VARIOUS ARTISTS The Emo Diaries, Chapter 12: I Love You, But In The End I Will Destroy You (Deep Elm)
The second word in the title probably describes it all about this (12th) instalment in this series of compilation releases dedicated to unsigned, independent acts, and only unreleased, unheard-of tracks.
Released by Deep Elm Records, owner/founder John Szuch speaks on the album: “Besides choosing all the music, The Emo Diaries has a lot to do with me on a personal level. It’s been more than just a showcase for amazing songs; it’s literally been the soundtrack to my life over the past 15 years… It’s been a monumental art project, creating a story with songs instead of words or images… This music inspires me, consoles me and many times it’s the only friend I can count on.”
The female vocalists seem to fare better on I Love You, But In The End I Will Destroy You, as the record kick-starts on a good key with Dedicated To Dedications, and wraps up on a calming note with the closing track by Summer Hours. Another strong female contender: Everlyn, with Stars.
The rest of the record seems to focus on and play around the familiar formulae of emo punk rock – not that punk rock music lovers should complain in any way. Other highlights include Goonies Never Say Die’s instrumental number, which seems to tear the listener’s soul at various emotional levels; and Collapse Under The Empire’s almost 5 minutes of bliss on Anthem Of 44 for fans with the likes of shoegaze and alternative gernres (amberhaze and I Am David Sparkle).
Also, did I not mention? I love the album title.
Now it’s hard to talk about any record with the word ‘emo’ in the title without fear of opening some kind of colossal can of worms. These days, the word itself is loosely used to cover an array of things, not exclusively music. But this is music, and if you’re looking for a compilation filled with tracks that sit firmly within the ‘traditional emo’ genre, this record isn’t for you.
As an opening paragraph, that doesn’t exactly scream positive vibes, but having started the series in 1997, 12 releases down the line, it seems to have out grown its emo shackles, expanding into something beyond the genre. The concept itself is fantastic; with bands being chosen through blind submissions, completely on their musical worth, the playing field is well & truly evened. Songs range from instrumental epics to folk lullabies, with stand out tracks coming from the UK’s Dedicated To Dedications & Germany’s Collapse Under The Empire.
So, ignoring the genre issue that we’ve so delicately tip-toed around, if you’re looking to hear a compilation of beautifully tailored tracks, all of which are emotionally charged & hand picked by Deep Elm boss John Szuch, you’re in for a treat.
Before delving into the actual content, it is important to first overrule the unfortunate connotations that any album title containing the word “emo” initially provokes. ‘The Emo Diaries’ (although this was and never will be part of the intention) draw a line through the crude mental image of Myspace’s glory days, when hairstyles were prioritised over optical dexterity. That image is too fake, too intentional and self aware to be shared by a musical genre that, at its core, is primarily about channelling raw, exposed emotion.
Since 1997, ‘The Emo Diaries’ have introduced, promoted, and captured the best of bands that, in the words of Deep Elm, “possess the ability to stir emotion like no other”. Among the track listings you can find otherwise unreleased songs by bands such as Jimmy Eat World, Penfold, and The Movielife, and it was this exclusivity and knack for picking up new talent which helped establish the compilation as the best of its kind.
The idea behind it all, says Deep Elm owner/founder Josh Suzch was to “create a story with songs instead of words or images”. Each compilation adds another chapter to the narrative, but as a coherent sequence of releases, they also act as a timeline of genre as a whole; documenting its growths and alterations, compiled by one of its most avid followers. However, with only two instalments since 2004’s unofficial full stop ‘Chapter 10: The Hope I Hide Inside’, the timeline seems to be moving gradually towards its end. With each chapter speaking for itself, what does 2011 have to say?
The opening track by Dedicated To Dedications has the poppy song structure of Lemuria, and impressive female vocals similar to Florence and the Machine or an indie Adele. If this were the opening paragraph to a novel you began to flick through in Waterstones, you would definitely keep reading. From there on, however, things tend to be quite hit and miss. Each song is structured to hit as many emotional nerves as possible, which is really what you would expect from ‘The Emo Diaries’, but listening to one track after another, you can hear the formula repeat itself and it begins to sound too deliberate. The side-effect of that, of course, is that each song is immediately satisfying and catchy, so it really depends on how much musical diversity you want from a compilation album.
Although the basic formula is the same for most of the songs, there is a lot accounting for the variety of manners in which it is approached. From the moody and slurring Southern American guitars of Arms Around The Stereo to the pining falsetto vocals of The Dandelion War, each artist in this chapter has adaptated the genre to fit their own ends, so to speak, leaving the “emo” of 2011 without classification, without the common stylistic thread that put Penfold, Cross My Heart, and Benton Falls under the same umbrella.
On the one hand, it could be said that the experimentation and lack of stylistic thread among these new bands also means a lack of “scene”, but it is also what makes the compilation so exciting. Strangely, it seems as if the most affecting tracks on the album have taken an instrumental approach more in line with artists such as Explosions In The Sky, relying more on the communication between instruments to set a particular mood. The intricate poppy styling’s of Those Galloping Hordes and the patient, tension teasing arrangements of Collapse Under The Empire and Goonies Never Say Die are definite highlights on the album – taking the heartfelt, melodic jams of 90’s “emo” and eliminating the need for lyrics (a concept which may be surprising for many who, not incorrectly, identify the genre by its earnest exploration of relationships).
