influences ranging from hardcore to hip-hop in the process, creating something truly exciting and addictive. In my opinion, two of the brightest stars of this scene are Stars Hollow and Origami Angel, both of whom are exploding expectations for and boundaries within the genre (and are deservedly extremely popular).
So are twinkle bands Real Emo? Or are they just as Fake Emo as My Chemical Romance (plus the pretentiousness)? Well, both. I would say that the current, more indie-rock-ified style of emo that dominates internet DIY is about as far removed from the sonics and aesthetics of (my personal favorite, admittedly) the style of emo that formed a huge part of the hardcore scene all those years ago as the mall-emo bands of the mid-2000s. And that’s fine. If you do your research and aren’t stuck in your ways, you can pretty clearly see the way that both evolved from the same place, and there is a rich history behind both styles. I think it’s fair to say that Twinkly Emo Can Be Emo Too, unless you’re really committed to being the type of person that no one actually enjoys talking to. But hopefully you’ve found this little history lesson edifying, or even just entertaining. I quit smoking a week ago and have never in my life written anything like this without chain-smoking the entire time, so this took a lot out of me, and I can only hope it’s good. And if you liked it and would like to support me, please don’t forget to hit that subscribe button on my Patreon, or hit up my Venmo at xyoudontneedmapsx if you’d prefer to show your support with a one-time donation. In the meantime, it’s been real.
If you’re interested in a band bio or some freelance writing, email me at email@example.com to hash out the details. If you’d just like to read dumb jokes, follow me on Twitter on my personal account and on my podcast’s account (you can listen to that podcast here). Or (and I realize this is a risky proposition) just friend me on Facebook if you wanna see all my bullshit “life” stuff. I’ll see you all next time!