Emo music is often relegated to the past. With bands such as the All-American Rejects and My Chemical Romance dominating the airwaves in the mid-aughts, it was certainly more popular then when compared to present day, but that doesn’t mean the genre is necessarily dead.
There are numerous artists heralding a new era of emo, and they’re covering the whole gamut of subgenres, too. From ’90s alt-rock-inspired Soccer Mommy to the unabashed, belligerent punks Dogleg, here are new-wave emo artists worth giving a listen.
The Detroit-based quartet Dogleg released their full-length debut, Melee, just this past month. Named after the 2001 GameCube title Super Smash Bros. Melee, the album pays homage to its title through both full-throttle, aggressive catharsis and Nintendo references on tracks such as “Fox” and “Wartortle.” The Triple Crown signees’ record never slows down to catch its breath, pushing forward through 10 unapologetically brash songs. It just makes sense that frontman Alex Stoitsiadis is gaining a reputation for his onstage cartwheels.
2. Snail Mail
After initially acquiring some prominence with her 2016 EP Habit, vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Jordan broke through with Snail Mail’s immaculate 2018 debut album, Lush. Replete with unforgettable hooks, stellar guitar work and heart-on-your-sleeve vocal delivery, Jordan captures the ethos of emo music while imbuing it with anthemic indie rock. The entirety of Lush lays bare the now-20-year-old’s precocity, demonstrating an emotional wisdom that songwriters twice her age seldom possess.
3. Oso Oso
Imagine American Football without odd time signatures combined with We Have The Facts-era Death Cab For Cutie, and you have the Long Beach, New York, singer-songwriter Jade Lilitri. As the sole creative force behind Oso Oso, Lilitri’s music is deeply introspective, reflecting on themes such as falling in love with apathy and striving toward optimism. His latest album, last year’s magnificent basking in the glow, encapsulates the transparency so often associated with quintessential emo music, playing out over glimmering and crunchy guitar tones alike.
The British Dirty Hit artist Bea Kristi, who performs under the moniker beabadoobee, conjures emo’s roots with modulated, reverb-heavy guitar tones similar to those of classic alternative bands such as the Cure and Joy Division. Still working on her debut LP, the 19-year-old’s treasure trove of singles and EPs divulges a penchant for concise, catchy songwriting that wouldn’t sound out of place in a John Hughes film. The album is slated for release sometime this year, and her current catalog underlines plenty of reasons to be excited for it.
5. Julien Baker
Julien Baker is quite the sonic mastermind. Just glancing at her pedalboard will make your brain hurt, and she’s definitely put her knowledge of audio engineering to use after initially studying it in college before switching to English literature. Both of her records demonstrate her versatility, with the straightforward folk songs of 2015’s Sprained Ankle contrasting the sprawling yet subtle soundscapes of 2017’s Turn Out The Lights. In both cases, Baker’s poetic, emotional lyrics take center stage—she raises her voice from a hushed whisper to a belt, singing of drug addiction, uncertainty and loneliness.
6. Mannequin Pussy
There’s nothing quiet about the Philadelphia four-piece Mannequin Pussy. Their most recent album, last year’s Patience, ironically doesn’t require much patience to listen to, clocking in at 25 minutes and featuring two songs under a minute in length. Everything about Patience is like a punch to the gut, both because of the vigor of its instrumentation and frontwoman Marisa Dabice’s brutally honest vocals. Aside from its two quasi-ballads, Dabice bellows nearly every note over a backdrop of forceful drums and screeching guitars.
7. Soccer Mommy
Anyone who writes as gripping of a line such as “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog” deserves immediate recognition. Nashville’s Sophie Allison, the woman behind the indie-rock project Soccer Mommy, rose to fame with the breakthrough record that lyric stems from, 2018’s Clean. Earlier this year, Allison followed it up with color theory, an album centered on the depression and isolation she felt while touring behind Clean. It’s brimming with ’90s alt-rock production and compelling choruses, and the result sounds like a sublime mix of Garbage, Taylor Swift and Mitski.
8. Phoebe Bridgers
Before making a record with Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and an EP alongside Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as boygenius, Phoebe Bridgers released the emotionally wrought Stranger In The Alps. As quiet as a song like its second track “Motion Sickness” is, it’s become an indie-emo anthem since dropping in 2017. With another album likely on the way sometime in the near future (she released the excellent single “Garden Song” earlier this year), Bridgers is undoubtedly an artist to keep an eye on.
9. 100 gecs
100 gecs’ music is all over the board, representative of the genreless streaming era we live in. The St. Louis duo’s debut album, 2019’s 1000 gecs, ranges from electronic to ska to trap to dubstep to experimental to screamo and throws all these genres into a blissfully chaotic blender. Members Laura Les and Dylan Brady refuse to take themselves seriously, singing about horse gambling and trucks, but their passionate, Auto-Tune-drenched delivery evokes late-aughts scene bands such as I Set My Friends On Fire and Breathe Carolina.
10. Hop Along
Starting out as frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s solo project, Hop Along subsequently transformed into a band, filling the space between Quinlan’s resonant lyrics. With three LPs under their belt, the Philadelphia indie rockers have found their footing in acoustic guitars and organic instrumentals, and the band even feature guitarist Joe Reinhart, formerly of the emo-revival act Algernon Cadwallader. Although Hop Along have plenty of folksy tendencies, emo music sets the groundwork for the group’s songwriting.