If anyone had told us in 2005 that emo culture wasn’t going to dominate forever, we would’ve rolled our eyes. Of course, as time went on, it became clear that no cultural shifts are permanent. And as quickly as we’d found ourselves perusing iTunes and blogging about My Chemical Romance, it all went away.
Not really, though. Sure, maybe we moved on from our 2000s hairstyles and retired our iPod Nanos, but that’s not to say that emo isn’t carrying on. Now, as much as we appreciate all those bands who have stuck with us to 2020 and hopefully beyond, we can’t overstate the value of emerging artists who are keeping emo alive and well.
Read on to learn about some of our favorite up-and-coming emo artists.
Leave it to Washington, D.C. to incubate emo powerhouses. Watersdeep began as an acoustic duo in 2016 but started expanding into an emo/pop-punk band in 2018. Now on the heels of their Trust Issues EP, Watersdeep are proving to be a powerful up-and-comer in the alternative emo scene. Be sure to give them a follow and stream their latest single, “A Distant Memory,” which just dropped on Halloween.
Midnight Skies are a three-piece pop-punk band who you might already know from the “Emo Eminem” meme. Though markedly modern, the group generate raw lyrics reminiscent of the mid-2000s pop-punk/emo wave. Seriously, give them a listen and try to say you couldn’t see them onstage with Mayday Parade. Midnight Skies are currently signed under We Are Triumphant and released their debut EP, Disconnect, earlier this year.
Purists, if you’re going to stop to listen to any band on this list, Arcadia Grey are the one. Emerging from Indianapolis, they have that 2000s Midwestern emo vibe locked down. From high-energy bangers with less-than-happy lyrics to pared-down tracks seeping with despair, they cover the entire spectrum. Despite sounding like they were plucked straight from the emo heyday, the band only recently released their debut album, Konami Code, in 2019.
Adjust The Sails
Self-described as a “sad dude with rad tunes,” Shane Hurst is a singer-songwriter based in Atlanta. Releasing music under the moniker Adjust The Sails, his unique style features raw, melancholic vocals and stripped-down, pop-punk-inspired instrumentals. While Hurst’s acoustic tracks are undeniably catchy and witty, they tackle emotionally significant themes, ranging from substance misuse to missing the sex but not your ex. His latest single, “Sobriety,” just dropped Nov. 6.
The Winter Passing
Who says indie-pop can’t lean emo? The Winter Passing are a five-piece band from Dublin who offer a twist on our favorite styles. Drawing from a variety of influences, including Jimmy Eat World and Sonic Youth, the group pair heart-wrenchingly relatable lyrics on top of indie-punk instrumentals. Their latest album, New Ways Of Living, released this past summer via Counter Intuitive Records and Big Scary Monsters.
Brooklyn-based indie-punk band Proper. are putting a pop spin on classic 2000s emo. Comparable to favorites such as Modern Baseball and American Football (though not continuing the theme of sports references), the group are characterized by coupling volatile lyrics with energetic pop-punk backings. Their sophomore album, I Spent The Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better, dropped last year and serves as a beautiful representation of their modern emo vibes.
Calling All Captains
OK, so Midwest emo but from Canada. Calling All Captains are a five-piece pop-punk group hailing from the Prairies of Canada. Best described as raw but energetic, their 2019 debut EP, Nothing Grows Here, would feel at home in any mid-2000s emo playlist. The group finished recording their first full-length this past August, which will be released via Equal Vision Records.
Awaken I Am
Brisbane’s Awaken I Am are quite versed in tragedy. After guitarist Connor Verner-Oakley lost his life in a car accident in 2018, the group set out to navigate their grief through art. The resulting EP, The Beauty In Tragedy, produced by Taylor Larson (The Word Alive, Asking Alexandria, Memphis May Fire), was released the following year. While stylistically modern, the EP is cathartic and devastating in a way that screams new-wave emo. The band went on to release a new single, “Roses,” this year, which is equally as poignant.
What better topic for emo inspiration than mental health? Composed of best friends Dean Ince and Matt Ladbrooke, Paperfriend are the hallmark of DIY emo. Drawing on a variety of influences, including Biffy Clyro and Deaf Havana, the band pair experimental, pop-punk-leaning instrumentals with gritty lyrics that address the psyche. They released their latest EP, I’m Over This, earlier this year.
Who are your favorite emo up-and-coming artists? Let us know in the comments.