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07.19.17 Lite Emo Essentials

Lite Emo Essentials

Good entry-level albums from less hardcore/screamo emo bands. This list is not static and will receive constant updates as I re-listen to and consider more albums. I'm also open to suggestions to help me grow (or shrink) the list. My hope is that this can help anyone find a fun and accessible path into the emo scene. (List contains both EPs and LPs, as well as anthologies)
1Algernon Cadwallader
Some Kind Of Cadwallader

Starting of this list is an old favorite of mine by the band Algernon Cadwallader. This and American football really got me into the emo scene. Some Kind of Cadwallader features: twinkly/mathy guitar parts, hard hitting vocals, and a unique but familiar sound to those who enjoy the indie rock genre. All in all, this album is a good introduction, as it sets the bar high for good emo music, while still giving you an idea of the average emo band's sound.
2American Football
American Football

What emo list would be complete without American Football's classic self-titled LP? This album is considered by many to be the quintessential product of the midwest emo movement, and has gained classical status with many noteworthy critics and musicians. American Football features a lineup of: mathy guitar parts, smooth but prominent bass lines, and soft percussion all fronted by soft emotional vocals. If you want to get into emo, this is definitely your go-to album.
The Power of Failing

One could perhaps consider mineral and American Football to be 2 sides of the same coin. Both of these bands had established themselves as inseparable from the 90s emo scene, and both are often brought up in discussions regarding said scene. However, I consider these two bands to be very different from one another in terms of sound and style, thus my choice placing them both on this list. Mineral hails from a more punk/alternative inspired sound, with rhythmic bass and guitar parts, as opposed to the math rock inspired guitars of modern emo revival groups. In my opinion, this style of emo gives homage to a whole suite of 90s and even 80s alternative rock elements, and captures a kind of musical magic that is unique to Mineral's sound. It is also my opinion that none of their other albums capture this sound and feel quite like their 1997 LP "The Power of Failing". One standout track is the song "Gloria", one of Mineral's more famous pieces.
Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit

When I first came upon Snowing, I had placed them into the subgroup of emo I considered more "Loudness oriented". As I grew in my taste and broadened my scope of musical interest, I eventually repealed this distinction not just from Snowing, but altogether, as I found volume doesn't really determine what can be considered "emo lite" and "hardcore". Nevertheless, Snowing's EP "Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit", is a loud, standout opening to what I consider one of the greatest discogs in emo history. Frontman John Galm's voice is captivating, as he goes from screaming his lungs out to softly caressing your ears with his sultry sound, all while playing his driving bass lines behind a backdrop of math inspired guitars and aggressive percussion.
5Cap'n Jazz

I sometimes find myself getting bored with the same old emo sound from time to time, and sometimes my favorites even lose their magic. However, no matter how much time passes by, I always find myself coming back to Cap'n Jazz with the same sense of wonderment I felt when I first heard Analphabetapolotholgy's opener "Little League". The buildup in the songs start, to the straight-up yelling at its end, setting the precedent for one of emo's legends and longstanding favorites. I'll wrap this description up before I end up writing some 2 page love letter, but it goes without saying, without Cap'n Jazz, emo as a genre would lack direction and heritage.
6Brand New
Deja Entendu

Now I like to keep an open mind whenever I can, and of course it can be argued how "lite" or "accessible" some of the items on this list are. However, some bands (especially those who blur the line of "light emo" and "hardcore emo") can in a way transcend this distinction, either through diverse vocal styles or straddling the line of clean and dirty vocals. One great example of the former is the band Brand New with their album Deja Entendu. Brand New's frontman Jesse Lacey shows off an impressive range of volume and control on this album, and I personally hope for a similar sound on their upcoming 5th (and perhaps final :(...) studio album.
7Indian Summer
Science 1994

Yay for our first suggestion! :). Indian Summer if one of those bands that have always appeared mysterious to me. Their music is (in my opinion) wholly unique in a exciting and interesting way. While most people who do know of them probably found them through their song "Angry Son" (or "Woolworm" :P), their entire discography has a subtle yet aggressive sound that emo greenhorns and veterans alike can appreciate.
8The Hotelier
Home, Like NoPlace Is There

Another request! The Hotelier's "Home Like NoPlace Is There", is an excellent example of emo's various "movements" (Ya'll getting tired of all my quotation marks yet?) coming together. You've got your screaming vocals on tracks like Life in Drag, you've got your introduction with a sequence that is re-established in the closing track, you've got your soft/multi-track vocals, there's really something for everyone in this album which makes it very accessible.
9Sunny Day Real Estate

