The simple mention of the term emo conjures the age-old debate of what clearly defines a band as emo or not. Regardless of where you sit on the emo scale, there is no arguing that your younger years were likely spent listening to some of the pinnacle umbrella bands of that time. Here, a list of emo artists that perfectly defined your high school years — for better or for worse.
Brand New – (2000- Present)
The term “post-breakup angst” may as well have been coined by way of Brand New’s debut album, Your Favorite Weapon. The lyrics to nearly every song from the album screamed of pain from girlfriends past and if you were one of those that found yourself in the middle of heartache, Brand New spoke to you loud and clear. The albums that followed showed a stylistic change, but as one of the leaders in emo, Brand New’s fanbase has stayed loyal through it all.
Dashboard Confessional – (1999 – Present)
Speaking of breakups, Chris Carrabba certainly knew a thing or two about weeping over his guitar. While pining over loss, Carrabba became the master or placing the right words together to create the most cohesive songs about heartache and pain. And as a teen lost without direction some of us found our way in the lyrics to a Dashboard album. After all, these songs could make the heart of even the strongest guy or gal bleed and that stands true even now. After several years of hiding, Dashboard Confessional joined Third Eye Blind in 2015 for an epic tour with rumours of a new album on the horizon.
Thursday – (1997 – 2011)
For the days when emo just didn’t cut it, Thursday swooped in with their hardcore and punk elements and saved our music hungry souls. The band is considered a heavy influence on the post-hardcore music scene in the ‘00s and deserve credit for embracing darker versions of emo where screaming vocals were eventually referred to as the subgenre “screamo.” Thursday gave us six incredible studio albums before tossing in the towel in 2011. Since then the band has suggested they may someday perform together again, but there will be no new music going forward.
Jimmy Eat World – (1993 – Present)
Before they were singing about being in the middle, Jimmy Eat World was the band you loved to snuggle up to before bedtime. They gained their emo wings well before they went “mainstream” with the infamous Bleed American. After that album release, Jimmy Eat World tunes began popping up in our favourite movies and TV shows and a new band following soon emerged. Their slower tempo songs had us all swooning and to this day Jimmy Eat World serves up some of the best sad song jams for generations to come.
Taking Back Sunday – (1999 – Present)
There was nothing better during your high school days than Taking Back Sunday. If you were sad, TBS had a song for that, if you were angry, TBS had song for that too. The band’s ability to turn the sass on and off created a diverse group of fans and those fans have carried a torch for the band long after trolling the halls of their high school.
Texas Is the Reason – (1994 – 1997)
One of the more influential bands of the original emo era was Texas Is the Reason. This band set the stage and honed a sound we all came to love and, in most cases, cry over. The band released only one full-length record titled, Do You Know Who You Are? The attention the band received after signing with a major label in 1997 ruffled some member’s feathers and as a result the band broke up after completing their European tour — which was so emo of them. (They did, of course, have a couple reunion stints in recent years.)
Jets To Brazil – (1997 – 2003)
If you sobbed when Texas Is the Reason parted ways you may have found solace in Jets To Brazil knowing that Chris Daly (drummer for Texas Is the Reason) had joined the group. Jets To Brazil was perhaps a little more indie rock than they were emo, but regardless this band also knew exactly how to pull at our heartstrings. And pull at them they did until their premature departure from our lives in 2003 after the release of their final album Perfecting Loneliness.
Death Cab for Cutie – (1997 – Present)
If ever there was a voice that captured the days of our youth it would have to be Ben Gibbard. What began as his solo project turned into a quartet named Death Cab For Cutie. Between the sweet instrumentals and Gibbard’s soft and distinct voice, this band could have us all captured in a sing-along without thinking twice. The band reached mega success with records The Photo Album and Transatlanticism and was often the topic of emo-isms by characters featured on The O.C. — another piece of pop culture that defined a generation.
Mineral – (1994 – 1997, 2014 – Present)
When no other music could cure your butchered soul, Mineral was the band you turned to. Their melodic vocals and soft burning instrumentals were just the thing you needed in order to feel better (or worse) about whatever teen angst situation you had inevitably found yourself in. Mineral was another major influence for future emo bands that wanted to test the waters. The band announced a reunion tour in 2014 and for that we thank them with our warm salty tears.
The Get Up Kids – (1995 – 2005, 2008 – Present)
As mentioned, the emo train rode in waves and during what was considered emo’s “second-wave” The Get Up Kids owned everything. Their most notable album, Something To Write Home About was widely acclaimed and likely found itself inside your CD player or discman at some point during 1999. The band broke up in 2005, but got back together for the tenth anniversary re-release of Something To Write Home About and have remained together since.
The Appleseed Cast – (1997 – Present)
If you were a fan of bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate chances are you were also a fan of The Appleseed Cast. Their heavy guitar-based sound is statured in lyrics about loves lost and bridges burned. You would have to be feeling particularly emo to enjoy these tunes and since our teen years were constantly consumed by our feelings, The Appleseed Cast may have been your band on repeat.
Saves the Day – (1997 – Present)
This band definitely knows how to make a sad song work for them. With popular tracks like “Freakish” and “At Your Funeral” leading the way on their 2001 release Stay What You Are, it is highly probable that you soothed your heartache with their melodies time and time again. The band was screwed over by DreamWorks Records after the label was absorbed by Interscope who subsequently dropped them from their roster. Despite their negative experience with a major label, Saves the Day is still making music happen.
Reggie and the Full Effect – (1998 – 2008, 2013- Present)
To say that James Dewees has dipped his toes into a plethora of emo bands would certainly be an understatement. His musical roots began with The Get Up Kids; during his time with the band he was writing songs that he felt weren’t relative to the sound they were making. Fellow band mate Matt Pryor helped Dewees record his solo tunes and thus Reggie and the Full Effect was born. Dewees would later act as a touring keyboardist for My Chemical Romance and New Found Glory, and he’s is still making music and performing as Reggie and the Full Effect.
Sunny Day Real Estate – (on and off from 1992 – 2013)
Sunny Day Real Estate is credited as being one of the first emo bands in the early ‘90s. If the song “Seven” itself doesn’t convince you of that truth then give the band’s debut album Diary a listen and tell us how you feel.
My Chemical Romance – (2001 – 2013)
Seeing MCR on this list could make a hardcore emo very angry, but like it or not they stole the spotlight for the better half of the ‘00s thanks to their ability to appease not only emo fans, but screamo and alternative rock fans too. They made us all realize that we were not okay and if the cover art for their album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge wasn’t already embedded in your mind — it is now. Sadly, after releasing four incredible albums the band decided to part ways in 2013. MCR’s front man Gerard Way has continued on as solo artist and released his first album in 2014.