The three-letter, disyllabic word that graces the title of this month's look at great guitar bands is enough to scare off some people. That's understandable, as a few of the bands that are tagged with the "emo" label nowadays don't even like it. This largely has to do with the genre's perception being perversely warped in the mid-2000s by the type of groups that still populate the annual Warped Tour.

But the fact remains that the resurgence of emo bands, typically characterized by their complex arrangements and heartfelt confessionals, has been a godsend to the music world. Groups like Into It. Over It., A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Touché Amoré and more have led a charge that has inspired more and more to appreciate the genre. The aforementioned groups, as well as the three about to be highlighted, all have a knack for cultivating a very particular, heartfelt atmosphere, which is often conjured by their excellent musicianship and stellar lyricism.

Emo is at its highest peak to date. The up-and-down history of the genre has thrown many roadblocks, but the "emo scene" is a vibrant and innovative as it has ever been. The present crop of bands that choose to identify themselves with the label (and even those that don't) are currently making more exploratory and more intelligent music than the genre has ever seen before. If you are looking to dive into emo, now is the right time. Here a few good places to start.

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

TWIABP's unwieldy name has been known to turn a few heads, as has their expansive lineup. As their Facebook page notes, the group's lineup "is constantly expanding and contracting" for live performances and recordings. At present, TWIABP consists of vocalist David Bello, bassist Josh Cyr, guitarist/vocalist Derrick Shanholterz-Dvorak, Steven Buttery on drums, Chris Teti on guitars and trumpet, guitarist/vocalist Dylan Balliett, Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak on keys and vocals and guitarist/vocalist Tyler Bussey. Originally from Connecticut but transplanted to Pittsburgh, the group has spent time on their own label, Broken World Media, as well as emo bastion Topshelf Records before graduating to Epitaph Records for their latest LP. Speaking of LPs, the group has two of those -- 2013's Whenever, If Ever and 2015's Harmlessness. These records exist on top of loads of EPs, splits, singles, etc. But the LPs are the band's meat and potatoes. The first album lured in the listeners while Harmlessness delivered a piercing blow, as it several outlets named it as one of 2015's best records. There is an audible pain behind the band's recordings but like a guiding light and an extended hand, it always feels like they are showing you the way. They are a band better experienced than told about. Just trust me. Grab a record or catch a show. TWIABP will do something special for you.

The Hotelier

More eyes have been turning toward the Massachusetts-based band The Hotelier since the release of their recent record, Goodness. Generally regarded as one of the year's best albums to date, people have been wondering where this group -- composed of Christian Holden on vocals and bass, Chris Hoffman on guitars and vocals and Sam Frederick on Drums -- was hiding all along. In plain sight, is the simple answer. Their heartbreaking 2014 album Home, Like Noplace Is There helped introduce them to the emo faithful. Songs like 'Your Deep Rest,' in which Holden wrestles with guilt and despair in the aftermath of a friend's suicide, are full of palpable emotion that is truly, honestly compelling. The band has a knack for captivating melodies, which when draped with their brand of heart-wrenching lyricism, makes for music that pulls no punches.


No band on this list is as outwardly beautiful as Foxing. In fact, not many bands on the planet are as beautiful as Foxing. Their 2013 debut, The Albatross, featured a stirring blend of twinkling guitars, synthesized swirls, horns, strings and, most of all, throbbing agony. Instrumentalists Josh Coll (bass and synths), Ricky Sampson (guitar), Eric Hudson (guitar/vocals) and Jon Hellwig (drums) all provide the perfect bed for lead vocalist and trumpet player Conor Murphy's impassioned pleas of pain. Standout track 'Rory' brought the group a great deal of deserved attention. 2015's Dealer expanded upon the group's initial success with poignant and beautiful tracks like 'The Magdalene' and the anthemic soar 'Eiffel.' Somehow, the group's powerful, emotional live performances are even better than the records. They are especially enjoyable in small, compact spaces so try and go catch one before Foxing inevitably moves up to even bigger venues. Trust me, a band of this caliber won't fly under the radar for much longer.

Dishonorable Mention: Front Porch Step

I feel bad for including the name of this group on the same list as some bands -- namely TWIABP and The Hotelier -- that have done an enormous amount for expanding the inclusiveness of emo (a genre long dominated by men). But as Front Porch Step, the solo project of Jake Mcelfresh, attempts to reenter people's good graces, I feel that it is important to stomp that out. Mcelfresh recently released a song entitled 'Help Me Hurt,' in which he reinvents himself as a man of the Lord and a repenting sinner. In fact, Mcelfresh is sexual predator who harassed a number of young people, including underage girls. He sent nude photos of himself to those underage girls and was caught. But rather than admitting culpability or showing any signs of remorse, he insisted that the recipients were "willing participants" and publically claimed that he "wondered if [he] wanted to be alive anymore." Drawing attention away from the victims seemed to work, however, as he then had his place with Warped Tour (which had been revoked in the immediate aftermath of the allegations) restored. Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman said that Mcelfresh had gotten himself into "a little trouble" and that the whole ordeal was "not a real story." The story's traction fizzled out and now Mcelfresh is attempting to posit himself as a lover of Christ, still with no remorse for what he has done. So as you check out the above three bands, please heed the advice of Sorority Noise's Cameron Boucher: "I ask you, please don't support the trash that is Front Porch Step."