A drinking game that my buddies and I like to play is based around listening to our favourite emo bands’ radio station on Last.fm and taking bets on what bands will come on next. Actually that’s a lie, I haven’t got any buddies, and I drink alone. But I do enjoy using the radio function on Last.fm. For me, Last.fm has been one of the most important & influential websites when it comes to discovering music over the last few years. If you are unaware of Last.fm, feel free to educate yourself here: Last.fm
If you select any given band on Last.fm there are a variety of things you can capitalise on. You can read a brief bio of the band, you can see what genres they’re associated with and you can also click on those genres, which will link you to tonnes of other bands associated with said genre. You can see what other members of Last.fm listen to that band the most, you can see who has left comments about the band, perhaps some may have pasted links to other similar bands or links to articles about the band…the possibilities are endless. When I first discovered the site, what I liked to do was find a band I like and then play their Last.fm radio and see what other bands came up. This is something I’ve been doing for years, and have discovered some awesome bands this way.
For a genre like emo & 90s emo in particular, Last.fm is a fantastic resource as it is a genre that isn’t exactly widely written about. Viewing the page of a band like Moss Icon can bring your attention to bands like Plunger & Mohinder. Those bands can then lead you to the likes of Hour Of The Star or Breakwater. Before you know it hours have gone by and you’ve got 30+ new bands to look into. You then go on ebay and buy loads of their old splits & 7″ releases. You can’t afford to do this and have to backtrack on loads of the sales and your ebay buyer rating is irrevocably affected forever. It’s been years since I was on ebay now… anyway, the purpose of this blog post was to highlight how awesome the Last.fm radio channels can be and to prove my point, I created an 8tracks playlist based on what happened if you select the ‘Elliott station’ on Last.fm. I have attached the playlist below, but as 8tracks doesn’t let you view the track listing without listening to the whole thing, I’ve detailed the bands and songs below. God bless you Last.fm!
1. Elliott – Second Storey Skyscraper
Elliott were active from ’95 to ’03 and released 2 seminal emo albums in the shape of ‘U.S Songs’ & ‘False Cathedrals’ and although ‘False Cathedrals’ seems to be the higher regarded of the two, my favourite is definitely U.S Songs – a more straightforward indiemo sound with awesome vocals from Chris Higdon. I was chuffed that Last.fm selected this track to kick things off with, as it’s my favourite off the record.
2. Gloria Record – Miserere
I was initially disappointed this got picked next…after the majesty of Elliott I was ready for more anthemic, guitar-driven indie with soaring choruses…I reckon a track from the likes of Jawbreaker or some early Jimmy Eat World would have had me dancing round the room, but alas this came on, and I was entirely subdued. For those unaware, The Gloria Record were a band born out of the ashes of emo legends Mineral. I dig the Gloria Record, but I don’t listen to them all that often. If I were in the mood to, I imagine I would probably just listen to Mineral instead. By the end of this track I was hoping that they actually might come on next…
3. Penfold – M
Result! Any hopes of hearing Mineral quickly evaporated when ‘M’ gently started. This is one of my favourite ever songs, from one of my favourite ever emo albums( I say album, it could qualify as an ep as it’s only 7 songs like but when the songs sound like this, who cares?!) I love the trade-off of the male/female vocals throughout and the song rises and falls beautifully, with lyrics of encouragement in the wake of lost love “This will hurt you but in time, you will understand that I / would never want to be in his shoes but I would do anything to take his place.” essential listening.
4. Chamberlain – Uniontown
After hearing ‘M’ I was ready to sack off Last.fm altogether and dig my Penfold record out to listen to the whole thing, but Chamberlain coming on made me think twice. For me, one of the more underrated bands of 90s emo, they had various issues with record labels and line-up changes before calling it a day shortly before 2000. They reformed in 2010 and were touring with The Gaslight Anthem, and I remember their new material having a very different sound, more of a rock sound in the vein of bands like TGA. Uniontown is a great track, from the excellent ‘Fate’s Got A Driver’ record that was released in ’96 – quintessential 90s indiemo.