(Thanks for the suggestion, can't believe I didn't add this earlier) Sunny Day Real Estate is another one of those emo bands that simply must be on every emo list. Their album "Diary" is a classic in emo circles and for good reason. Classic tracks like the opening "Seven" had brought the band much acclaim at their startup and have withstood the test of time. What's more is the influence Sunny Day Real Estate had on emo bands today, as well as their introduction of emo into the mainstream.
10The Exploration
Basement Demo

The Exploration is a tragically short-lived emo project, with a sound that seems tailored to the emo audience. The vocals are loud and emotional, the guitar is super twinkly while the bass gives it sturdy ground to stand upon, and the percussion although soft is prominent throughout their entire Demo. Altogether despite their lack of longevity, The Exploration can still serve as a useful gateway into more hardcore and more obscure emo projects.
Amateurs and Professionals

(Another great request) Penfold's Amateurs and Professionals was released in 1999, and earned the band a place beside 90s emo legends like Mineral and American Football. They have a similar style/sound to bands like Mineral but they are far from the same, with Penfold including hardcore and post-hardcore elements into their work. Despite this difference, Penfold are just as accessible AND just as essential, so definitely check this album out if you haven't already.
12I Hate Myself
10 Songs

(Requesterino) I, like many people like surprises. When I first saw this monochrome, messy album cover with the phrase "I Hate Myself" in the top left corner, I honestly judged the book by its cover and expected all harsh, screaming vocals and some heavily distorted instrumentals (Not that I don't love that kind of stuff). However when I actually listened to I Hate Myself's "10 songs" I was greeted with a mix of...well what I had expected, but also a lot of elements I would never have expected to hear. From nasally vocals to melodic guitar playing, I Hate Myself was a dynamic emo project that I recommend for anyone who likes bands like Indian Summer or post-hardcore in general. My only criticism is that there are 11 songs on the album, so I call false advertising :p
13Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)
What It Takes to Move Forward

Now, I'd be lying if I said I was being 100% objective while adding this entry. Empire! Empire! is one of my old favorites not just with regards to emo music, but to music in general. However, that doesn't make them any less of a fucking awesome band, and a fucking awesome suggestion. Empire! Empire! implement a surreal style of lyricism which evokes a range of emotions multiplied a thousandfold by their amazing and sad instrumentals. The vocals are so soft and sweet they sound like they could break if they got any louder. All in all an amazing band for anyone looking to get into emo.
14Tiny Moving Parts
Pleasant Living

Yet another great request! Tiny Moving Parts had their humble beginnings as a more screamo-like band, but would later move onto a mix of screaming and clean vocals that (along with their SUPER-mathy guitar parts) would become their trademark style. "This Couch is Long and Full of Friendship" is a good example of this, but even better (In my opinion of course) is their 2014 LP "Pleasant Living".
15Tigers Jaw
Tigers Jaw

Another favorite, Tigers Jaw have a unique punk/pop-punk style to their music that really sets them apart from your standard emo band. Their sound is punctuated by rhythmic guitar playing, melodic bass parts, and an all around super fun feeling. This feeling however, still doesn't betray the somewhat melancholic vocals and lyrics, making listening to Tigers Jaw a roller coaster of emotions, and a great listen for anyone new to the world of emo.
16Modern Baseball

Regrettably, I didn't happen upon Modern Baseball until early 2016. While this gave me ample music to explore, (including their splits which led me to even more bands I should've already known about. *cough* Marietta *cough*) it also didn't give me much time before they went on a bit of a hiatus early this year. Nevertheless, Modern Baseball are a damn good example of the relationship emo and pop-punk have, and their album "Sports" is perfect so check'em out.
17Chinese Football
Chinese Football

Okay so, before you call me out, yes I'm being a little biased here. Chinese Football are close to my favorite band of all time (I mean look at that profile picture). But despite this Chinese Football is one of the most accessible emo projects of our current decade. While they may not be a household emo band, their self-titled shows they really have potential to spare. Even though I don't speak chinese, Chinese Football's vocals and instrumentals managed to communicate emotions and concepts to me which I understood perfectly. Be it, "Game Start" being a distinct opening track, or "Goal Keeper" just being awesome in general, there's plenty of music in this album to catch your ear.
18The World Is a Beautiful Place...
Whenever, If Ever

