Philly’s Emo scene from A to Z (Part 2)
Last week we looked at several distinct bands from the Philadelphia area included in the broad genre of emo. Our survey continues below. Make sure to check out the precursor article here.
Years Active: 2011-2015
Best Album: Summer Death
Marietta are one of the first bands that come to mind when I think “emo”. Their combination of rousing anthemic chants with poorly tuned guitars just hits the right angst spot. Both their 2013 debut “Summer Death” and their 2015 followup “As It Were” remain gems of the genre. They also created a collaboration record with fellow emo band Modern Baseball (see below). Though the band announced through a Facebook post in 2015 that they were breaking up, May of 2020 saw the release of an EP called “Summer Demos 2012” featuring a collection of early song material from the group’s inception.
Years Active: 2000-2020
Best Album: Brother, Sister
Honestly, mewithoutYou are only emo in a tangential sense. More aptly classified as post hardcore, their music is a strange sensation as typical song structures are tossed out the window in favor of bombastic rhythms, distorted basstones, and guitar effects resulting in complex experimentation. The group has released music at a steady pace with seven full length albums and handful of EPs since the turn of the century. Religion recurs as a powerful motif in much of the band’s lyricism though vocalist Aaron Weiss eschews the notion that they are a Christian band. In 2020, the band announced their breakup via social media.
Years Active: 2006-Present
Best Album: On the Impossible Past
The Menzingers hail from Scranton, PA but we’re going to call that close enough in proximity to Philly to count (plus they later relocated to Philadelphia). Their sound can be traced to ska/pop punk but has steadily morphed over the years moving seamlessly from punk to alternative rock and americana. The Mezingers have incessantly impressed fans with their tight song writing and passion for music. The group’s most recent effort, “From Exile”, was released on September 25th, 2020.
Years Active: 2011-2017
Best Album: Sports
Modern Baseball were the very first band I heard explicitly use social media as a controlling lyrical device in their music. The crack in Brendan Lukens’ vocals, in tandem with such revealing lyrical topics, renders Modern Baseball an emo darling for any angsty teen or college-aged kid. They began playing basement shows at Drexel alongside bands like The Menzingers and Cayetana before moving on to tour with huge names in the genre including Brand New. I’m partial to their first album “Sports”, but their subsequent two albums are arguably of a parallel quality. After playing a few shows in 2017, including one with Daniel Johnston during his final US tour, Modern Baseball announced an indefinite hiatus.
Years Active: 2012-2015, 2018-Present
Best Album: Swearin’
Members of Swearin’ were formerly part of the terrific folk-punk group P.S. Eliot. In contrast to that band, Swearin’ incorporates more punk and less folk into their sound, drawing on indie-rock influences such as Built to Spill, Jawbreaker, and Liz Phair. Though Swearin’ broke up in 2015, they announced a new album in 2018 “Fall Into the Sun” Swearin’ is led by Allison Crutchfield, whose sister Katie Crutchfield, is the mastermind behind Waxahatchee.
Years Active: 2016-Present
Best Album: Chosen Family
Thin Lips affectionately describe themselves as “Punk for your sensitive side as played by four buds who would gladly water your plants if you asked them to.”. They have two albums to date, “Riff Hard” arriving in 2016 and the followup “Chose Family” released in 2018. They were helped in the production process by fellow Philadelphia musician, Francis Quilan. They’ve also released a split EP with Modern Baseball and The Superweaks.
The Wonder Years
Years Active: 2005-Present
Best Album: The Greatest Generation
The origin of The Wonder Years is Landsdale, PA, just a short train ride to the City of Brotherly Love. The band is currently signed to Hopeless Records, a fitting name given the nature of their pop-punk sound. Bandmember Dan “soupy” Campbell has listed Motion City Soundtrack as a huge influence on the group. Several members have also formed musical side projects which include Why Bother?, Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties, and Clear Eyes Fanzine.