Fox Wound – “Waveshine”
“Understanding (In the Sky)” or Explosions in a Car Crash would be equally fitting alternate titles for 2016’s most riveting shouting match between post-hardcore and post-rock.
Jouska – “kissing thru yr teeth”
The Albany band calls themselves “ghost-rock,” one of the most evocatively genre names of recent vintage. But at its most extreme, Jouska’s blown-out psychedelia suggests they’re chasing the same bee as their upstate New York forefathers Mercury Rev.
Camp Cope – “Flesh and Electricity”
While there are countless songs in this realm that take place in a hospital, almost none are from the perspective of the staff, people who are expected to feel the pain of everyone and also feel nothing. Inspired by Georgia Maq’s time as a nurse, “Flesh & Electricity” is emo’s most disturbing account of medical professionals since Pedro the Lion’s “Priests & Paramedics”: “I’ve been desensitized to the human body / I could look at you naked and all I’d see would be anatomy.”
Posture & the Grizzly – “Mandy”
Do you want “Weezer and blink-182: Grammy nominees” or do you want the truth?
Secret Space – “Stars”
They stole the riff from “Where is My Mind?”, the title from a main influence’s only hit and its entire M.O. from the slow songs on Clarity—on the other hand, c’mon, it sounds like “Where is My Mind,” Hum and Jimmy Eat World! Emo’s swooniest power ballad in 2016 by far. (Pun intended.)
For Everest – “I’m a Boxcar Buried Inside a Quarry”
The moment where pop-punk kids discover both Rainer Marias at the same time.
Ceres – “Happy in Your Head”
At this point, it should be clear that heart-clutching, embittered breakup songs are not the default mode of emo. But it totally can be that too, and Ceres’ Tom Campesinos!-produced second LP fills the void left when Frightened Rabbit went all National on us, i.e., the record of choice for drunk texters worldwide.
The Exquisites – “Home No Home”
You should only have one band that sounds a little like Rocket From the Crypt at any given time, but you should definitely have a band that sounds a little like Rocket at the Crypt at any given time.
Sinai Vessel – “Dogs”
The heartland rock riffs and cryptic poetry from Brokenlegged’s first single take account of the fluidity between anger and hopelessness in fucked up bumpkins named Bubba, aligning in a song whose subject matter has become a lot more relevant these days: Whether emotionally or politically, North Carolina’s Sinai Vessel write about being blue in a red state.
Old Gray – “Like Blood from a Stone”
You gotta hand it to anyone who can make spoken word work in this setting—the form of expression is responsible for the only things that the Hotelier and the World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die got totally shit on for trying. But Cameron Boucher’s long-standing screamo project peaks with harrowing and empathetic short story of a suicidal Wal-Mart employee’s path to serenity.
How to Dress Well – “I Was Terrible”
CARE – “You Hallucinate”
Even though they’re considered “indie R&B” or something of the sort, I’ve started to realize that guys like Autre Ne Veut and How to Dress Well might’ve been covert ops before “emo revival” became a thing—these guys with wildly divisive voices, just belting it out with Enigk-level earnestness, not to mention HTDW repping the Starting Line and Crash of Rhinos on his last album. On the low, Tom Krell might be the test of whether emo is a sound or a state of mind—“I Was Terrible” nicks both “What Sarah Said” and “From Such Great Heights.” Meanwhile, an artist who shares the name with the most recent HTDW album gives us this 9-minute shape-shifting relationship autopsy with lyrics like “Laura, don’t you label me a lapse in your sexual orientation” that evoke the name and philosophy of one of emo’s most divisive figures: say anything. Yeah, this sounds absolutely nothing like the rest of this list and I doubt CARE would include himself, but this kind of melodramatic, genre-absorptive oversharing is probably emo’s future.