The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die or TWIABP for short, can best be explained as a mixed bag of emo elements. The band has a huge lineup of talented musicians that work hard to bring each song to life. Each track on "Whenever, If Ever" has a distinct feel, eventually building up to the amazing closing track "Getting Soda". If you're looking for a defining act for the current indie-emo rock genre, look no farther than TWIABP.
19The Promise Ring
Nothing Feels Good

The Promise Ring are an emo band that really put the POP in pop-punk. Temporally, they formed alongside bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate, but are in a vein of their own. In terms of style they definitely have a more poppy, distinct feel that really anyone can appreciate. Oh and the track "Red and Blue Jeans" is amazing, so check'em.
20The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms

Number 20! And a request as well! The Front Bottoms are a band that have developed a style of music that I find super unique. They have this acoustic, emo, dancy feel to them that is perfectly captured by the opening track on their self-titled. When I heard "Flashlight" I knew that I had fallen in love with the genre. Another good album by them is "Talon of the Hawk".
21Sorority Noise

(Request :D You know my best friend knew the lead guitarist for this one in high school? Neato.) Very rarely will I say that the lyrics are the best aspect of a band's style. However, with the poetic and relatable lyrics of sorority noise, I simply couldn't help myself. However don't let that take away from the amazing instrumentals, which really sets the stage for the way the lyrics flow in every one of their songs.
22Jimmy Eat World

(Another one) You know, I never realized how many "those bands" there are. You know the ones. The 1990s pop-punk emo bands who've amassed critical acclaim and gained cult status over the years. Well here's another one who deserves all of it, Jimmy Eat World and their 3rd studio album "Clarity". The 1990s pop-punk/emo bands (like Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring etc.) are especially essential, as many of your favorite emo bands of this decade and the early 2000s wouldn't exist without them.
23Bright Eyes
Fevers & Mirrors

Uhhh... so yeah. Bright Eyes is a complex and intriguing project to say the least. Originally started by frontman Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes mixes and matches from a variety of genres. One of these genres being emo, but more notably folk, alternative country, and indie rock. That being said, Bright Eyes are essential as they often serve as a template for the stylings of more acoustic centered emo artists of today. "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" served as my introduction to them, but "Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground" is also a really good one to start with.
Summer Death

Marietta is a stellar band to say the least. As mentioned in the Description for "Sports" I originally heard these guys on a split back in 2016. Their songs on this were all it took to get me hooked. Their lyrics are catchy and emotive, conveying a unique feeling in each of their songs. Basically don't be like me, if you're getting started into emo, get all this good music into you NOW!

(Requested) Another band with impressive technical instrumentals is Owls. This really comes as no surprise, as they formed from the disbanded emo legend Cap'n Jazz (all but one member). However, although the skill is on a similar level, these guys really set themselves apart from Cap'n Jazz in terms of style and sound.
The Albatross

(Request) Now here's a surprise! Foxing's "The Albatross" is an album that really resonated with me, as I heard it while still in the larval emo stage. Foxing has a sound reminiscent of "The Antlers", utilizing post-rock elements, loud emotive vocals, and...trumpet? The brass sections that they sometimes include their songs is equally as emotive as the vocals, having somewhat of a doubling effect and on the closing track, the backing vocals amplify the effect even further. Altogether, Foxing is a very versatile band, and any budding emo kid should check them out!
27Camping In Alaska
Please Be Nice

When I found out Snowing had broken up in 2011, it left a hole in my heart that could never be filled. Well mostly anyway, as when I discovered Camping in Alaska my heart became aflutter. With their powerful vocals and equally powerful instrumentals, they have the vintage "Snowing" feel that I thought was lost forever! In fact, I swear I hallucinate Galm's voice on the track "i just want to kickflip into the sun and disappear". Well anyway, my mental state aside, they're an awesome band, and this album is def worth a listen!
28Mom Jeans
best buds

(Great request) Best Buds is an incredible album brought to you by Berkeley based emo band, Mom Jeans. They have that 2010s emo revival style that you'll hear a lot nowadays, but have perfected it with amazing lyrics and musicianship. And honestly I can't help but let out a chuckle everytime I see the song titled "Vape Nation".
Summer Fences

Castevet are a band I originally found thanks to youtube autoplay. I don't know what my subconscious mind was up to, but for some reason I just kept instinctively ignoring this song with a weird looking deer in the thumbnail. It wasn't until I did finally listen to it, that I knew I had been depriving myself of an awesome band. I don't think any description I could give could quite do it justice, it's simply something you MUST hear for yourself! Check'em!
Frame & Canvas

(Thank you for your requests!) Braid is a 90s emo band that formed in the same vein as Cap'n Jazz. Between the two of them, I'm not sure which is considered THE emo band more often. That being said, Braid's influence is prominent, and none of their albums illustrate this influence as much as "Frame & Canvas". If you enjoy the classics, such as Cap'n Jazz, Mineral, Texas is the Reason etc. you'll definitely love Braid.
31Texas Is the Reason
Do You Know Who You Are?

