Second wave emo, in my opinion is the best wave. When I got into emo it was on the verge of the third wave, but when I researched emo I realized most the bands I love from the genre were in the second. This emo is most notably characterized by its midwest outburst, while the corners of America were still popping out some of the best bands we were introduced to, Nebraska based and Kansas based bands that became emo mainstays started popping up. At this point emo became more melodic, and less “screamo” branded stuff. The math-y guitars were still there, and the technical drum work also, but vocals became a bit more whiny, and in some cases a bit pathetic (jokes). Second wave was the wave that emogame.com probably got the most influence from as well. While you played as characters like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, and Adam Goren of Atom and His Package, these bands aren’t necessarily seen as emo bands, again this is a to each their own subject.
I for one see Bright Eyes as a folk musician who balanced on the fringe of emo, and well, for Atom and His Package, well, he’s straight up a punk rocker. Emo game also made the joke that all emo men of this time had ovaries, which is still a pretty funny gag when you think of some of these men.
01. Sunny Day Real Estate – Pheurton Skeurto
This song just has an eerie feel to it, the way it comes in and goes out just has this very nervous feel to it. The lyrics are a bit of nonsense, but that doesn’t change that Sunny Day Real Estate and Diary is one of the best bands/records ever. Especially when it comes to emo.
02. At the Drive-In – Ticklish
I will always have a soft spot for At the Drive-In due to many things. Mostly it was the stuff going on in my life at the time. Nonetheless they were a very special band to me, and still to this day I will listen to them and recite their lyrics because it’s so engrained in my head. This song specifically was one I really loved that I felt didn’t get too much attention. Especially once everyone I knew got into them I felt a little more “in the know” with songs like this being one of my favorites.
03. Mineral – Take the Picture Now
Mineral is another band that is seen as one of the best emo bands out there. Their album “The Power of Failing” is seen as a core emo record, and after being released 18 years ago it still stands the test of time.
04. Jawbreaker – Fireman
Active for 10 years from ’86-’96 Jawbreaker went through some changes. Starting off as really just a pop punk band, they quickly became a very influential band in the early ’90s emo movement. Their sound helped change the way emo sounded in the ’90s and moved it closer to the way emo was in the early ’00.
05. Braid – Minuet
Braid is a band that is a bit odd to me. While they’re pretty popular now, I never saw that popularity back in the day. When Braid broke up three members went on to form Hey Mercedes which was a lot more popular. Now, I don’t think that’s true as they’ve come back for the emo revival and seem to have more fans then they did back in the day. They’re good, but in my opinion maybe a bit overrated.
06. Hot Water Music – Minno
Hot Water Music on the other hand is a band I feel is a bit underrated. Sure they were featured in emogame, but really outside of that I don’t hear much about them. They’re one of my favorites as they’ve always stood out by being a bit harder than other emo bands, yet they still have all those emo asthetics.
07. Jets To Brazil – King Medicine
Formed in 1997 in Brooklyn, Jets to Brazil is interesting, well, I should say this song interested me. It’s more sad about growing old than it is about loneliness, that’s interesting because most EEM is about being sad, young, and just dumb. Not Jets to Brazil though, they embraced the old.
08. American Football – Five Silent Miles
Look, I don’t want to surprise you here, but the Kinsella’s make multiple appearances in this mix. my all time favorite Kinsella band though has to be American Football, hell, I even have an American Football sweatshirt. Yeah, fucking love these guys. THIS SONG WAS ALSO IN EMO GAME! Also you all seeing a trend in ’90s eem? That’s right.. Bleached hair bbzzzz.
09. Jimmy Eat World – Believe In What You Want
Ah yes, and we get here. The band that “broke” eem. From Mesa, Arizona these guys really did solidify the mid western emo sound, and by god they did it amazingly with their record Clarity, but then they drop Bleed American and all hell broke loose. Long live Jimmy Eat World guys, they’re fucking amazing. I don’t wanna put a number to my favorite emo bands ever yet, but they’re def top 5.
10. Saves the Day – As Your Ghost Takes Flight
Oh, and so is Saves the Day, they are even probably top 3… Well, we’ll see. From Princeton, New Jersey forming in 1994 they were a sleeper, but then At Your Funeral came out and all of a sudden your mom loves Saves the Day. Ah well, they’re still great. They’re also still a band, so you could probably catch them, playing with Jimmy Eat World someday.
