Philadelphia might not have the sort of scene-specific legacy of Long Island or New Jersey, but the tri-state metropolis has become an epicenter for experimental emo and progressive pop punk in the last few years. But that’s not all the city has to offer: Lately, silly Philly is being viewed as a hotbed for guitar-based underground music of all kinds. If you’re into rock, you can probably find a home there.
Sticking to the great emo and pop-punk genres, here are 10 bands native to Philadelphia who are making the city an exciting place to be.
Balance & Composure
If Balance & Composure are anything, it’s ever-evolving. The band is one of the better examples of an act that can work on both the indie rock/college radio circuit and the emo Warped Tour world—they play with synthesizers but their hooks are something out of punky-pop canon. We see them as a gateway to other genres for a lot of listeners—it’s familiar and something new, simultaneously.
Check Out: “Quake”
It’s completely impossible to talk about the new wave of incredible punk music coming from Philadelphia without mentioning all the incredible women who are making it happen. The most exciting voices in the scene—or any scene—tend to come from marginalized voices, and Cayetana’s unique breed of cheery sounding, self-deprecating punky-pop is no exception.
Check Out: “Mesa”
It makes sense to kick things off with a classic, right? Circa Survive are technically from Doylestown, Pennsylvania—a suburb of Philadelphia—but they wear their Philly identity with pride. With five full-length albums to their name, it’s never too late for a deep dive: 2005’s Juturna introduced the world to frontman Anthony Green’s ineffable falsetto, and 2007’s On Letting Go further streamlined the band’s unique approach to the emo genre. In some ways, their sweeping soundscapes could put them in the company of prog rock, but with specific moments of intimacy.
Check Out: “Act Appalled”
Hop Along, like some of the other bands on this list, teeter the emo-punk-indie line with incredible grace. Signed to Saddle Creek Records, the famous Nebraska label that birthed Bright Eyes, Hop Along bring a punk edge to pop songs with a specific American indie tinge—there’s nothing folky about it, but there’s a sense of warmth in everything they do.
Check Out: “Powerful Man”
This one is easy: If you love the Gaslight Anthem but miss their earlier punk rock days (the Bruce Springsteen-influenced stuff rocks, too) the Menzingers are here to save you. They harken back to a certain straightforward East Coast punk rock a la Against Me! that feels both nostalgic and completely rejuvenated.
Check Out: “After The Party”
Even though they are currently taking a break, Modern Baseball lead the charge of new Philadelphia emo. The band’s heart-on-sleeve moments of introspective revelation are responsible for inspiring a new wave of hyper-lyrical bands free of pretension—this is possibly the only place you’ll find a heartbreak song referencing Instagram, and a love song about mental health.
Check Out: “Your Graduation”
Sorority Noise is something of a brother band to Modern Baseball, but their approaches to genre are very different. Sorority Noise could be likened to late-in-life Brand New: clever, technical and at times, abrasive. Like their MOBO brethren, Sorority Noise are dedicated to using their newfound rock platform to share a message of survival in spite of depression and other various mental differences. It’s music you can enjoy listening to and feel good about enjoying.
Check Out: “Using”
The cover of Thin Lips’ debut full-length is frontwoman Chrissy Tashjian’s fists exposing knuckle tattoos that spell out the album title: Riff Hard. Perhaps it leads the casual listener to expect breakdowns and d-beat percussion, but the Philly band operates somewhere in the fantastic middle gray of pop punk and indie. There’s shredding, but there are also incredibly infectious melodies. They might not be the biggest band on the planet yet, but we’d like to see that change soon.
Check Out: “My Mouth Is Skinned Like An Apple”
To really give you, dear reader, a grasp on how deep the new wave of Philly emo goes, we thought we’d end this list with a fairly new band—they seem to crop up everyday in the town that’s allegedly Always Sunny. Whine Moms pull from the plucky descending riffs of ’90s emo acts like American Football, but their gang vocals bring their sound into a modern era.
Check Out: “I Was Born In Miami On The Only Day It Ever Snowed In Miami”
The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years love Philadelphia possibly more than anyone on this list—the city of brotherly love appears through their impressive five-album discography with what feels like increasing regularity. The best way to describe the Wonder Years would be “life-affirming pop-punk”: even in their bleakest, most hopeless (typically suburban) moments, they find salvation in loved ones. They’re kind of the perfect band to share with your best friend.
Check Out: “Cardinals”