Ever since emo music reentered the public eye a few years ago, the genre has slowly gained steam. In 2014, The Hotelier and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die received rave reviews from big-name publications, only for their shows in dive bars to remain half-empty. But a year-and-a-half later, word had caught on. Modern Baseball and Sorority Noise began filling clubs to the brim, achieving nationwide notoriety as they played feelings-drenched punk rock. With the two bands recently going on hiatus (the latter last month), they’ve reminded us of the ever-frightening reality that bands don’t last forever.
The genre that hit its peak in the 2000s has found a second wind this decade, and it’s now in dire need of the next-in-line artists to keep the momentum going. Three months into 2018, the question is: Who will arrive to save the day? From what we’ve seen so far this year, the answer is likely to come from America’s quaint heartland.
Household: Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Feelings
Bloomington, MN’s Remo Drive took the scene by storm last year when they sprinkled a whole bunch of cheekiness on top of a sound primed for house shows galore. They’re the perfect escape from the harsh Minnesota winter, bringing us indoors to experience flavor-filled songs about art school girls and getting drunk for the first time. On the contrary, Household serves up their emo style in a cloudier and gloomier manner, taking after the sprawling urban landscape of their former Minneapolis home (they claim Kansas City as their current location).
Upon listening to the band’s Equal Vision Records debut, Everything a River Should Be, you can’t help but immerse yourself in the thick of downbeat instrumentals and mid-tempo vocal croons. Though they still have room to develop their musical identity beyond that of merely dark indie rock, they’ve tapped into the searing atmospherics and undoubtedly emo introspection of contemporaries from The Republic of Wolves to Foxing.
Barely Civil: Sentimental for Small-Town Wisconsin
Take a drive across the state of Wisconsin, and you’ll encounter the definition of a rural Midwestern setting. Barely Civil plays to this with relaxed melodies, hummed vocals and clever references — all performed with the most earnest of intentions. They aren’t subtle about the heart they have for their home state, “Eau Claire?, Oh, Claire” the most blatant and ironic embrace of their surroundings. Yes, it’s about the singer’s relationship with a girl named Claire from Eau Claire, WI, but it’s also full of enough careful guitar strums and whispered vocals that it gets by on more than personality.
The track comes from their new album We Can Live Here Forever — the title a reminder that, even as they go on bigger and better tours, Wisconsin is still their home. Further imprinting their identity, the record evokes sweeping feelings of nostalgia and longing, whether it’s the harmonic gang vocals of “I’ve Been Getting Headaches Lately” or the wiry guitars of “RE: Your Lungs”. Across their debut, Barely Civil brings a tender and atmospheric energy that the genre hasn’t seen since Turnover’s Peripheral Vision.
Hot Mulligan: Michigan’s New Heartfelt Bunch
Combine the poetic onslaught of Taking Back Sunday with the high-flying musical groove of Tigers Jaw, and you’ve got Hot Mulligan. Their calculated combination of emo’s liveliest elements makes them a force to be reckoned with on Pilot, their first full-length since signing with No Sleep Records. While their embrace of the genre makes us fall in love from the opening melodies of “Deluxe Capacitor”, they still stand on their own two feet, unveiling a level of emotional detail that makes for quite the cathartic pop-punk sing-along.
Alternative Press called “All You Wanted by Michelle Branch” “relatable,” a fair depiction for a song that details the remnants of a breakup. It’s a common theme on the album, torturously etched in front of gliding guitar riffs and the scant hint of keyboard. But, as they’ve transitioned from Michigan’s upper peninsula to less-frosty Lansing, the group proves to be all about moving forward. As they seek to escape their own neuroses, their brand of heartfelt emo-punk is the perfect remedy.