This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Emo Rock
Favorite Tracks: “I left my towel at my friends house and then they moved PT 1,” “now THIS is podracing”
On my first listen of PUPPY LOVE, I felt like I was in high school. The familiarity of some of emo music tropes—the chords used, lyrical content about being sad and not knowing how to move on, the screaming group vocals, a dude’s voice being layered with a much softer woman’s for a harmonious effect, the occasional horn chiming in—didn’t challenge my ear. After the first listen I couldn’t help but wonder to myself: How did I and up here again? After a few more spins I wondered: Will emo music ever mature?
Mom Jeans.’s Latest album PUPPY LOVE, to its credit, is an album full of songs that sound like summer. They ring out like the specific moment in the middle of the summer where you first begin to question what to do with all of the time on your hands. The way the tracks seamlessly blend into each other echoes the way the days blend together, like when you don’t know Monday from Thursday. It is an album you could easily listen to in full, but the downside of that summer haze effect is that few of these songs are memorable. After all, much of what happens in the summer doesn’t matter.
The album’s two stand-out tracks come when the band takes a softer tone. “I left my towel at my friends house and then they moved PT 1” is slightly less upbeat and much shorter than the previous songs and feels and sounds exactly like what it’s describing. Mom Jeans. seem to have captured what it feels like to be in the thick of it, to feel helpless and stagnant but somehow on autopilot driving to or from whatever event or location was a necessity moments ago. The steady guitar sounds as though it’s longing for the change of pace in the moment that the song builds near its end before it transitions into “PT 2.”
The album’s closing track “now THIS is podracing,” a love song featuring backing vocals from Brianda Goyos Leon (Just Friends/Sweet Peaches) feels lyrically the most honest. It is reminiscent of “Vape Nation,” the closer of their first album, and sounds as though vocalist Eric Butler isn’t trying to hide behind whatever reputation of being effortlessly cool Mom Jeans. has built and is instead putting his heart on a song. When Butler yells out “and it’s nice not to have to try sometimes / No ones ever made me feel the way that you do,” I’m reminded of the moments in my life where musicians gave me the space to feel like it was ok to be myself by being themselves.
What can be most enticing about emo music is its familiarity. This is true of other genres, but it’s especially true for emo being that it’s a genre known for pulling in “outcasts” who forge community where they typically can’t elsewhere. I was first attracted to that scene because of the vulnerability present in the lyrics and performances of midwest emo and second wave emo bands. As someone who struggled with being honest with people and opening up about almost anything, I found something so phenomenal about what felt like radical honesty.
But listening to emo now that I’m not an emotionally stunted teen has been a bit difficult. To others, what may feel like a homecoming for me just felt like listening to a friend who I’m not sure will ever learn from their mistakes. For all the growth I’ve experienced, there are pockets of the genre that remain largely unchanged. When discussing PUPPY LOVE with a friend, I mentioned that it felt like something too familiar, as though I had heard it before, to which they responded, “But isn’t that kind of the point of emo?” PUPPY LOVE essentially feels like an imitation of the things that I was drawn to when I first fell in love with the genre—it has lyrics that are vague and sad enough to be relatable set against charging, active guitars and drums that create a juxtaposition between the thoughts of being stuck in your head and feelings of being stuck with your body. One is more stagnant and one is more active, scratching and reaching for something more than what you have. In PUPPY LOVE, I’m not entirely sure what Mom Jeans. is reaching towards.