5. Hey Mercedes – Every Turn
This song coming on has me questioning how the hell LastFM does it! This is my favourite Hey Mercedes track, this thing must use my most listened to tracks from itunes to influence how this works…anyway, Hey Mercedes were fronted by Bob Nanna who had previously played in the legendary Braid. For me, Hey Mercedes tend to suffer the same fate as The Gloria Record, in that if I’m in the mood to listen to them I’ll probably just end up listening to Braid instead. That isn’t to say they’re not very very awesome, “Everynight Fire Works” is an incredible album, well worth owning.
6. The Jazz June – When The Drums Kick In
The version of this track on the 8tracks playlist is the live version, as I don’t seem to have the studio version(which Last.fm plays) on my itunes. The Jazz June are one of my favourite 90s emo / Midwest emo bands…I fucking adore this track and it surprises me to see that it isn’t one of the most popular tracks on Last.fm…it just about scrapes into the Top 20!! I can only imagine how good it must have been to see these guys live and I imagine this track in particular would have been a highlight. For most people, ‘Viva La Speed Metal’ tends to be their favourite TJJ track but ‘When The Drums Kick In’ trumps it for me, it’s more anthemic and you can really hear the sound that would have influenced bands like Hot Water Music & Small Brown Bike, as well as the bands at the poppier end of the emo spectrum. Lovely stuff!
7. Sense Field – Fun Never Ends
AH! Right *cracks knuckles* I absolutely bloody LOVE Sense Field, which isn’t all that unusual in itself, especially among emo fans, but ‘Tonight & Forever’ is my favourite Sense Field record, which is practically unheard of. Allow me to explain why; I recognise that ‘Building’ is far & away a more influential record in the scheme of things, but Tonight & Forever is a triumph in itself after all the troubles that the band had with Warner Brothers in the late 90s. When I was 17 I went on a family holiday to Spain, I was at that age where the last thing I wanted to do was spend 2 weeks in blistering heat with my family. I had only recently got into indie & emo music, and I remember that on the 2 weeks I was to be away, Rival Schools were playing a gig near my town. This was back in the day when bands rarely came to Northern Ireland, so I was gutted to be missing them. There was little to do in the resort we were staying in, but one day there was a coach ride to the nearest town, which I was told had a shopping centre. I hopped on the coach and hours later we arrived, not at a shopping centre, but at a massive warehouse, which was actually a supermarket. I went straight to the tiny music section and nestled among all the chart albums & compilations, was a copy of Tonight & Forever. To this day it is the most random discovery I have ever made where a record was concerned. I swiftly purchased it, and listened to it daily for the rest of the holiday (I know I sound like a moody wee fucker here, and I wasn’t, I was very grateful to be on a holiday, but I can’t handle the sun, and I didn’t drink back then so I mostly stayed inside) and I got to know this record inside out, word by word. Ironically, my least favourite track ‘Save Yourself’ gave the band their biggest hit. ‘Fun Never Ends’ & ‘Here Right Here’ are my faves, and still bring me back to this record to this day.
8. Benton Falls – Eudora
This track is from ‘Fighting Starlight’ one of the essential releases from the Deep Elm roster. These guys formed in 2000 and are often one of the first bands to come up if you search for ‘midwest emo’ online and in terms of other emo bands, they often get caught in the middle between the 90s Elliot-era bands and the 00’s Get Up Kids-era bands…none of which matters at all. Not one fucking bit. ‘Fighting Starlight’ is an amazing album and this track, ‘Eudora’ is the stunning instrumental track which closes the record. It’s probably one of the least popular releases on the record(a swift check of the Last.fm ‘most played tracks’ confirms this) but it’s a beautiful song, and a great way to close a record.
9. Casket Lottery – White Lies
Delighted to see this band come up next on the radio! Casket Lottery are one of my favourite bands, their album “Choose Bronze” came out in ’99 and is a great record FFO Small Brown Bike/Elliott(funnily enough) but they broke up before I really got into them. In 2012 I heard they were reforming, which was awesome, but also that they were doing a split with Touche Amore! I was excited, and this track right here, ‘White Lies’ lived up to that excitement. It’s a belter of a post-hardcore track, complete with intricate guitars and soaring vocals. Great stuff. I loved ‘Real Fear’ the record they released in 2012 too, although it seemed to slip under most peoples radars.