11. Saetia – Venus and Bacchus
The band that inspired the name of this series, Saetia is seen as the most poetic emo band ever. Their lyrics really are wrapped in analogy after analogy, and their instrumentation embodies all forms of emo. Saetia even spawned more “emo” bands after their breakup, maybe one day we’ll see them come back like we saw Hot Cross come back for a bit. Honestly, here’s some help here. Here’s the lyrics with maybe a line or two highlighted for eemness:
“close my eyes
pull my heart strings
pour my tears from your hands
‘connections are never easy,’ you said
I believe that we are afraid of one another”
“and I, I believe that you have died within me”
…I fade from myself
I miss you again
I fade from myself
I miss you again…again
(what have we got?)
bloody broken and hidden away
I seek the rope from which we will hang
or so it seems
or so it seems
the dance of flesh on flesh has rendered us blind
“I look into eyes, I look into stone
it’s better to be stepped on than left all alone…
so now I choke on yesterday when I was someone
and I wonder where ‘forever’ went
and how our ‘everything’ came undone
I opened my eyes and the heaven beneath us died.”
12. Christie Front Drive – Radio
Denver’s time to shine. Nothing more needs to be said here. No but seriously, the Denver Emo scene was amazing, but of course it was! It’s really easy to be eem in Denver, and I’m speaking from experience.
13. Texas Is The Reason – Back and To The Left
Texas Is The Reason, and they’re not from Texas, just Misfits fans. Half this record seems to be about the JFK assassination theories, so it’s weird, because while the topics are- sad, they’re not the same way you expect eem to be. They just had that sound and some of their songs just definitely had every embodiment of that emo scene, but if you’re pulling my arm they fall into that middle ground where you can sit and think, Is this band emo?
14. Cap’n Jazz – Yes, I Am Talking To You
KINSELLA! I can’t ever decide if I’m more of a Mike Kinsella fan, or a Tim Kinsella fan. Luckily the best of their bands they’re together. Although.. Well, you’ll just have to wait until we get there!
15. The Get Up Kids – Red Letter Day
The Get Up Kids, you know em, I know em. Kids love them. Right? Maybe, no, they do. As you can tell, I’ve got nothing to add about them! They’re from Kansas, they really are what people think of when they’re thinking of Mid Western Emo. They’re still doin’ thangs.
16. Karate – If You Can Hold Your Breath
Karate is severely underrated, the fact that you don’t hear more about Karate is ridiculous. They were technical, and different from the rest of emo bands, to the point where it’s pretty hard to classify them as such as they also have a great jazz and blues influence to their music. From ’93 to ’05 they were releasing amazing record after record, when they silently broke up in 2005 it seemed to be it, with the expection of ‘595’ their final record that was a live recording of their 595th show.
17. Death Cab For Cutie – Wait
One of my all time favorite bands, not in just emo, but one of my favorite bands of all time. Ben Gibbard is an amazing musician and one of my personal favorites. With Death Cab, All Time Quarterback, The Postal Service, or just as a solo artist he invokes so many emotions in me, and through his music. Death Cab probably became most famous in the mid aught’s with TV shows like The OC, and movies like Twilight, but to me, they’ll always be a band I listened to when I first visited Colorado, and felt like I knew where I wanted to spend the next few years of my life. Love ya Gibb
18. Joan of Arc – Post Coitus Rock
Real talk: I wasn’t ever THAT into Joan of Arc, it wasn’t until way after second wave emo was long gone that I started listening to them. Mostly I believe that’s due to the fact that Joan of Arc has a insane catalog, there’s just too much! when I got into them they already had 18 records! Sure 6 of them were EP’s but come on, who has that much time to seek those out and listen to every one? A very dedicated fan, that’s who. Oh hey, another Kinsella band, that’s three for this wave.
19. Cursive – The Great Decay
From Omaha, Nebraska this is the beginning of the 3rd wave of emo. While Cursive fit in both with the 2nd and 3rd wave I felt it best to include a 3rd wave hit of theirs to exit the 2nd wave. Seeing Cursive they’ve never disappointed, they’re always great live and Tim Kasher is still a fantastic vocalist. Cursive isn’t the best band from Saddle Creek Records, but they are a forefront of the label, and still one of the only bands from the old days of Saddle Creek still kicking around.