Post hardcore, emo, emocore (insert Ian Mackaye rant here) - whatever you call it, it's a wide ranging subgenre that's seen many incredible records over the years. For a solid read on post hardcore, and its many branches, check out the book POST: A Look at the Influence of Post Hardcore by Eric Grubbs.
Like many labels with its roots in the punk and hardcore world, Tooth & Nail had its fair share of classic post hardcore records.
Before we get in to the albums, there are a couple rules to go over:
1. A band can only appear on the list once.
2. The releases have to be Tooth & Nail releases, this excludes anything on Solid State etc., or later/earlier releases on other labels from bands that would be on T&N at some point.
3. All of these picks come from the first 10 years of Tooth & Nail releases.
With that out of the way, let's count 'em down.
5. The Juliana Theory - Understand This Is a Dream
I remember going to see The Juliana Theory for my first, and only, time. They were headlining a show that had Snapcase and Hopesfall on the bill. In all fairness, I was 100% there for Hopesfall, so when I say I left part way through The Juliana Theory's set, it isn't a slight against them. They were a band that I tried, repeatedly, to get in to. After all, they were receiving comparisons to bands like Jimmy Eat World - how could I not at least try? The problem is, I think I just kept picking the wrong album to try to get in to. While most people might put Emotion Is Dead as their pick here, I went with Understand This Is a Dream...because it's the better album. It's a straight forward post hardcore record that, at times, does bear resemblance to Clarity, from the aforementioned Jimmy Eat World. Besides the song Duane Joseph (track 2) I think the best parts of this record come towards the end - starting with the delicate beauty of The Closest Thing (track 6) through to the closing song Constellation.
4. Frodus - Conglomerate International
I can still remember the first time I heard Frodus. It was on Songs From The Penalty Box Vol. 2. The song was Conditioned. I remember hearing it, and being simultaneously confused, and blown away. What was I hearing? Then, there was more. Songs From The Penalty Box Vol. 3 came out, and it featured the song There Will Be No More Scum. At the time I really had no idea what the DC Hardcore scene was, but the band had an immediate impact on me and always stuck. They only released one record on T&N, but what a record Conglomerate International is. Standout tracks include Drone Academy Fight Song and Conditioned.
3. Twothirtyeight - Regulate The Chemicals
You could really make an argument for either Chemicals or You Should Be Living - they are both great. Regulate The Chemicals gets the nod for me though, simply because it's the one I find myself going back to more often. I love everything about this record, from the more indie influenced sound, that reminds me of Pedro The Lion, or even Pinkerton era Weezer, at times, to the raw lyrics. It's a pleasure to listen to each and every time. The opener, The Hands Of Men, kind of lulls you in to the record with a simple guitar line, and swaying melody. Unfortunately, like most great post hardcore bands, they weren't around for long only releasing a few full length albums. Both releases on T&N are incredible in their own ways though. Standout songs include The Sticks Are Woven In The Spokes and This Town Will Eat You.
2. Roadside Monument - I Am The Day of Current Taste
One of the original post hardcore bands on Tooth & Nail also released one of the hardest hitting albums. Much like Frodus, my introduction to Roadside Monument was through Songs From The Penalty Box Vol. 2, and the song Egos The Size of Cathedrals. Admittedly, I was less impressed with them on first listen. But, as I became an older, wiser human, I saw what was so great about this band. Their songs on I Am the Day of Current Taste hit hard, and often feature long drawn out instrumental breakdowns. These sections are more often than not the highlight of each song, allowing the band to really go on a journey. Standout tracks include OJ Simpson House Auction and Cops Are My Best Customers.
Blenderhead - Muchacho Vivo: another T&N post hardcore original.
The Blamed - Give Us Barabbas: a return to the label, with a new sound from their earlier efforts.
mewithoutYOU - A To B Life: what a record. This was just the beginning for one of the best bands in the scene. In fact, if this list opened up to include albums released after 2003, this band would have made the top 5 for sure.
1. Further Seems Forever - The Moon Is Down
Out of the ashes of one of T&N's best hardcore bands, Strongarm, came Further Seems Forever. In fact, it's just Strongarm with a different vocalist. In this instance it happened to be a vocalist that would forever change the post hardcore game. You could include each of FSF's 3 T&N releases on this list, but it's hard to argue with the importance of The Moon Is Down, not only for the label but for the scene as a whole. Chris Carrabba would go on to form Dashboard Confessional, and melt hearts around the world. This, in a lot of ways, is where it all starts for him. Standout tracks include Snowbirds and Townies as well as New Year's Project.
That's it. That's the list. It's written in stone. Definitive.
If you haven't already, check out my Top 5 Tooth & Nail Punk Albums.