Emo wasn't always shorthand to describe Hot Topic pre-teens with black hair spending their parent's money on My Chemical Romance merch. In the 90's, emo went through a revival period looking back to bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace. Today, some music scenes are seeing a revival in emo music as well. Bands like Algernon Cadwalladar, Into It Over It, Tigers Jaw, and Snowing are creating the sounds of the latest emo revival. Like all good things, many emo bands are short-lived. All the bands on this list have either broken up and reunited or have just called it quits all together. Whether you call it post-hardcore, emo, screamo, emotive hardcore, or whiny-teenage music, emo will always be coming in and out of style. Here's our list of the Top 10 Emo Bands of the 90s.
10. Texas Is The Reason
A lot of emo bands come from a hardcore background; Even Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy was in a hardcore band in high school. Guitarist Norm Brannon is just as well known for his band Shelter as he is for Texas Is The Reason. Wentz and the others in Fall Out Boy lost all of their street cred a long time ago, but Arenas and Texas Is The Reason still get frequent play on sites like tumblr and are back playing shows today.
Braid formed as a response to a post looking for members in the DIY magazine Maximumrocknroll. Polyvinyl Records has put out a number of great emo releases. Two of the albums that made this list were released by Polyvinyl, and half of the bands have worked with them. Braid's Frame and Canvas helped establish the label and helped established the band as a major player in today's emo market.
8. The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
Peaking at #31 on the billboard heatseekers 200 chart with their 1999 album Something to Wtire Home About, this band received a lot of critical acclaim throughout their career. Although the band got offered a major label contract for this release they stuck with the indie label (real emo bands never sell out!). Something to Write Home About was the first for the band to have a heavy keyboard influence with Reggie and The Full Effect's James Dewees contributing a lot to the album. The keyboards were a key playing in helping The Get Up Kids stand out in a sea of melancholy guitar chords.
In emo music,perfect pitch on the vocals is hardly considered important by most fans. Mineral is not known for having the most on-key, professionally sung vocals, but Chris Simpson gets the job done singing intelligent enough lyrics about post-adolescence angst. On their seminal release EndSerenading, Mineral went for a quieter, less abrasive sound then their debut The Power of Failing.
6. The Promise Ring
Gaining praise from Spin magazine and MTV, their 1997 album Nothing Feels Gold is one of the more popular emo albums of the time. Throughout their 10 years together (including a couple reunions) this Milwaukee-based band are true artists the spot when you feel numb and depressed. The Promise Ring was founded as a side project of the guitarist Davey Von Bohlen whose first priority is the next band on the list.
5. Cap n' Jazz
As one of the many works from the Kinsella family, Cap n' Jazz's 32 song double LP Analphabetapolothology is more of an anthology than an album, but is definitely the most popular work that Cap n' Jazz put out. In true Kinsella emo fashion the band did not last very long, however they did reunite in 2010 for a full US tour.
4. I Hate Myself
As part of a wider controversy, this band might be a joke. However, in the possibility that they are poking fun at emo by not naming any of their albums and leaving their first four songs completely unnamed the band created something actually worth remembering. In the case that they in fact are not poking fun at emo by having the most depressing band name in history, it fits because they write some of the saddest, most depressing music ever.
As the punkest band on the list, Jawbreaker became softer and sadder with age. Because of singer Blake Schwarzenbach vocal surgery prior to the recording of this album, Thier last album, 1995's Dear You, marked a change in the band's style taking the rasp out of the vocals and a new emo style to soften out their more punk side. This was the bands major label debut on DGC Records. After this album the band broke up and Schwarzenbach moved on to found Jets to Brazil solidifying his place in emo history.
2. Sunny Day Real Estate
As one of the biggest bands in creating what we know today as emo, Sunny Day Real Estate established the genre by making TV appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and MTV's 120 Minutes. With their critically acclaimed album, Diary, the term "emo” was officially added to the vernacular of music listeners. For every sad sap out-of-touch with what had been doing on for years before now, Sunny Day Real Estate bridged the gap for a new emo audience. Not only could people in punk scenes get sad with some of the bands on the list, but now MTV viewers and radio listeners could get "the feels” too.
1. American Football
Mike Kinsella's greatest band to date optimizes what the word "twinkly” means in today's emo music landscape. Although their 1999 self-titled album was never their most popular (they also never recorded anything else after that), this album foresaw what emo meant moving forward. Utilizing unique time signatures and open guitar tunings the band moved in a mathy post-rock direction. In Kinsella's newest project Owen, he uses the same style of unique tunings and even plays American Football's song Never Meant. What I'd give to be at their last show in 1999 singing "Let's Just Forget.”