My Life With Music: From Emo Through The Eyes Of Indie

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15 fév. 2007, 13h50m

Cross-posted and updated from my livejournal, a while back.

A Praise Chorus by Jimmy Eat World. It's the first JEW song I heard, and it was the starting point for my taste in music for the past 6 years. Back in early august 2001 my family went on holiday to America for the second time. In the mall connected to the Ceasar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas, there is - or at least was - a giant Virgin Megastore. It was here that, on the basis of two songs from a CD that came free with a copy of Kerrang!, my brother bought Jimmy Eat World's breakthrough third album, Bleed American (which changed it's name two months after it's release because of the 9/11 attacks) and Weezer's comeback third album, The Green Album.

The Green Album is cool and catchy, don't get me wrong, but Bleed American blew me away. Every track on it is pure gold. I did a desert island disks thing in my livejournal a while ago and this album is one of them. A Praise Chorus may have been the first track I heard from this album, but The Middle was the first one I fell in love with, quickly followed by Sweetness. Sweetness is just so loud, so fast. And back in 2001, the line "the sweetness will not be concerned with me" meant so much to a nerdy boy so afraid of girls.

So there I was. Jimmy Eat World hadn't really hit the UK yet and suddenly my favourite band was one no-one else really knew. It felt awesome. I wanted more. And for a nerdy boy there really was only one place to turn.

I didn't google Jimmy Eat World, because google were barely even a company then, much less a verb. But I did do internet searches, and they directed me to two sites: allmusic.com and the global network of dreams: gnod.net. allmusic gave me information about Jimmy Eat World and introduced me to the concept of . Gnod told me "if you like JEW, you'll like Death Cab for Cutie, Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas Is the Reason." In fact, everwhere I looked those three bands were listed.

So I got on Napster and I downloaded Photobooth by Death Cab, If It's Here When We Get Back It's Ours by Texas is the Reason and a whole bunch of songs by Sunny Day Real Estate. Emo, I was discovering, is brilliant. The Death Cab album, The Photo Album became - possibly - my first ever Amazon order. I have to admit, I was disappointed by it when I first heard it. It was good, but none of the tracks held a candle to Photobooth. Eventually I bought the SDRE album, Diary, which remains another of my desert island disks. Everything about this album rocks, from Jeremy Enigk's voice and the band's music to the album artwork. I eventually gave it to Helen as a christmas present because she liked the artwork so much. Giving this album away is one of the few things I regret about that relationship.

I was at college and I was an emo kid and no-one else knew - or cared - what that meant. Then, in 2002, Funeral for a Friend appeared on the scene. In fact, they became the scene. I read in Kerrang! a review of their second EP - Four Ways To Scream Your Name - which described it as a blend of Emo, Punk, Hardcore and something else (I forget what). The mention of emo intrigued me, but one thing above all sold this EP to me: they were Welsh.

The day the EP came out I went into the HMV in Southampton and bought it. The metal part of the CD was tiny, with transparent plastic making up the rest of the disk. It looked great. I couldn't wait to listen to it. So I got home, put it in my CD player and pressed play. The opening guitar chords were heavier than I was used too. Sharper too. And then the vocals struck. It was screaming. Screaming in music. It didn't make sense to me; music is for singing. But then they started singing as well, and it complemented the screams so well. It was all so... so angsty. I was thrown totally off balance, but I liked it.

I wanted to hear more of this new type of emo, so I read up on funeral for a friend. Screamo was a term often applied to them, as was Emo-core. I know now that they are entirely the wrong terms, but they led me to similar bands, so they served their purpose. I still wasn't too sure about the screaming, but I loved everything else about these bands. It was, again, Kerrang! which showed me where to go next. They did an issue about two hot new bands in the states. The issue had front covers on the front and back, each showing one band. On the front was Finch and on the back, The Used. Another free Kerrang! CD contained the Finch song New Beginnings. If you haven't heard this song, then you should totally go find it now. Because of this magazine I had it stuck in my head that The Used played the same sort of music as Finch, so I downloaded their song Buried Myself Alive. It wasn't as like Finch as I'd thought it would be, but it was so great. I loved it.

It was their song, A Box Full Of Sharp Objects that finally sold me on the idea of screaming as awesomeness. There was such a poetic honesty to it. "today I fell, and felt better; knowing this matters, I just feel stronger, sharper!".

I wanted more screams, so I searched for Poison the Well and From Autumn To Ashes. When I first heard them I was disappointed by From Autumn To Ashes. With the exception of the 10 minute epic final track, Short Stories With Tragic Endings on Too Bad You're Beautiful, the album was shelved and not listened to again for about a year. Where The Used's screams were complement to, or exaggeration of, their singing and Poison The Well's screams were melodic in and of themselves, From Autumn To Ashes' just sounded far too much like death metal chants I was starting to hear coming from my brother's room.

Thursday and Taking Back Sunday were becoming the bands who's name I'd hear everywhere, so I hit Napster again. Or probably winMX by now, as I think Napster was long dead. I found The Things We'll Never Know by TBS and How Long Is The Night by Thursday. TBS left me less than impressed, but I was overwhelmed by the emotion of How Long Is The Night.

