Flush It Friday: Emo Will Never Die


But You Will.

To be very boring: I’ve been trying to get (back) into jogging. I was into jogging precisely once in my life, back when I turned 30, and I have, since then, flirted with it intermittently. Mostly, I find the activity boring as hell. Growing up playing the sports I played, you rarely jogged. You ran suicides and wind-sprints and did agility drills and stairs and only sometimes, usually as a punishment, did you go run an actual mile. Certainly, you never did any distance running. Last year, when I was flirting with jogging again, I found myself buoyed by an ever-expanding playlist of pop rap and hip hop from the ’90s through the 00s, but this year, that playlist seems to have run its course for me. Instead, what gets me through whatever piddly little huffing-and-puffing-what-have-I-done-to-my-lung-capacity loser slog of a jog I attempt is an album or a slew of tracks from the great Emo Revival of 2012-2016.

While those dates are somewhat arbitrary—we could simply say the 2010s Emo Revival—it was a particular fertile period for a jangly return to the various sounds of the ’90s Midwest scenes. Labels like Triple Crown, Count Your Lucky Stars, Run for Cover, and Topshelf were trafficking heavily, if not exclusively during those years, in a rainbow palette of emo, emo-pop, indie-pop, indi-emo, etc. Hell, Braid released an album! In 2014! Called No Coast! And it was great! The Champaign legends looked around and said, yeah, the time is right for a new Braid LP. And they were right!

It’s also true that a lot of these groups didn’t survive past 2016, or they went in a new sonic direction, or just kinda started to suck after an album or two, or if they didn’t suck, they clearly left their best music behind them. Even The World is a Beautiful Place, the current best emo band on the planet and whose incredible 2021 Illusory Walls was a deserving Top Ten record, released undeniably their two best LPs and best 7” (Long Live Happy Birthday) during this short span. If this was a longer essay, an actual essay as in an attempt to understand something, I’d try to figure out why 2016 seems to loom so large as the end of this unique period, but for our purposes today, we’ll simply let it be. Maybe emo just peaks when Democrats are in the White House, creating a seeping, noxious suburban malaise that Republican-controlled White Houses counteract. That’s stupid… or is it?

The point today, though, is to share a few songs from this brief window that might have been forgotten but to which I frequently and am returning to now in this very acute way.

Glocca Morra – “Y’all Boots Hats? (Die Angry)”

The raucous opener to 2015’s just married, “Y’all Boots Hats? (Die Angry)” is as infectious as its name is inscrutable. This is emo that likes to party, that likes to have a good time having a bad time. This is emo that plays its jangly runs and melodies with a left-handedness that one might find on a Pile record. Why does Zach Schartz pronounce “Derrida” like “Doritos!”? I’ve never figured it out. It’s certainly not how it’s pronounced. (Also, imagine if he did just scream, “Doritos!” That’d be great.) It’s a two-minute burst of pure emo excitement with enough verve to fuck up a house show and enough heart to end in a teary sing-along. After just married, Glocca Morra released a split and a single then disbanded in 2015.

Pity Sex – “Dog Walk”

Dark World was such a find in 2012. The EP is closer to noisy lo-fi indie than it is emo, but the twinkle shines through, particularly on my favourite “Dog Walk.” Now, if you gravitate towards “When You’re Around” or the earworm “Coca Cola,” I get it, but “Dog Walk” sounds like The Men lived in Omaha for a while and got real bummed out. Britty Drake’s delicate voice laces across the otherwise jagged track in an act of contrapuntal affectivity. Though I do generally stick to the EP when I revisit Pity Sex, both Feast of Love (2013) and White Hot Moon (2016) are great. The latter, the band’s final release, features “Plum,” Drake’s elegy for her mother, and it is so sad. So be a little less sad with “Dog Walk”!

Foxing – “Glass Coughs”

 Undoubtedly the biggest band in this post, Foxing used to be great. The band’s debut The Albatross, featuring the tearjerker “Rory,” is a classic and even has its own tribute record, but it’s the band’s sophomore album Dealer (2015) that shook me and my friends to our cores. Conor Murphy’s vocals are as plaintive, tortured, harrowing, life-affirming, and capacious as you’ll ever hear. The album is replete with Murphy’s struggles with Catholicism and its attendant guilt, giving the album a sort of devotional yearning not rarely found on such records. It’s nearly impossible to pick a song, but I’m going with “Glass Coughs,” because it kind of reminds me of Mew at times and shows off Murphy’s and the rest of the band’s range. There are no wrong answers here. Unfortunately, the band would take a synth-y turn after Dealer and release two bad albums in 2018 and 2021. The 2016 curse looms large.

