In the early 2000s, there were several genres of music making major headway into the mainstream spotlight. As far as rock goes, emo music really began to take root and catch on like wildfire.
If you’re unfamiliar, emo is best thought of as music that is often heavy or filled with punk aesthetics. The lyrics themselves tend to be more on the emotional side, hence the name.
You’ll often find that this music scene has its own typical fashion look as well. Unfortunately, such a broad generalization doesn’t do the genre justice, so here are some of the best 2000s emo bands.
While Cursive has enjoyed success in the 2000s, this band was actually formed in the mid-1990s. The band came from Omaha, Nebraska, which is a city you’ll find to be influential in the emo scene.
Tim Kasher’s vocals and songwriting efforts take center stage within Cursive. His singing is often accompanied by heavy guitars played in a polished manner.
Their music often takes on aspects of indie rock featuring interwoven composed guitar lines. The heavy side of their sound takes inspiration from post-hardcore bands similar to the D.C. band Fugazi.
Cursive has continued to release albums well past the early 2000s, with their latest dropping in 2019. The albums Domestica, The Ugly Organ, and Happy Hollow remain classics within the genre.
While the band might not have experienced the mainstream spotlight some of these other bands had, they are still important. Music enthusiasts who seek out more underground music tend to love Cursive.
Sunny Day Real Estate
There are few bands that are more responsible for helping shape emo music than Sunny Day Real Estate. While this band had its prominence in the mid-1990s, their influence greatly extends well beyond that time period.
A fantastic example of this is seen with their 1994 album Diary. This remains a highly-regarded and influential album for many musicians in the following generations.
If you want to get technical about it, Sunny Day Real Estate did release their last album in 2000. This means they barely make the cutoff, but it is actually for your benefit that they are posted here.
Regardless, if you’ve never listened to Diary before, you need to give yourself the opportunity. It is an important album for the genre and holds up well today, even if you aren’t totally into emo.
The band has reunited and announced a tour in May 2022. Whether we see another album from these emo giants is another story, but we can remain hopeful.
My Chemical Romance
You had to be living under a rock in the early 2000s if you haven’t heard of My Chemical Romance. This is one of the bands that really made emo into what it would be known for.
Where bands like Sunny Day Real Estate planted the seed, MCR was a tour de force emo main attraction. In other words, My Chemical Romance helped to put emo into the mainstream spotlight.
Part of this likely had to do with Gerard Way’s musical presence and look as a frontman. His heartbreakingly honest lyrics, accented by aggressive music, was the perfect formula people had been searching for.
2004’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was hailed everywhere as one of the best albums of its time. Even today, this album remains critically acclaimed and highly revered.
Curious to know an interesting side note? The band was actually formed one day after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.
Like most bands, My Chemical Romance continued to release music and eventually broke up. However, they have since recently reunited, playing a tour in 2022 and releasing their first song in nearly 10 years.
If you were alive in the early 2000s, you probably remember Myspace. The site was one of the very first social media sites of its kind.
Believe it or not, Myspace was an incredibly fertile place to be for a band. Many Myspace users found new music through the music posted on bands’ profiles.
Say Anything was one of those bands that really got to take advantage of this scenario with Myspace. What originally was a project featuring Max Bemis and some friends blew up into a professional band.
This band seems to mix a sort of pop-punk musicality into their sound, accompanying some cynical lyrics. The albums …Is A Real Boy, and In Defense Of The Genre remain classic emo staples.
Say Anything has seemingly been on hiatus since 2018, although they would release an album a year later. Whether the band tours again remains to be seen, but Bemis has been playing solo performances.
AFI is probably one of the oldest bands on this list. Formed in 1991, the group experimented with a wide range of different musical genres.
Considering that the group is still relatively active, it makes sense why their sound would change so much. This not only keeps things fresh for them but keeps their music relevant for audiences.
AFI originally got its start as a sort of punk band, with essences being heard on many of their releases. The punk aesthetic, mixed in with heavy goth overtones, remains a constant image for the band.
You can especially see this with Davey Havok, the vocalist for the group. His most iconic photographs often feature wild hairstyles that were popular in the alternative and emo genres.
