Brand New finally released a new album this year, one that’s very dark and just feels heavy, so I’ve become nostalgic for Your Favorite Weapon-era emo pop-punk that’s upbeat and full of great riffs and passionate singing. Panama’s FIM fills that void for me. Every track on the excellent new Memorias EP is a winner, each song enjoyable on its own and filled with several singalong moments that all good catchy punk songs need. Bonus points for the shark album cover. Also, check them out via Instagram and YouTube.
Beeswax: Indonesian emo greats return with new music
Of all the bands on the Emotion, No compilation, Indonesia’s Beeswax was, until now, the hardest to track down. Not anymore! Recently, The Display premiered the new song “The Loaded Ashtray” and announced that their third LP is coming out soon.
The Malang four-piece has a great sound very much indebted to the specific emo and alternative bands they cite as influences (Casket Lottery, Braid, Cap’n Jazz, Maggat, Mock Orange, American Football, Title Fight, Pswingset, and Texas Is The Reason, to name a few).
From The Display:
“It has been a long time since the four-piece emo act released any new material. But now the wait is over as Bagas Yudhiswa (guitar/vocal), Iyok (guitar/vocal), Putra (bass/vocal) and Yayan (drum) have unveiled a new single titled “The Loaded Ashtray”. The song which is the first offer from the band’s upcoming third album displays an equally saddening thought as any other tracks. With their signature twinkling guitar sound, [the band opens] up about the memory of those who are gone.”
Tapestry: Singapore Emo and a Back-to-Basics Raw Sound
When listening to Tapestry, a glorious and heartbreaking band from Singapore, time stops. Take “A Set Distance”, for example, the sixth track off their latest full length I Hope You Never Find Me. “The joy of living is gone,” dramatically sings Syed, the band’s vocalist and guitarist as the song starts, while the band weaves a delicate post-rock motif. Not long after, the song erupts in a furious explosion that preserves the same drama. Assisting the main vocals, passionate screams percolate through the rhythm: they sound raw, woolly and ultimately reminiscent of the unpretentious screamo of fifteen years ago.
These screams are a spark in the work of Tapestry, that surely owes a lot to Midwest emo. Bands like American Football or Penfold ongly helped the band define their sound, giving them a point of reference. But Tapestry takes emo very seriously, not as something they copied from the States, but as something to live for. The constancy of their releases is a proof of that. Since their first 2012 EP, the trio has worked hard to perfect their formula, refusing to adhere to new trends and sounds.
Their last songs, released on a split with Michigan-based Coma Regalia, are a further evidence of such enviable coherence. “Strings & Azimuth”, in particular, is one of the best tracks the band has ever released. There, Syed talks about spending two years away from home due to the compulsory military service in Singapore. Even if the song is centered around a very specific theme, there’s a certain universality within it. And also the revelation that at the moment it’s “unconventional places” such as Singapore that offer some of the most interesting emo bands in the world, possibly due to the fact that the issues they cover are more transferable to the defining poignant traits of the genre–while being rather distant from the Western imagery.
The Daydream Fit: The Dutch outfit stays close to its ’90s emo roots but have expanded its sound
Is there anything more bittersweet than a band going on hiatus or breaking up after releasing their best work? It isn’t rare, though; at times, the effort of releasing something outstanding is draining, it damages the personal relationships inside a band, or it makes its members realize they don’t have so much time to put on their musical project anymore.
When it comes to The Daydream Fit, a criminally underrated band based between Enschede and Utrecht, in the Netherlands, it’s unsure what the cause of their hiatus was. What we know is that their last self-titled EP is a rare gem in the contemporary emo scene, a mind blowing work that would have deserved a lot more attention.
The Daydream Fit is the second record by the Dutch outfit – the first was a three-songs EP resembling bands such as End Of A Year and characterized by a contagious freshness. Their last work is longer, with six songs graced by a masterful production that brings out the band’s ability to write songs that are seemingly simple but are written with a passionate attention to detail. The record is rich with references to the ’90s. On the second track “Stick To Yr Lies” it’s easy to hear the youthful urgency of Moss Icon, while on “New York City Tonight” there’s even a collaboration with Sonic Youth guitar player Lee Ranaldo.