Free Throw – “Such Luck”

Ay! One of the bands to survive the 2016 curse, though I think that 2014’s These Days Are Gone—as fitting a title I can think of—remains the bands most electric and gripping record. I don’t even want to say much about opener “Such Luck” and all its minor-chorded pathos and bad-time blues. All I’ll say and share is this: in 2015, the band was playing the mini outdoor stage of Wrecking Ball Fest at the old Masquerade in Atlanta, and they went into “Such Luck” almost literally right after we got in, and someone got a video of it, and I may or may not make the briefest of cameos in it. Cory Castro, vocalist/guitarist and protagonist of the video, can’t believe the crowd response.


Prawn – “Ships”

Oh, Prawn. My homie Steven and I were supposed to see you in Purgatory at the Masquerade headlining with Field Mouse, but your van broke down somewhere on South 75. We were so out of place. There was a metal show in Heaven and everything thought we were being truant, playing hooky, from our obvious habitat. But we weren’t! Field Mouse, it should be noted and who could certainly be included in this short list, were great that night, though they could never reach the twinkly, jangly, American Football-for-a-new-generation heights of 2012’s Ships and You Can Just Leave It All or 2014’s Kingfisher. Ships opens with the near-perfect “Costa Rica” that I’m only not linking as to avoid selecting another album opener. The titular “Ships” is the kind of closer you want from a band that blends Midwest jangle with a hint of post-rock: everything’s a little more cinematic and swelling and compelling and impactful and majestic. Prawn tried to break the 2016 curse, releasing Run in 2017, but we all know no one is running to that record. We’re stuck in 2012.

Turnover – “New Scream”

This one hurts the most, even more so than Foxing. Turnover’s 2015 Peripheral Vision was probably the only album I liked more than Foxing’s Dealer that year. One could accuse it of being a simpler, more straight-forward record than Dealer, and that’s not untrue, but that would undermine or overlook or misunderstand the driving catchiness and songwriting panache of Peripheral Vision. This is triumphant and pained emo par excellence, with big anthemic hooks and choruses, with refrains and lyrics that never leave your head, with orgiastic moments that might have you spinning in ecstatic circles or with your head in your hands. “New Scream,” like the entire record, has a punchy punk backbone with the brightest of guitar licks and a chorus that is a watery-eyed masterpiece. Where “Take My Head” has all of those qualities in flying colours, it’s the bleeding heart at the center of “New Scream” that lands it here. While Turnover is still releasing music, they were bit badly by the 2016 curse, going nearly full pop on 2017’s tremendously disappointing Good Nature and never able to catch the magic of Peripheral Vision again. That said, I think it was still a mistake when I went to see them over SunnO))) that one time. But I had to see them. I had to hear these songs.

Moving Mountains – “Eastern Leaves”

The genesis of this entire… whatever we want to call whatever it is I’m doing here. I don’t know why I thought to put on 2013’s Moving Mountains when on the treadmill the other day, but there I was, briefly untouchable during “Burn Pile” and “Eastern Leaves.” And there I’ve been, since then, briefly untouchable, indefatigable, and invulnerable in the terrible vulnerability and heartache of this moment’s most unheralded acts. Perhaps it’s because the band wasn’t this on their earlier records. Perhaps it’s all just too earnest and palpable and immediate. When “Eastern Leaves” picks up at 3:25 after the second run of its chorus, I can feel myself, no matter what I’m doing, buzzing with a kind of endlessly loving energy that dissolves the boundary between my body and the rest of the world. I suppose that’s transcendence. And, of course, it can only be a minute, because any more might be too much, might lean far too into the Real of jouissance. Fittingly, though not without a touch of sadness, Moving Mountains’ final record was a 2015 split with Prawn. Sometimes these stories write themselves.

My apologies to my Editor for this post. Let’s (finally) Flush!

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Those G/B/Us aren’t going to write themselves! You know what to do.

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