Has there ever been a more curiously named genre than emo?
Of course it makes pseudo-sense on the basis that it was a shortened form of “emotional hardcore,” you know, as in hardcore, but emotional. Even that name is ridiculous though, belying the fact that the genre coiners didn’t seem to recognize that anger and rage are emotions. Nevertheless, emo apparently referred only to “soft” emotions because the name only emerged as hardcore began to soften.
But doesn’t all music convey emotion? Doesn’t all music create an emotional reaction?
Perhaps then, the name emo, especially as employed in the second/third wave of emo (97-04) must be referring to, not emotion itself, but a certain emotional intensity. The lyrics were deeply personal, the singing style emphasized the anguish of the singer rather than the typical guideposts for “good” singing. The oddity then, is that for all the lyrical and vocal intensity, too much of the music tended towards cut and paste pop-punk.
The twist, then, is that concurrently with the rise of second wave emo, was another genre of great importance, post-rock. While the foundations included all sorts of angular guitar music, the term got swept up by the titans of bombast: Godspeed, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky. Eschewing vocals for the most part, these bands made music that created vast seas of emotional intensity. The intensity on those bands’ albums couldn’t be matched by the despair of a hundred Morriseys being force-fed McDonalds in the recording studio. In other words, it always seemed like the wrong genre got named emo.
If only emo had the intensity of post-rock, and post-rock had the pop of emo, then that would really be a genre.
Enter Higimidari. It’s probably too late, but Higimidari’s track “Waterfall” really should be called emo. The band has managed to wrap up emotionally intense post-rock into a pop song. It has all the thrills of a melancholy rock orchestra packed into a verse-chorus-verse structure.
Much of the drive comes from the band’s control over the dynamics. The soft verses rush into huge choruses with a reaching, aspirational drum beat (also found, somewhat modified, here) paired with big airy chords and soaring harmonized vocals. The mood created is triumphant with a dash of melancholy Thankfully the emo here comes from the instrumentation rather than vocal affectation, but it does create a big effect. So get lost in the emotive thrill of “Waterfall.”