QUICK HITS: EMO ICEBERG EDITION
MIRANDA REINERT DISS TRACK
So my homie Miranda did a great and very funny newsletter where she dived into the first two tiers of the emo iceberg meme. In the process I was reminded of how severely internet-hardcore-nerd-poisoned I have become over the last 12 or so years, because I have (and this is not a brag and should in fact reflect very poorly upon me as a person) listened to every band in that meme at some point or another. I was originally gonna take this week off the newsletter but I thought I would just do a real quick hit running over my favorite/most underrated artists from the tiers that Miranda covered, and I might follow along as she continues in a very response-track sort of way. In these quick hits I think I will try to imitate Miranda’s style (read: “bite” her “steez”) because I think that would also be pretty amusing.
The first tier is very funny because, as Miranda pointed out, any normal person would rightly consider you insane if you consider Brand New and Orchid to be comparable in terms of accessibility and popularity. Generally, these tier-one bands tend towards early emo pop (The Promise Ring, the Get-Up Kids) to very entry-level screamo (Envy, Saetia) to seminal Midwest/indiemo (Mineral, Cap’n Jazz) although, as Miranda again pointed out, the inclusion of Cloud Nothings here is fucking hysterical. However the inclusion of Cloud Nothings does serve to drive home the fact that tier one of this meme is extremely /r/emo, a fact that I am not just ashamed of but that actively makes me want to slit my wrists. Also, Texas Is the Reason is, very puzzlingly, in tier two, which is odd as I think of them as one-third of the Holy Triptych of 90s indiemo that influenced 99% of “underground” emo to come after it (the other two being Cap’n Jazz and Sunny Day Real Estate).
Tier two is where things actually begin to get interesting because this is about the level that I was at in middle school/freshman year of high school and therefore I have a whole lot of nostalgia attached to a lot of acts, although these acts in particular and really this entire list just reminds me of how much my love for emo/skramz comes from the fact that it was something extremely obscure I could spend hours staying up all night reading about on the computer whenever no one wanted to hang out.
Anyway City of Caterpillar and pageninetynine are Richmond screamo bands related through members (and if you like either or both of them, I would very much recommend that you check out Malady, which is basically late 90s/early 00s screamo filtered through the lens of that very alt-rock-y sort of post-hardcore that was popular throughout the 90s a la Shades Apart, Farside, etc. Almost anthemic but still very elliptical and aggressive) and pageninetynine is one of my favorite bands of all time, being one of the few artists that I own multiple pieces of merch for. The Man Overboard/pageninetynine connection is very very funny to me principally because it only proves that Man Overboard were much bigger hardcore kids than anyone gave them credit for (see: Defend Pop Punk being a parody of the Effort “Destroy Pop Punk” and Most Precious Blood “Defend Hardcore” shirts).
Loma Prieta and Lord Snow being right on top of each other is also very funny because members of those bands are now working together in Stormlight (whose LP this year was stellar by the way) but also because I 100% believe that no band was a bigger stepping stone from Touche/La Dispute/The Wave type stuff to “true” screamo than Loma Prieta in the 2010s, and once that band started going into a more “post-hardcore”/very-self-conscious-of-being-on-Deathwish sort of direction Lord Snow really picked up their torch and ran with it.
The indiemo stuff in tier two is honestly some of the best and, if not necessarily underrated, relatively overlooked indiemo. Penfold is a particularly great pick. I resent that Christie Front Drive and Boys Life are so far apart from each other because their split LP is, in my opinion, the absolute greatest representative of the mid-late90s indiemo sound and imo has aged far better than similar stuff that everyone dickrides (for example I love both Mineral records but Power of Failing’s production feels like chewing on tinfoil and EndSerenading is admittedly closer to the American Football/elevator-music-emo stuff that I usually use to help me go to sleep).
Everyone Asked About You is a really great pick because their sole LP was originally supposed to come out in 1998 but just never did and so now they have attained kind of a retroactive legend status. Lots of people like to tokenize 90s Midwest emo bands with women in them (largely because the only band with women in it that is still well-known/highly-regarded is Rainer Maria) but Everyone Asked About You are a very pleasant listen. If you enjoy that sort of half-twinkly, very driving indie-meets-hardcore sort of sound with women doing vocals I would definitely recommend that you check out Pohgoh and Dahlia Seed (the latter of whom is slightly more hardcore-oriented) and also Ashes (who are a lot more EMOTIVE HARDCORE proper) and they are all great and deserve to be more than just a sprinkling of “diversity” in an odd tier list like this.