10. Pop Unknown – Lonely Here With Me
Another stalwart of the Deep Elm label, and their releases from the late 90s/early 00s era. I remember getting this record, loving it, but then I didn’t really revisit it that often over the following years. After the excitement of the Casket Lottery track, I wasn’t feeling this initially: for me, Pop Unknown were much poppier than most of the bands around at that time(maybe the clue was in the name) but by the end of the track I’m really enjoying this, must dig out a few of their old records and have another listen. FFO The Gloria Record(also with an ex-mineral member among their ranks, the drummer Gabriel Wiley)
11. Farside – Better Than Crying
Confession time: the Last.fm Elliott radio didn’t really generate this track next, it generated the track that Farside contributed to the Misfits cover album. Because I’m not a Misfits fan, and it was only 90 seconds long and I don’t have it, I thought I’d swap it for this in the playlist. A bit like Chamberlain, Farside are one of those bands that hardly anyone seems to be into these days. The good thing is that when you meet someone that is into them, they tend to be really into them. This track is from ‘The Monroe Doctrine'(the title was a tribute to their producer, Jim Monroe) and is one of my favourites from the record. Farside were always a bit more punk than their emo contemporaries, and I tend to group them alongside bands like Helmet, Knapsack, Handsome & Quicksand. If you like those bands, Farside should be right up your street. Pay special attention to the lyrics, which are among the best you will hear in punk & hardcore music. Bloody love this band!
12. Knapsack – Hummingbirds
..and funnily enough, I was just thinking about Knapsack, thinking that I was surprised that over 10 tracks had been played on the Elliott Station without Knapsack popping up. These guys have always been a favourite of mine, I still remember the day that ‘Day Three Of My New Life’ CD came for me in the post, it’s still one of my favourite albums of all time. This track is from my second favourite Knapsack album, ‘This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now’ and I’m glad to see it feature on here as it’s not a track I’m overly familiar with. Knapsack reformed last year and played Fest, I fact that I did my best to ignore, as I wasn’t there to witness it. Hopefully I get to see them one day and they play this track…”tell them all to go to hell, and take everything”
13. Grade – The Worst Lies Are Told In Silence
Yes! This is more like it..Grade were a proper post-hardcore band FFO Drive Like Jehu, Small Brown Bike, Planes Mistaken For Stars etc and I haven’t listened to them in ages, too long. Grade were one of the first bands I heard described as Screamo, which at the time I thought was inaccurate. I would have considered bands like Will Haven to be screamo, and as much as I loved Will Haven, I considered the sound of Grade to be very different. That was mostly due to Kyle Bishop, the Grade vocalist, who could switch between singing & screaming with ease and always injected a huge dose of melody into even the most crushing of Grade Tracks. Like The Casket Lottery, new material from Grade surfaced in the last few years. I think Kyle was the only original Grade member, but he got together with other musicians to write & record a few songs to contribute to At Both Ends magazine 7″ comp…the 2 tracks they released were great, and definitely worth getting if you liked their old stuff.
14. Braid – Never Will Come For Us
I was wondering how long it would be before Braid showed up. This is the third track from the legendary emo record “Frame and Canvas” and one of my favourite Braid songs. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing them play in London last year, they came out and played F&C in full and I was excited about this track in particular, as it’s probably my 3rd favourite Braid song.
Mineral – &Serenading
I could just leave it there, no more needs to be said. At this stage I was just beginning to think “oh dear, these songs won’t end, at what point should I call it a day?” and I concluded that I would stop when a proper emo anthem came on, a track like ‘Back & To The Left’ or ‘Nothing Feels Good’ and with that Braid track I thought that might be the one, but something told me to hang on, and boy I’m glad I did. Mineral are thee quintessential 90s emo band, and this song is them at their finest. It’s the penultimate track on the album EndSerenading, although lord knows it’s good enough to close the album. This is one of those songs that stops me in my tracks every time, when Chris Simpson delivers the lines ‘So why am I so deaf at twenty-two/To the sound of the driving snow/That drives me home to you’ and repeats the last bit as the instruments build behind him…Alex Miles gave this song the honour of being at the number 1 spot on his Top 100 Emo Songs of All Time list over on his Is This Thing On? blog and although I distinctly remember not agreeing with that at the time, it’s hard to argue whenever you sit down 7 actually listen to the track, as it’s so bloody beautiful.
There’s no way I’m playing another track, nothing can follow that. I’ve attached the playlist below, enjoy.
There’s also a photo of Braid from there show last year – such a great show.