The albums Sing The Sorrow and Decemberunderground are where AFI really found its footing in the emo scene. These albums were both certified as platinum albums and mark a pinnacle in the band’s career.
That isn’t to say the band’s later releases aren’t worth your time. The band seems to have found its place within the music world and continually releases things that are well-regarded.
And, if you wanted to know, AFI stands for A Fire Within.
Fall Out Boy
When it comes to emo music, Fall Out Boy was one of the premier mainstream bands of its time. Because of this, Fall Out Boy has been incredibly influential in the genre itself.
However, where many emo bands feature heavy instrumentation, Fall Out Boy is more of a pop-punk band. The band is more often regarded in the pop-punk music realm than emo, but the overlap is hard to deny.
The song that really put the band on the map was Sugar, We’re Goin Down. This music video helped to make bassist Pete Wentz the heartthrob of every teenage girl in high school.
From Under The Cork Tree remains to be a classic album, for both the band and the genre. Upon its release, the album won the band many awards, of which the band likely never dreamed possible.
Since their start in 2001, Fall Out Boy has been continuously active, aside from a short hiatus. The group is still touring and releasing new music, which is a blessing to many emo fans.
Not really a fan of the pop-punk influence often heard in emo music? You’ll probably find the music of Mineral to be quite delicious to your ears.
Mineral hails from Houston, Texas, and you can really hear the Texas post-hardcore influence in their music. That isn’t to say that Mineral is all heavy because their catalog is a bit all over the place.
Some of Mineral’s best work can be found on the album EndSerenading. This album was actually released after the band broke up in 1998.
That certainly hasn’t diminished Mineral’s reach in any sort of manner. The band often plays an influential role amongst musicians, even today.
And, while the group might not be as active as they were in the 1990s, they’re still doing worthwhile things. To celebrate and honor 25 years of being a band, Mineral recently released some new material.
You might even be able to catch Mineral out on the road if you’re lucky. Don’t pass up the opportunity if you are presented with it.
In a sense, Mineral never saw the heights and public acclaim that some of these mainstream acts have received. Amongst underground music lovers, however, Mineral is an absolute treasure.
Senses Fail is one of the banner-carrying bands that continue to hold the torch for emo fans everywhere. Since its formation in 2002, Senses Fail has been one of the main heavy hitters in the emo genre.
What started out as a simple internet inquiry searching for members has turned into one of emo’s staple groups. Senses Fail played relentlessly to build a fanbase, which is something that any musician can appreciate.
The group’s debut release, Let It Enfold You, was a smash hit for emo fans, eventually becoming certified gold.
Can you imagine being 19 and releasing a gold record? This very thing happened to the band’s main songwriter, Buddy Nielsen.
It was also around this time that the band found themselves on the iconic Van’s Warped Tour. Senses Fail would eventually become a mainstay act for the traveling festival.
Perhaps it’s their never-ending work ethic, but Senses Fail has seemed to not slow down much at all. For over 20 years, the group has maintained a steady presence in the music industry.
In fact, the group has announced that 2022 will see the release of more music. Fans likely couldn’t be happier that their favorite band has been so consistent.
The group may have changed a few handfuls of members over the years. However, Senses Fail continually proves that the band still has worthwhile material for fans to listen to.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Remember how we said that sites like Myspace were incredibly important avenues for musicians in the early 2000s? Another band that fits into this category is The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
The group was originally formed in 2003 and had built a decent local following. But it was Myspace that really gained the band a seriously large following, eventually attracting major label attention.
As an effect of this, their debut album, Don’t You Fake It was an immediate success. Emo fans absolutely raved over their hit song Face Down, pushing the album to become certified gold.
Throughout the years, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has been continually active and releasing new material. Vocalist Ronnie Winter is essentially the only remaining original member of the group.
Nevertheless, this group’s releases in the early 2000s remain cemented as some of the most important. It’s not uncommon for an emo fan to put Don’t You Fake It on the stereo today.
Brand New is one of those bands with musical elements that live outside the emo genre. However, the vein of emo essences that can be found in Brand New’s music cannot be denied.
