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Emotional Hardcore

Top 20 Emo Albums in History: 10-1

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Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 3:15 AM

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  • Sub Pop Records
  • Sunny Day Real Estate

Few music genres inspire as many eye rolls as emo. But so-called "emotional hardcore" was an inevitable outgrowth of hardcore, which was itself a response to the commercialization of punk. Emo kicked off in the mid-1980s, when D.C. acts wanted to express themselves a bit more, shall we say, tenderly. The genre reached an aesthetic peak in the early-to-mid-1990s, as a second wave of emo spread through the Midwest. (Its mall-core nadir would come later, in the aughts, though the less said about that the better.) In any case, the through-line is a sensibility based on uncompromising worldviews, alternately melodic and explosive guitars, and lungs eviscerated in the name of earnestness. Here are the 20 best albums of the genre. -Patrick James

See also:

Top 20 Emo Albums in History: 20-11

Top 20 Punk Albums in History

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10. Embrace



Toward the end of their run, Minor Threat showed the shape of hardcore to come: The same energy, but with more melody and musical nuance. Just as punk had given way to the nervous angularity of post-punk, so would hardcore yield to the layered explorations of emo. Embrace is, effectively, Ian MacKaye fronting his brother Alec's former band The Faith, and the result is just about as powerful as anything that Minor Threat ever did, but highlights the musicianship of MacKaye's erstwhile project. -Nicholas Pell

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9. Jawbreaker



Jawbreaker's second full length Bivouac hits the sweet spot between the relatively uncomplicated melodic punk of their debut album, Unfun, and the flannel-clad anxiety of grunge. Blake Schwarzenbach's gravelly vocals pierce through a thick layer of Seattle-flavored distortion -- busy bass lines carrying the melody and a backdrop of tempo variations. Schwarzenbach's strengths are both his mesmerizing storytelling and his distinctive cadence, which turned out to be the result of a throat polyp. -Theis Duelund

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8. Jimmy Eat World

Bleed American


Jimmy Eat World's breakthrough almost didn't happen. The Mesa natives' 1999 work Clarity was a commercial flop (by the standards of the day, anyway) and, in the wake of 9/11, Bleed American was stripped of its name. (It was for a time titled eponymously.) But the work went on to be a critical and commercial success, and the title track, "The Middle" and "Sweetness" are still popular with alt rock radio. Along the way, their power pop songs have helped provided the blueprint for mainstream emo success. -Daniel Kohn

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7. The Promise Ring

30° Everywhere


You can straddle the line between pop and the underground for only so long. At the time of their first LP, second-generation emo band from Milwaukee The Promise Ring still had strong ties to their scene -- singer Davey von Bohlen had previously played in Chicago's beloved and influential Cap'n Jazz -- though those ties would weaken the following year with the release of the more widely appealing Nothing Feels Good. Still, 30° Everywhere is a spastic, fuzzy treasure, catchy as hell and guided by von Bohlen's heart-aching lisp. -Patrick James

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