(Keep the request comin!) Here's another one of "those bands" that I absolutely love, "Texas is the Reason"! "Texas is the Reason" formed in the 1990s alongside bands like Mineral/Sunny Day Real Estate, and helped drive the new sound that would become emo. They had a sound very reminiscent of punk/alternative rock/indie rock, and helped mark the emergence of emo from its parent genres. "Texas Is the Reason" and "Mineral" together pioneered the style of music that many emo bands of our time would come to adopt.
32Joyce Manor
Joyce Manor

(Requested) There are a myriad of adjectives I would use to describe Joyce Manor: fun, energetic, comfy, catchy, tight, poetic, amazing, all of which would stick, but have already been said 100 times before. Joyce Manor are a 4 (Right?) man emo/pop-punk band hailing from California, and I tell ya these guys can do no wrong. Their self-titled is packed to burst with fun-as-hell instrumentals and relatable-as-hell lyrics. This and PUP's self-titled are probably my favorite punk/pop-punk style albums, definitely worth a few listens. Check'em out!

DON'T TOUCH THAT KEYBOARD! Yes, I'll admit it myself, I'm a hack-fraud and PUP isn't an emo band (pure punk/pop-punk). But PUP's energetic, drunk-off-my-ass attitude combined with fuzzy bass and guitar parts make for one helluva combo. What their lyrics lack for in sadness they more than make up for in loud and emotive vocals (so loud in fact they wear quite a bit on the frontman's voice). If you're a fan of loud and in-your-face emo, PUP's pop-punk stylings are right up your alley.
Awkward Pop Songs

(Requested) JANK's "Awkward Pop Songs" is a mastahpiece, pure and simple. The twinkly guitar parts are just one part of the incredibly tight instrumentals. These instrumentals are fronted by Matt Diamond of "Panucci's Pizza", whose talent is held to be self-evident. "Awkward Pop Songs" is a great album for people who are into twinkly, fun emo music!
35Midwest Pen Pals
Inside Jokes

Surprise update! I was/am conflicted regarding the addition of this or a "Merchant Ships" album to the list. The list title is LITE emo essentials after all, and the harsh, half-wept, yelling of Midwest Pen Pals' Inside Jokes can hardly be considered lite/light. Nevertheless, these guys have a beautifully clean and twinkly guitar sound to them, so they made the list. If you're into it, you should totally check out the band Merchant Ships, which has a lot of similar members but a whole different feel.
36Nosferatu D2
We're Gonna Walk Around This City...

(Requested) This is one I've only heard just recently, but even so I think it's a superb album by a superb band. If you like "Los Campesinos!" or really any crazy good indie rock, with a little emo flair, this is definitely up your alley! Check it!
37Worst Party Ever

Well then, I may bookend the list with this for now. Worst Party Ever is an emo/pop-punk band with an extremely small following so far. They can hardly be considered "essential", but I have a good feeling that these guys can become a real crowd pleaser. They have a great acoustic pop-punk sound, as well as some lo-fi jams thrown in here and there. Anthology is most of their past works conglomerated into one album, so it's really the only thing from them you'd have to check out. (New album from them soon according to facebook, look out for it!)
38Old Gray
Slow Burn

(Requested) Old Gray are a emo/screamo/hardcore-ish band formed in 2011, and have changed quite a lot over the years. I first heard their demo, I wanna say spring 2014, and I was thoroughly impressed. But listening to the EPs they released subsequently, they had switched to a more hardcore/screamo style, abandoning their more twinkly style. They have a sound very reminiscent of Snowing, but have a hardcore edge that I really appreciate, and I'm sure you'll appreciate as well.
39Jeff Rosenstock
We Cool?

(description pending)
40Moss Icon
Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly

(description pending)
41Yes Yes A Thousand Times Yes
Not Once, Not Never

(description pending)
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