The origins of “emo” as a genre name are nebulous at best. It emerged out of a particular strain of emotionally-charged ’80s hardcore, but it didn’t really gain a foothold in cultural vernacular until the mid-90s. Twiddly guitar lines and yelped vocals took center stage as bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Cap’n Jazz, and Mineral found fame. Since then, the genre had its “mall moment” with musical theater-types spearheading the scene. This week we’ll be focusing on the most smoker-friendly strand of emo, which extends from early melodicists through the so-called “twinkle” bands that permeate the scene now – perfect for a mellow toke-sesh.
We kick things off with Joie De Vivre, a beloved Midwestern band with a cultish following. ‘Upper Deck San Diego’ packs a classic emo song progression into a punchy two minutes and 40 seconds, with a build-up and finale so closely bound that the whole thing gives off a genuine endorphin rush. Another recent group that leans on twinkling guitars is The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die. ‘January 10th, 2014,’ from their 2015 record Harmlessness is a gorgeous narrative epic that (from experience) raises serotonin levels in a stoned brain by at least 60 percent.
Jumping back to the ’90s is The Promise Ring’s ‘Why Did We Ever Meet.’ It’s a chugging, almost Krautrock-like tune, complete with a rhythm section and gang vocals thrown together in glorious disarray. You’ll also find Cap’n Jazz’s raucous ‘Ooh Do I Love You,’ a whiplash-inducing adventure through elliptical lyrics and spring-loaded riffs. It’s a fizzing glass of sugary soda, and it goes down great with a joint.
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