Editor’s note: This is a guest post from one of our commercial writers. Emo music absolutely stinks, but Danny is cool so we’ll allow it.


Emo music is once again capturing the zeitgeist with The Ringer releasing a whole bunch of emo content this week. There are so many ways to discuss emo music, from its origins to what bands should actually be considered emo.

I’ll leave those topics for others to debate. Instead, I’m putting together a list of the top 10 emo albums ever. Other people might have opinions, but they are wrong. This is the definitive list:


10. 13 Songs (1989) — Fugazi

Is Fugazi punk or emo? Probably more punk, but they are one of the biggest early influences on a lot of emo bands. The first track, Waiting Room, sets the stage for the entire album. Repetitive guitar riffs and bass lines work together to make you feel like you’re in an insane asylum, but in a good way. The fact that 13 Songs comes in at 40 minutes (the perfect length for an album) gives it an edge over other honorable mentions like Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate and Dear You by Jawbreaker.

Top Songs: Waiting Room, Bad Mouth

9. Nothing Feels Good (1997) — The Promise Ring

Listening to Nothing Feels Good brings back memories of sitting in a freshman dorm with equal parts insecurity and overconfidence. I’m not the first person to make this analogy, and I won’t be the last. The Promise Ring was one of the bands that brought a poppy sound to the emo scene, which eventually led to the mid-2000s boom of mainstream acceptance.

Top Songs: Is This Thing On?, Red & Blue Jeans, Nothing Feels Good

8. Never Hungover Again (2014) — Joyce Manor

Most Joyce Manor fans would go with their debut self titled in this slot, but they didn’t really hit their stride until Never Hungover Again. At just under 20 minutes, this album is quick but brevity isn’t always a bad thing. You could listen to the whole thing before getting to No. 1 on this list.

Top Songs: Schley, Catalina Fight Song, Christmas Card

7. Riot! (2007) — Paramore

This era is the one that comes to mind for the broad majority when it comes to emo music. The early aughts were the glam metal phase of emo with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy mirroring the likes of Poison and Ratt. Even if I personally categorize bands like Paramore, MCR, and Fall Out Boy as pop bands, they deserve some love.

There are two types of people in the world: people that love Misery Business and liars. Hayley Williams can go toe-to-toe vocally with any singer in any genre.

Top Songs: Misery Business, crushcrushcrush, Hallelujah

6. Summer Death (2013) — Marietta

This album cranks up the nostalgia to 11. Every time I think I’m getting too old for this shit, I re-listen to Summer Death and I’m not. Even when you’re out of school, there is something sad and beautiful about the summer ending. This record encapsulates that feeling into eight tracks. Marietta is one of many great emo bands to come and go in the blink of an eye, but Summer Death stands up almost 10 years later.

Top Songs: Cinco de Mayo Shit Show, Ever Is a Long Time (Ever is No Time At All), …so They Left Me At a Gas Station

5. Just Married (2012) — Glocca Morra

If you are willing to drop $400, you can buy Just Married on vinyl. If not, this 33-minute album is on Spotify. Glocca Morra takes cues from the four bands that top this list, but it’s not just a regurgitation of what others have done. Listening to a genre where every other artist sounds the same, Glocca Morra creates its own unique sound. The skits in a few of these songs are the garnish on top of an all-time emo record.

Top Songs: Ya’ll Boots Hats (Die Angry), Eat the Fucking Snow, Me + Geniene

4. Frame and Canvas (1998) — Braid

Braid is a classic case of a band that was a bit ahead of its time. Never Will Come For Us is a song about being an underground act that would never get radio play. The feeling of being overlooked is a theme that cuts through every song. Braid was competing against other bands in Illinois for any kind of attention. The ironic part is that this album inspired dozens of emo acts in the early 2000s and onward.

Top Songs: Never Will Come For Us, First Day Back, A Dozen Roses, Urbana’s Too Dark

3. Some Kind of Cadwallader (2008) — Algernon Cadwallader

Some Kind of Cadwallader sounds like something straight out of the Midwest in the ’90s, but they are a product of the Philadelphia DIY scene. Algernon Cadwallader was the pivot point between the “glam” emo of the early ’00s and the emo revival of the early ’10s, even if they didn’t see much mainstream success at the time.

The album is a sprint from start to finish with jangly guitar riffs and unintelligible lyrics, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Top Songs: Casual Discussion in a Dome Between Two Temples, Motivational Song, Yo Soy Milk

2. Shmap’n Shmazz (1995) — Cap’n Jazz

Shmap’n Shmazz is actually a nickname for this frenetic (bordering on ADHD) album. The full title is “Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We’ve Slipped On and Egg Shells We’ve Tippy Toed Over.

This album set the stage for a ton of other Midwest emo acts, including American Football, Braid, Algernon Cadwallader, Sarge, and more.

Top Songs: Little League, Oh Messy Life, Puddle Splashers, Planet Shhh

1. American Football LP1 (1999) — American Football

This is the quintessential emo album and Never Meant might be the most influential emo song of all time. American Football released this self-titled album with little fanfare. Over time, this album developed a cult-like following that resulted in two more albums in 2016 and 2019. Frontman Mike Kinsella is the godfather of emo music. If you are curious about what Midwest emo is, start with this album and branch out from there.

Top Songs: Never Meant, The Summer Ends, Stay Home