It’s strange that one of the most limiting musical genres has become the most open. While emo has often been viewed as a one-dimensional sound, over the past two decades it’s hewed closer to indie rock, and been more generally experimental than the hardcore scene it spawned from. The newest crop of bands—once haphazardly collected under the “emo revival” tag—have all gone in different directions, seemingly without concern for how that maturation would be classified.
On its third full-length album, Orlando’s You Blew It! is the latest to have undergone such a growth spurt. The band’s first two albums, 2012’s Grow Up, Dude and 2014’s Keep Doing What You’re Doing, both dealt in hyper-charged angst with occasional introspection, but the announcement of Abendrot showed that, this time around, things would be different. Lead single “Autotheology” showcased the band’s interest in weightier subject matter, with vocalist-guitarist Tanner Jones singing, “When god dies I’ll skip the funeral.” The fact that Jones elects to softly sing this refrain instead of shout it with his previous barrel-chested bravado shows not just a maturation in thought, but also in approach.
In more ways than one, You Blew It! seems to be stealing plays from Brand New’s book. That Long Island band drew attention on the back of Your Favorite Weapon, an album packed full of straight-ahead, emotionally wounded pop-punk before releasing Déjà Entendu, an expansive, indie-leaning LP that could still conjure an angst-fueled sing-along here and there. Similarly, Abendrot doesn’t completely abandon what made You Blew It! connect initially. “Canary” sounds like a slightly slower version of songs on Keep Doing What You’re Doing. It’s softer and more delicate, allowing for Jones’ vocal melodies to come a little slower and linger a little longer.
While Abendrot doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it follows in emo’s tradition of skewing toward prog, if not in sound then at least in ideology. Sunny Day Real Estate did so on How It Feels To Be Something On, Brand New fearlessly pushed past The Warped Tour sect with its mid-2000s releases, and now You Blew It! is following suit. It’s easy to see the sparse “Minorwye,” which forgoes traditional percussive elements for handclaps and clanking metal instruments, as the moment where You Blew It! embraces its interest in non-traditional structures. Abendrot suggests that You Blew It!’s future could be found down any number of possible paths, even if it’s just following in some well-trod tracks.