But most importantly, it feels like it’s the approach of The Daydream Fit that comes from a different era, untouched by the contradictions of today or by the pressures of appearing a certain way. The band focuses on their music in the most genuine way possible: not only they play precisely what they want to play, but they also have the means to do it, and the result is truly poignant and brilliant.
Wild Animals: Spanish pop punk enriched by DIY ethics and politics.
One of the worst things that has happened to pop punk in the past twenty years was how the genre distanced itself from the DIY ethics it was born with. Strengthened by the catchiness of their vocals harmonies, by the approachability of their riffs and by the appealing image of an arguable rebellion, a lot of bands laid emphasis solely on the pop side of the genre, forgetting where it all came from.
It’s in this context that a band like Wild Animals, a three-piece from Madrid, is truly important. First off, their songwriting is excellent. They could have easily been released by Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords in 1999. Their last record, Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy is comprised of ten melodic punk rock gems with ’90s emo nuances that hint to early Saves The Day and Jawbreaker. The play fast songs with unforgettable hooks, reaching the highest peaks when the vocals of lead singer and guitar player Jamie and of drummer Paula meet, like on their anthem “Avocado”.
The lyrics are flawless, as the band is not ashamed to sincerely share their personal stories. Like on “Heavy Metal Saved My Life”, where they recount how each of the band’s members got into punk and extreme music: Youth Of Today for Paula, heavy metal for Jamie, and Rancid and Propagandhi for bass player Fon, who also runs one of the most active DIY labels in Spain, La Agonia De Vivir.
And here’s where another fundamental aspect of the band comes into play. Rather than aiming to be released by major labels or try to tour with big American pop punk bands, Wild Animals have their roots in the hardcore and DIY scene. They sing about politics, play in squats, book their own tours, release their records with the help of self-managed labels from the whole world. By doing so, they bring the genre back to where it was born, and regenerate it with enviable freshness.
Bastos: Romanian screamo band, formerly just instrumental, have now added vocals and channel late ’90s American screamo and emo.
“Henry Parker” is the third track off Bastos‘ debut LP, ‘Second Favourite Person,’ and it’spossibly the best Italian emo song of the year. Frantic and twinkly guitars wreath around a raw yet powerful sound driven by ever changing drums. Heartfelt lyrics about an ephemeral and nocturnal love story are screamed with passion in the background of a present and dynamic sonic pattern.
The funny thing is that Bastos are not from Italy but from Romania. While the rest of their tracks are sung in English, the fact that “Henry Parker” has (slightly ungrammatical) Italian lyrics already suggests what some of the band’s main influences are. Raein, for example. The sound of the iconic Italian screamo band occasionally echoes on Bastos’ tracks, but it’s enriched by a taste for cheerful emo à la Algernon Cadwallader and math-rock guitars, delivering a product that is willingly raw but extremely rousing.
As a matter of fact, Bastos, who come from several places in Romania but are based in Bucharest, started playing a few years ago as a math-rock instrumental band. After a split with Pandrea released in 2014, ‘Second Favourite Person’ is the first album where they add vocals, and the mix between screamo and the math guitars they’re able to master is what makes it so great. There’s a Topshelf Records sort of vibe sometimes, but the honesty and the lo-fi urgency this record transmit connects it to ’90s emo and screamo, as if they’re taking back the genre to its natural DIY environment.
Trachimbrod: a new “indie” side to the Swedish-sung screamo.
Glacial and glittering guitars, uniform and decisive rhythmic patterns, desperate shaking vocals on the verge of bursting. These are more or less the defining traits of screamo in Sweden, a country that is one of the most prolific when it comes to this niche genre. Bands like Suis La Lune, who have been pioneering this type of music in Stockholm for more than ten years, are known to every screamo fan in the world, but there are many Swedish bands that are quickly getting the international attention they deserve.
