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A Brief Intro to Emo: 10 Essential Albums

Want to get into rock's most misunderstood subgenre? Here's where to start.

Has there ever been a style of music as misunderstood as emo?

Though rock's angstiest subgenre might get a bad reputation, there's a lot of history behind it—as well as great albums. Before bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and Paramore boomed in the mid-2000s, emo fire rose to prominence from Washington, D.C.'s hardcore punk movement in the '80s. It's been a long road to get emo where it is today, but the genre wouldn't be what it is without the many bands who passed the torch over the years. There are many great albums to dive into, many of which timestamp Midwest emo's massive spike in popularity in the '90s.

Here are just ten essential emo albums to get you started on a very sad journey.

Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary (1994)

One of the earliest bands to help define emo as we know it now, Sunny Day Real Estate swiftly toed the line between poppy melodies and gritty guitars. Their debut, Diary, offered a perfect mix of not-quite-punk and not-quite-hardcore, paving the way for many bands to follow their footsteps. The band broke up the following year, with members Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith leaving to join Foo Fighters.

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