I started uni with Funeral For A Friend as my favourite band and lust for that mix of screaming/singing only found in the best of Post-Hardcore. I was listening to kinda-obscure bands like The Beautiful Mistake, A Static Lullaby and BoySetsFire. It was here, with the aid of the internet, that I decided to give Taking Back Sunday and From Autumn To Ashes another try. I still wasn't so keen on FATA, but did discover two gems I'd missed the first time I listened to Too Bad You're Beautiful, namely the slow, quiet, tragic Chloroform Perfume and the spoken-word filler, Mercury Rising. Taking Back Sunday, on the other hand, turned out to be awesome. Don't get me wrong: I liked The Things We'll Never Know but I hadn't been blown away by it like I had by Thursday. It wasn't as good as I'd expected, and therefore it wasn't good. You Know How I Do and You're So Last Summer were far better tracks, and finally they did blow me away, with Timberwolves at New Jersey.

I broke up with Helen in December 2003. I hated myself and I never wanted to date again. I hid myself behind Brand New and their second album, Deja Entendu. Three months later one of my flatmates, Emily, fell for me because I liked Death Cab for Cutie and I'd finally shaved my beard. I fell for her because I was lonely and confused. It was never going to last, but I wasn't worried about that because three weeks later she went back to America. We kept in contact for a while, but it didn't take long for her to accuse me of being lazy and uncommunicative and for me to agree.

In my second year of university, I started expanding in emo. Up until now, I'd found one branch of this genre-spanning genre and stuck with it, but now I started to spread out. I went back to emo's roots and found myself For Want Of by Rites of Spring, the band who started all of this. I got myself tracks by the big name emo bands of the 90s: Braid, Joan of Arc, Mineral, The Appleseed Cast, American Football and Cap'n Jazz to name a few. None of it really seemed to stand out above the rest. I got a few more Texas is the Reason songs, and reminded myself I still needed to buy their album (I got it earlier this year; it's fantastic).

No, my second year at uni was not a breakthrough year for me musically. It was more a solidification of the past four years. My third year of uni is when I made the next big step.

I download a lot of music. I mean, legally. I go to places like purevolume.com and download anything and everything that looks interesting. This means that my music folder is made up of thousands of tracks I've never heard, or listened to once and forgotten about, by bands I'd swear I've never even heard of. So every now and then I load up my mp3 player with these songs and start listening until something leaps out at me. It's through this method I discovered British Sea Power a few years after everyone else, and it's through this method I discovered The Appleseed Cast.

It was night. I was walking home from a game of Dungeons and Dragons through sludge that so wished it could have been snow, but never had the chance, and Fight Song started playing, followed by Steps and Numbers. I was in love again. These two songs didn't leave my mp3 player for a month or two at least and if you check my charts you'll see that over a year later, they're both still at the top.They went everywhere with me and when I didn't go anywhere, they were playing on my computer. I bought Low Level Owl: Volume 1 and fell in love with that too. There's nothing as calming as the oh so simple Bird of Paradise on LLO:1. I'm sure you're all far too aware of how much I still love The Appleseed Cast. I've got all their albums now, except Lost Songs, which kinda doesn't really count maybe.

It was around this time that I also discovered Sigur Rós, through their latest album Takk. I'd heard of Sigur Rós, but I always had this idea that they were some sort of mild pop band: something I wouldn't hate, but not something that would interest me. So when I heard reviews of Takk describing these epic masterpieces, I thought I'd better check it out.

Oh man was it good. I'm so glad I found these guys after I found The Appleseed Cast. While of course I valued the musical talents of the bands I listened to, more often than not it was the lyrics I was more interested in. The Appleseed Cast taught me that the music could be just as important and engrossing as the lyrics. And so, starting with The Appleseed Cast and Sigur Rós, I began to explore the world of .

I like post-rock. There's a dude on livejournal, goes by the name of Charlatantric, through whom I discovered loads of excellent post-rocking bands. But I'm never going to be able to write about post-rock like I write about emo, for one simple reason: It kinda all sounds the same, doesn't it? I mean, it all sounds great, but my untrained ears wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an Explosions in the Sky track and, say, one by Yndi Halda, Caspian or This Will Destroy You. Sometimes, when I've got work a-needs doing or I want some backgroundy music on while I read, I'll set up a post-rock playlist. If it's just on in the background then the next time I really notice it, I can't tell who's playing. I mean, I can recognise a few of the first Explosions In The Sky tracks I got, and of course there's always Laura's Levodopa, but beyond that its all just one nice blur. Levodopa, for those of you who haven't heard it yet, is by far the single greatest piece of post-rock ever made.

As well as a mild interest in post-rock, these days I'm skirting around the edges of the scene. Possibly; I'm not really sure what genres apply here. I'm talking about bands like The Shins, Death Cab For Cutie (I got The Photo Album about five years ago, but I only really fell in love with them when I first heard Plans), Snow Patrol, Broken Social Scene, British Sea Power... pretty much: if it could be used on the soundtrack to The O.C., I'm probably going to like it, or like some other stuff by that band.

So thats it for now. Sometime when I feel like it I might do My Life In Music: The School Years and My Life In Music: Bands Not Yet Mentioned That Totally Rock. I'm going to leave you now with a recommendation for an artist I've been listening to a fair bit recently. If you're a fan of The Postal Service (and why wouldn't you be?), I strongly recommend you check out this Immoor dude. You'll like it, I promise.
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Commentaires

  • C26000

    very cool history, a bit similar to mine , but I started with Nu Metal and found the emo because someone in audiogalaxy told me that deftones were emo metal :S. I still call them emo nu metal , hehehe :).

    2 mars 2007, 5h44m
  • donrosa

    A very interesting read, but: Why's Levodopa the single best post rock track you heard? It's not that I don't approve of your choice, it's one of the finest tracks indeed. I just find this somewhat irreproducible, as I could spontanously name several other Laura songs I'd prefer over this one. Still, just out of curiosity: What does it make a stand out song for you?

    16 avr. 2007, 22h11m
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