Trachimbrod is one of those bands. Their style is unmistakably close to the rest of their compatriots, but the quality of their music is outstanding. The band’s first album, ‘A Collection Of Hidden Sketches,’ came out in 2012 and was a real gem. Hoarse yet harmonious, with unforgettable guitar melodies emerging from a thick and icy sonic blanket, their songwriting felt unstudied and original, setting them apart from many similar bands in the world.
While their following split with Sore Eyelids showed worrisome chameleonic skills, resulting in them sounding way too similar to the dreamy shoegaze of their split partners, their 2017 comeback with ‘Leda’ is a breath of fresh air for Swedish and international screamo. It’s a soft-tempered record where atmospheric guitar arpeggios endlessly chase each other in a post-rock setting, reaching a climax only rarely and creating a dense emotional tension.
The singer – who also sings in the lively emo group I Love Your Lifestyle – switches his lyrics from English to Swedish this time, increasing the magic and the mystery of the band even more. Occasionally, he adds poignant clean parts that exalt the musical potential and versatility of the music, making ‘Leda’ a thorough record that will make it really easy to fall in love with this band.
I appreciate any Bandcamp bio that simply states “Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz,” yet Moe Meguro go the extra mile and actually pull off the description. The three band members are based around the world and each musician brings part of their home to the blend. My guess: Joseph “Jojo” Brandel, from Yokohama, Japan, brings the math-rock emo riffs; Bernie Gelman, from Austin, TX, brings the hazy drive; and Logan Bean, from California, brings the sunny pop harmonies. Extra points to the band for covering ‘Walls And Bridges’-era John Lennon with “#9 Dream.”
From the band:
“With band members scattered over six thousand miles apart across two continents and a name borrowed from the Japanese Olympic curling champion, Moe Meguro is a melting pot of disparate styles. The 3-piece band consisting of Joseph Brandel and Bernie Gelman on guitars and Logan Bean on drums (with all three members covering vocal duty) convenes once or twice a year to write, rehearse, and record music back on their home turf in the Bay Area, California. Over that short span of time, the band collaborates on crafting intricate, sonically lush music drawing from Beatles-tinged power pop laced with harmonies to hazy shoegaze and a bit of math rock.”
Adorno: ’90s emo and post-hardcore mixed with Portuguese Saudade
Between 2007 and 2012, Lisbon-born band Adorno released twenty songs spread across two EPs and six splits, like a book whose chapters came out quarterly on the pages of a newspaper. And just like a book, these twenty songs tell the story of a friendship expressed through uncompromised emo that is not detachable from the political values it was born with.
“We will be aware of our own contradictions and we will make mistakes. Don’t need regret,” they sing on their sixth song, “Life. Love. Don’t Need Regret”. It’s only one of their many incurably optimistic anthems, sundering the band from the stereotypes of their motherland Portugal, often associated with Fado music and sadder feelings, and showing traces of their necessary internationality. In their first year, the band couldn’t resist doing a full European tour after just seven shows between Portugal and Spain. And the fact that now the band members live between New York, Barcelona and Lisbon confirms such spirit.
Though, when describing the band’s lyrics, optimistic might not be the right term, as they are more motivational in quite an hardcore-inspired way rather than plain happy. But the sonic framework is different, certainly influenced by ’90s emo and post-hardcore but made more exotic by the particular ability of the band to create their own personal style. Tapering rhythms and beaming guitars steal the show, while the vocals went from the coarse screams of their first EP to the hearty and amicable imperfection of their latest works. Add a little bit of saudade, the nostalgic/melancholic emotion that is typical of the Portuguese tradition, and it’s enough to turn Adorno into one of the most memorable emo bands Europe have ever seen.
Number Girl was an acclaimed and influential Japanese emo band active in the late ’90s and early Aughts. The band’s second album and major label debut, School Girl Distortional Addict, came out in 1999, but it sounds perfect for 2016. Funny how certain albums come back into the spotlight with all these “revivals.” Read more on the band’s history via Pitchfork.