City of Caterpillar being on top of Funeral Diner is interesting because imo Funeral Diner is kind of the next level of the screamo-post-rock fusion (and The Underdark is a very very deeply geeky record) but along with those two I love that Gospel is here because that band’s The Moon Is A Dead World contains the literal best drumming I have ever heard in my life beneath a very fuzzy and trebly mix of sounds that evokes Yes or ELO except with screaming and whitebelts.
Vitreous Humor were an interesting post-punk band from Kansas that got kind of lumped into emo via doing a split with Boys Life (another band whose swan song masterpiece Departures & Landfalls presaged a union between post-rock and emotive hardcore that wouldn’t really see fruition for another ten years or so) and just generally having a lot of friends in that world but really they are more post-punk than anything hardcore-adjacent. However their song “Why Are You So Mean to Me?” is an absolute masterpiece and I would recommend it to anyone/everyone who has ever felt uncomfortable around their family/after losing their virginity.
Indian Summer and Portraits of Past and Moss Icon are probably the three best, most influential, and most important Real Emo bands of all time, to be honest, but I find it interesting that they are here next to Embrace (not least because imo Embrace should have been in the first tier next to Rites of Spring). I would slot Heroin just a smidgen below them. Googling “Heroin band” is indeed difficult but it’s worth it because aside from pageninetynine they are probably my favorite artist here. There was a kerfuffle around them recently because all the members reunited for a picture together and it was discovered that their drummer Aaron Montaigne (who is also the vocalist of Antioch Arrow, a very seminal screamo-adjacent/proto-sass band) had a Sonnenrad tattoo on his leg. There is some speculation as to whether it is there for racist reasons or if it’s just there because in the years since he has evolved into a darkwave/neofolk kinda cat who is obsessed with the occult. If that is too problematic for you to deal with feel free to stop listening to Antioch Arrow (I will not because I also still listen to Brand New, el oh el) but he was only the drummer and not even close to the primary songwriter of Heroin and they are one of the best emotive/hardcore/whatever bands of all time and if there is an argument to be made about who invented screamo I think that Heroin have the strongest claim to it. Matt Anderson’s vocals were extremely influential on Geoff Rickly from Thursday in particular and his label Gravity put out a ton of my favorite weirdo 90s hardcore-and-adjacent bands (Mohinder, Angel Hair/The VSS, Tristeza, Clikitat Ikatowi, etc).
I really like the little group of Good Screamo Bands towards the bottom-middle that consists of iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook, Jeromes Dream (even though it’s spelled wrong— there is no apostrophe) and Off Minor (who are basically Saetia but simultaneously heavier and jazzier— it’s kind of weird that Hot Cross is not next to them?? In fact I think Hot Cross might be significantly more popular than Off Minor considering Risk Revival— a fantastic album— came out on Equal Vision). Right next to them is Circle Takes the Square. I was just listening yesterday to their album As the Roots Undo which is probably my most-listened-to screamo album of all time, a very daring mixture of Richmond/pageninetynine/Majority Rule-esque heavy screamo with avant-grindcore and sinewy post-rock passages that makes its 45-minute runtime fly by in mere moments due to its sheer thematic, conceptual, and sonic tightness. Good pick.
I know a lot of people are extremely excited that The Newfound Interest In Connecticut (whose name is a reference to the Get-Up Kids song “A Newfound Interest In Massachusetts” btw) is finally doing a repress of their album The Long Dark Path Home but if I’m being completely honest the post-rock-emo fusion stuff was done better before and after that record and it’s a little boring and I’m willing to bet the majority of its current fame is largely due to nerds on Rate Your Music hyping it up to an absurd degree. Good band but not necessarily the legends that people keep pretending they are.
It is absolutely nonsensical that Foxing is in the second tier, not only because they are objectively more popular than a solid chunk of bands in the first tier but also because an astonishing amount of their output is just absolutely unlistenable and makes my ears feel sad (apologies to Miranda, Ian Cohen, and approximately 70% of my readers).
And because I don’t want to end this section on a negative note, Lync. This band was a huge influence on early Modest Mouse and were also an early K Records band which might make you think that their sound is very twee and cutesy but although it has a smidgen of that it is mostly just very carefully and artfully constructed but very emotionally performed post-hardcore. These Are Not Fall Colors is not on streaming but it is on Bandcamp and it is worth every damn penny. Rest In Power Sam Jayne.
And that is it! Apologies to Miranda for just completely stealing her format and style but this was a fun tiny thing to do right before Xmas and I hope that it is fun for you all to read and again I will probably follow along with Miranda’s exploration of the tiers because the weirder and more unsafe for the outside world these bands get the more likely it is that I copped a rip of their 7” from some half-English half-German blogspot linking to a 4shared or rapidshare upload of it. I’m excited.
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