The band was formed in 2000 and is largely hinged on the songwriting capabilities of Jesse Lacey. His lyrics are often delivered in a very honest and delicate manner, not shying away from dark subject matter.
The albums Deja Entendu, and The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me are absolute classics within the genre. Each is filled with songs that cut deep and certainly do not hold back in any manner.
Even the group’s more melancholy songs are quite touching in a deep way. This is what helps to separate Brand New from other bands in the genre.
Few emo bands have had the constant success and large following that Brand New has achieved. The group will forever be remembered as one of the greatest emo bands to ever grace the scene.
Brand New has been broken up since 2017, but efforts have been made to revitalize the group. Unfortunately for fans all over, Brand New has (so far) decided to keep the band in the past.
The Spill Canvas
Formed in 2001, The Spill Canvas has been an important group within the emo scene. Much of their early work has become a favorite of longtime emo fans everywhere.
This is a group that didn’t settle for one specific sound. You can really hear the band’s sonic evolution if you listen to their discography in chronological order.
2004’s Sunset & Car Crashes is a staple album for anybody that enjoys stripped-down acoustic emo music. This album helped put the group on the map, highlighting lush instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics.
It was around this time that the band began to experiment more with a harder sound, using electric instruments. 2005’s One Fell Swoop sees the band embracing this sound and received moderate success.
Despite having roots in the early 2000s, The Spill Canvas remains a presence in the emo genre. You can still catch the band playing live shows and releasing new material on a regular basis.
You can be sure that this band was definitely aided by sites like Myspace. Fortunately, they no longer need Myspace to connect with and grow their audience.
It’s truly hard to classify Bright Eyes as an emo group on a pure basis. However, because most emo bands have musical elements outside of emo itself, it’d be wrong to not include Bright Eyes.
Not familiar with Bright Eyes? This is a group that was started in 1995 by Omaha, Nebraska-native Conor Oberst.
In many ways, you could likely consider Bright Eyes to be Oberst’s solo project. Although he does write the music and perform on the albums, he does have frequent collaborators pitching in.
Bright Eyes is likely best thought of as a sort of folk project, with elements of indie rock. The lyrics fit well within the territory of emo, which is a reason why many emo fans love Bright Eyes.
Of course, even that kind of description doesn’t do the project total justice. There have been plenty of lo-fi and electronic influences to be heard within the music of Bright Eyes, too.
Oberst really found traction around 2005 when he released 2 different Bright Eyes albums. Each was a little different, but I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning was the grand slam album.
In fact, this album is widely regarded as one of the most influential albums of the 2000s. Many of its songs continue to be covered by musicians today.
Bright Eyes eventually went into hiatus in 2011 but has since reformed as of 2020. It’s always a welcomed sight for Conor Oberst to contribute new music filled with poignant lyrics.
At The Drive-In
At The Drive-In is another Texas-based post-hardcore band that helped pave the way for emo music. This group’s music is often flavored with jarring instrumentation and very expressive vocals.
You might even recognize a few of the band’s members who have gone on to play in other famous bands. Half of the group went on to form Sparta, with the other half forming The Mars Volta.
Each of those spin-off groups has had its fair of critical success. However, you can really hear the influence of At The Drive-In’s aggressive aesthetics in these catalogs.
At The Drive-In was an important band for helping to establish that heavy sound that would be found in emo. Each release seemed to build the band’s momentum as they toured non-stop.
This would eventually culminate in the pinnacle album Relationship Of Command. The single, One Armed Scissor, was the song that eventually broke the band into the mainstream.
Unfortunately, the band did break up in 2001, a year after Relationship Of Command’s release. At The Drive-In had been on the road continually and the mileage caught up with the band.
Members of the group also had different creative visions, which is partly why everyone formed new bands. At least we still have these classic albums to look back on with nostalgic fondness.
Top Emo Bands Of The 2000s, Final Thoughts
Don’t be too upset if you didn’t see your favorite emo band listed here. The reality is that the genre is ripe with many artists who have been extremely influential in the genre.
Regardless, may this list serve as a testament to the many different sounds to be found in this overarching categorization. It’s safe to say these groups will be remembered for a long time.
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