FT5: Second Wave Emo Records

Looking back at my sad excuse for a life, I realize that my obsession with music had to begin at some point. I flirted with metal, as I alluded to last week, but mostly I found my love in classic California pop music and punk rock. Along the way, I meandered a bit off the path, as most did during the late nineties. Where did I land?  I landed in the wonderful world of emo. Sure, you’re thinking that I shopped at Hot Topic and couldn’t get Fall Out Boy out of my head, but I’m talking about the predecessors to the entire scene; well, the predecessors of the predecessors. I’ve devoted this week’s Top 5 to my one true love, emo. We’ll call it my Pop 5 Emo Records, and the countdown is after the jump.

5. The Promise Ring – Very Emergency

Their third album came near the end of the second wave of emo, but it came at just the right time. It had bounce and it had the clever attitude that many of us were looking for at the time. If anything, it paid homage to some of the pop-emo forefathers like Weezer, but it did it with a certain style that allowed for this record to sound completely clean and new. Years later it still has as much bounce as it ever did, and you can’t help but bob your head through all these wonderful songs. I’d gladly take a walk down memory lane listening to this album.  It just never gets old, but sadly, this was the last time this band, or it’s side-projects ever sounded so sweet.

Watch: Emergency! Emergency!

4. Pedro the Lion – It’s Hard to Find a Friend

First things first, I do not do Jesus rock. I’ve never understood why Jesus and rock n roll decided that they could be friends, but, alas, David Bazan showed me that my interests and Jesus rock could be close friends. There is something unnervingly personable in the way the narrator treats each of the songs on this album. It’s simple throughout, but that brings it so much power. “Big Trucks” has to be one of my all time favorite songs. Sure, the dude struck a big nerve with small-town indie kids through Control and Achilles Heel, but It’s Hard to Find a Friend is by far the best of the Cornerstone crew.

Watch: Big Trucks

3. Braid – Frame and Canvas

Before heading forward into Hey Mercedes, Bob Nana made his best work writing for Braid. This album flirted with the heavier, punkier side of all things new-emo, but at the same time it had a definite sense of pop-sensibility. For some reason, the guitar work is some of my favorite from this era. It jangles and sways in just the right ways, placing me right back in the middle of the pit at olden-day Emos or the Bottleneck. “Killing a Camera” can still move me to playing one of my meanest air-guitars ever, though I always do it just a bit better than Bob and crew. Their reunion show a few years back showed exactly why this band succeeded on so many levels.

Watch: Killing a Camera

2. The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About

This record was so good that my friend Corey desperately wanted to get the cupid robots from the cover tattooed on the front of his shoulders, rather than placing the stereotypical sparrows. Me, I just adore this record, like very few other albums. Every single song is good; they all stand alone, but they all fit together perfectly. They made the move from the edgier side of power-emo right into this pop gem that burst with emotion and catchy lyrics all the way through to the end. Say what you want about the end of this band’s career, but no one can say that this record doesn’t hold a spot in their heart. I mean, come on, the band is reuniting to play a few shows this summer, and it’s all due to the popularity of one of the top two albums of this period.

Watch: I’m a Loner Dottie a Rebel

1. Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

This year, Jimmy Eat World set aside their huge sound and decided to return to their roots. They opted to ignore Static Prevails and play entire sets devoted to this album. Listening to it now, I still don’t know how they strayed so far, as this album is nearly perfect. You can put it right alongside some of the best pop-punk albums of present day, and it still blows you, and them, away. They cut through the atmospheric sounds with perfect snippets of delicious pop. The fact that the band throws a 16 minute track on to the very end of the album, and doesn’t miss a single step. I will play this song for many years to come, and I know that it will still carry the same weight all the way to the end. Yea, that’s right, listening to it now, I can still feel the butterflies!

Watch: Lucky Denver Mint

So this is just my list, of the albums that I thought were vital from the period. It’s by no means a perfect list, but these are the ones I can jam to over and over again. Got your own opinion? Drop us a line and let us know what your favorites are!


  • wow. i just listened to that Promise Ring record this morning and thought “this is a great record”. good call.

  • Something to Write Home About is probably a Top 10 album of all-time for me.

  • I second that raygun.

  • Excellent top 5 this week. I would have to put Pedro the Lion number 1. Most intriguing artist that I have enjoyed for the last 10 years. Even with the flu he gave an incredibly personal show in Madison 5 years ago that I rate my favorite show all time.

    Honorable mention goes to Built to Spill – Keep It Like A Secret.

  • Greg-

    There were a lot of bands in the era that could be classified, and perhaps were wrongly classified as emo…and Built to Spill is probably one of those. Many could throw At the Drive In, Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, etc…into the mix, but I wanted to go with the Pop 5.

  • @greg. Good call on Keep it Like a Secret, though. Another Top album on my all-time list, and easily Spill’s best effort to date.

  • No Sunny Day Real Estate?

  • Sunny Day. Amen.

  • Mad props to #1 and #2. Those are two of my favorite albums EVER. Not to mention Jimmy Eat World is from Arizona and I may have been in one of their music videos once…just saying is alls…

  • Wait wait wait wait wait! The Get Up Kids are reuniting this summer???? SAY MORE THINGS LIKE THIS.

  • I’m right there with you on Get Up Kids and Senor Pedro, and who doesn’t love the pre-saturation JEW?

    How about:
    Saves the Day – Stay What You Are
    2001 – 2002 ish
    Happiest sounding band I’d ever heard sing about death, revenge, suicide, etc…

    And the muppet video?

    Or it could be disqualified and we’ll start the “too fast/ too distorted / too punk to be emo” discussion.

  • I don’t guess we specified with the title, but we stuck to nothing but late 90s so STD is disqualified. That’s an awesome record though.

  • Yeah, that’s what i figured at first. But Clarity came out in 2001?

    In any case, i wasn’t really catching this stuff at the forefront. More so the first few years of the “oughts.”

    That happy second generation of the genre, before everything got Wentzed completely out of proportion.

  • Clarity came out in ’99 holmes.

  • “Clarity” certainly still owns many memories from that period of my life, admittedly…is “sweetness” on that record originally?

  • “Sweetness” is a hot track but it was on the next album Bleed American

  • In my opinion I think Pinkerton should definitely be up there somewhere…but this is a great list as well 🙂

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