As for the vocal tracks, the best of them appear to be dominated by female singers – Dedicated To Dedications, Everlyn, and Summer Hours, the former and latter of which have been selected to open and close the release. Perhaps the twelfth chapter projects the female voice of “emo”, who knows.
‘The Emo Diaries’, along with the bands they promote, have always had a very personal and meaningful relationship with the listener. They will continue to be important even if today’s “finest of emo” isn’t as fine as it once was – it seems to still be finding its footing on fresh ground. But, although the golden age of emo may be over, the embers still have warmth left in them yet.
On the 12th Emo Diaries compilation — a series once made popular for its unreleased tracks of Jimmy Eat World and the Appleseed Cast — up and coming bands from around the world hope to get their music heard. Tracks span from orchestral heavy heart-sobs, to breathy instrumental rock, to six-minute jam sessions, each capturing the heavy desperation related to the emo genre.
The opening track by Dedication To Dedications spotlights impressive vocals (reminiscent of Florence and The Machine) and decent song-writing, standing as a solid opener . The album fluctuates from there, showing promise in tracks like “As We Speak” and Ease The Medics fiery “Churchill’s Down,” but loses ground somewhere in the middle. Luckily, the brooding voice of Nathaniel Sutton helps close the album on a very positive note, with his track “Far More” possibly being the strongest on the album.
Collectively, the compilation, grimly titled I Love You But In The End I Will Destroy You, brings more of the same to emo lovers across the country. But with a few promising acts, there’s glimpses of the potential that made Jimmy Eat World what they are today. It’s worth checking out for those who like to keep tabs on solid newcomers.
Under normal circumstances, I can't stand compilation records, with the exception of 'Greatest Hits'-type albums from bands with such mammoth-discographies that newcomers don't know where to start with them. I can't stand listening to a good song and not having some knowledge or relation to the album it comes from, which is why I flat out dislike the single format as well. So, not knowing the series "The Emo Diaries", I pretty much expected this new edition to be a way for Deep Elm to sample a parade of Mineral-soundalike's in the name of the 90's revival.
Turns out, as usual, that I should do my homework. "The Emo Diaries" as a series has been released regularly between 1997 and 2007, with Deep Elm picking songs from an open submission pool, and the final selections appearing exclusively on these records. Bands from all corners of both emo, indie, alternative and electro have been exposed this this way, and despite a four year break, this new installment of the series is no difference, as it proves to be rich in both versatility and quality.
Personally I find the most appeal in the female-fronted offerings from Summer Hours and Dedicated To Dedications, "Still With Me" and "Strange Neighborhood", the latter of which opens the record with some great singing and classy arrangements of classical instruments. I'm also surprised to hear how good Nathaniel Sutton sounds on his contribution "Far More", and at the same time not at all surprised to hear Late Night Condition put in an enjoyable tune. Other bands that I haven't yet encountered, like Arms Around The Stereo, Ease The Medic and especially The Dandelion War, also put in strong showings respectively with "It's Good To Have Options", "Churchill's Down" and "Wonder".
Overall though, the artists showcased are quite and eclectic and interesting ensemble, and while I admit my attention drifts a bit during the more post-rock-ish additions from the likes of Goonies Never Say Die, I love the fact each artist has contributed a song exclusively for this compilation, effectively giving you a better feeling of cohesion, which wouldn't have been here I think, had the songs merely been singles picked off various albums. So while I may hate compilations in general, I think I might have to recognize that this is how to do them right, while I start thinking about checking the previous issues. 
When I was a young and tender 'Maryland Matt' in the late 1990's... I would gobble up any comp that a label would put out. I loved comps mostly due to the fact that I was eager to hear new things. There are a few compilations that were instrumental in guiding me along the musical path that I have walked since then. Among them are Victory Style 2, Punk-O-Rama 2... and most importantly, In Flight Program (Revelation Records).
I picked up In Flight Program because it had a Gorilla Biscuits and Judge song on it... but it introduced me to bands like Sense Field, Farside, Into Another and Texas Is The Reason. These four bands all claim a spot in my heart for how they hit me when I first heard them as they were really my first taste of emotionally driven indie rock.
As sad as it is to me to really think about it... I have really fallen off when it comes to keeping up with modern emo bands. Obviously I don't mean what today’s youth is claiming emo to be, but the true representation of current emo. 'The Emo Diaries: Chapter 12' is certainly carrying that torch.
There are many bands on this release that could have easily been cut from the same cloth as bands like Sense Field, Chamberlain or Farside. There are even some that are blazing their own trail in a genre that I honestly considered to be long dead.
I would have given this a higher score, but some of the tracks just drift into the background and don't really jump out at you. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised to find that real emo is alive and well. Bands like Dedicated to Dedications, Collapse Under The Empire and Ease the Medic are really keeping hope alive. Give this comp a spin if you are or ever have been a fan of true emo.