We all remember the smash hits, but sadly, there are several forgotten emo classics from the noughties that have been consigned to the scene scrapheap alongside MySpace, crunkcore and shutter shades. For this list, we’re setting “Misery Business,” “I’m Not Okay” and “Cute Without The ‘E’” to one side, and focusing on bands such as Midtown and Straylight Run who may not have topped the Billboard charts, but did provide us with some damn good music. These are 12 forgotten emo classics that belong on any throwback playlist.
Straylight Run – “Existentialism on Prom Night”
A perfectly emo title for a perfectly emo song, Straylight Run’s 2004 classic, taken from their self-titled debut album, swells with cathartic feeling. Built around a tender piano melody, this cut from John Nolan and co. is often overlooked when it comes to lists of the scene’s most iconic emo songs, but it’s one that’s well worthy of recognition. It worked effectively for the band upon its release, Straylight Run’s debut LP achieving first-week sales of 11,000 units.
Bright Eyes – “The Calendar Hung Itself…”
An avant-garde take on emo that brought in elements of indie rock and folk, “The Calendar Hung Itself…” is notable for its sheer oddness compared to much of what the scene was producing at the time. It was the album, Fevers and Mirrors, to which this track belongs that set Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst on the path to becoming an alternative music icon, and he remains a well-respected name to this day. Fevers and Mirrors has sold an impressive 250,000 copies to date.
Head Automatica – “Beating Heart Baby”
Power-pop with added emo edge thanks to the chops of Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo, “Beating Heart Baby” is characterized by the trade-off between Palumbo’s eerie whispers and trademark screams. The backing vocals are pretty iconic, too, and as a whole this is a song that paved the way for bands like the Academy Is… and Cute Is What We Aim For to pick up the emo-meets-power-pop ball and head for goal. “Beating Heart Baby” is an underrated sugar-rush of emo goodness.
The Spill Canvas – “All Over You”
The Spill Canvas’ 2007 breakthrough LP No Really, I’m Fine cracked the Billboard 200, thanks largely to the low-key emo bop that is “All Over You.” Building from a quiet, withheld intro to a full-on, catchy as anything emo-pop chorus, this is comfortably the best thing the Spill Canvas have put their name to. The release of “All Over You” also coincided with the South Dakota natives’ most successful period as a band, the quartet hitting the Warped Tour for the entirety of summer 2007, also touring with the likes of Yellowcard and Plain White T’s.
Allister – “Somewhere on Fullerton”
A pop-punk classic of the early 2000s, Allister’s “Somewhere on Fullerton” has all the hallmarks of the summertime jams enjoyed by the American Pie generation. Characterized by feelings of teenage angst, young love and raw emotion, this song makes for the perfect soundtrack to reminiscing about the good times of summers past. Extra scene points to Allister for giving the album on which “Somewhere on Fullerton” belongs — Last Stop Suburbia — a super-emo name.
Before his time fronting neon trailblazers Cobra Starship, Gabe Saporta was performing music with Midtown that was more in line with a purist’s take on emo. Case in point: “Give It Up” — taken from Midtown’s 2004 LP Forget What You Know — is a raucous, guitar-driven emo track that has more in common with the Starting Line and Motion City Soundtrack than it does Metro Station and 3OH!3. Cobra Starship might have brought him more commercial success, but Gabe Saporta’s work with Midtown will always be the New Yorker at his most emo.
The Early November – “Decoration”
New Jersey emos the Early November have been consistently putting music out ever since their 2011 reformation, and it’s been solid stuff, but “Decoration,” taken from 2006’s The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path, remains one of the band’s finest moments. Relying more on earnest lyricism and stellar songwriting than massive choruses or commercial sheen, “Decoration” is a criminally underrated helping of mid-noughties emo excellence.
Mae’s take on emo is more ethereal and complex than many of their peers, and “Suspension” is no exception to that. It’s got a killer chorus, but this cut from 2005’s The Everglow also possesses intricate guitars and sprinklings of electronics that enhance its emotive impact. Smart and stylish in equal measure, “Suspension” is an emo gem.
Rollicking punk rock perfection is the best way to describe “Right Now.” SR-71’s 2000 single boasts an impressive 18 million Spotify streams, and was part of an album, Now You See Inside, that was recorded alongside famed producers Gil Norton and David Bendeth. Fun fact: SR-71 also wrote the song “1985” that would go on to become a pop-punk classic after being covered by Bowling For Soup.
Amber Pacific – “Gone So Young”
A heartfelt quasi-ballad, Amber Pacific’s “Gone So Young” was the band’s finest moment, though the album to which it belongs – 2005’s The Possibility and the Promise – is a great listen throughout. The emotional vocal delivery of frontman Matt Young is what makes this a brilliant example of noughties emo, and he’s backed by driving guitars that propel the song toward its grand conclusion. Amber Pacific put out their last album, The Turn, in 2014, but have been pretty quiet in recent years.
Funeral For a Friend – “Streetcar”
Despite the growth of the emo scene being felt most prominently in the States, the U.K. gave rise to several killer emo bands during the noughties. One of the finest examples is Wales natives Funeral For a Friend, who broke the hearts of emos across Britain when they announced their split in 2015. “Streetcar,” the second track from the band’s excellent 2005 LP Hours, is a great example of what made Funeral For a Friend so special, a statement which rock fans in the U.K. certainly agreed with upon its release, the song hitting No. 15 on the singles chart — no mean feat for a track with foundations in post-hardcore.
With over 400,000 copies sold, Finch’s 2002 album What It Is To Burn was an undoubted success, and the same goes for the single “Letters to You,” which was one of the best emo songs released that year. Scene bands including Saosin, A Day to Remember and the Amity Affliction have stated that this era of Finch has had an influence on their creative output, with the sheer vitality of “Letters to You” still lauded by scene purists nearly two decades on from its release.