If you have been involved in any sort of discussion about emo online, you’re likely to come across the tongue-in-cheek adage that “Real Emo” only consists of the DC Emotional Hardcore scene and the late 90’s Screamo scene. Despite the shreds of truth in many emo gatekeepers’ tirades against the frivolous and same-y pop punk and midwest emo bands from the last couple of decades, there has been a breadth of diamonds in the rough within the waves of emo revival. One of these diamonds, the recent self-titled EP from Chicago songwriter Your Arms Are My Cocoon, highlights everything I love about emo music in a pastel amalgam of screamo, midwest emo, bedroom pop, and lo-fi rock.
Beginning “Foster Nosferatu” with a traditional “wail into the mic and hit the hi hat 4 times” opening, the listener might believe they are about to hear a typical 4th wave skramz album. Boy, would they be wrong. What follows is a fragile, yet lush assault of fuzzy drums, midwest emo-style guitar riffs, and paradoxically soft-sounding screams. As soon as they start, they give way to a slower passage where we hear traded screams float on a beautiful organ and guitar, perfectly welcoming the listener into the world of this EP. The intensity returns as quickly as it fades, with the mathy interlude “Clifford the Big Red Stab Wound” highlighting YAAMC’s technical and songwriting prowess (not to mention his aptitude for writing those perfectly tongue-in-cheek emo song titles). The angular, darting guitars, crushed drums, and a violin form the perfect backdrop for lyrics of growing up and bittersweetly remembering one’s past. Then comes the serene midwest emo of “In October of 2019 I Called a Suicide Hotline for the First Time in My Life”, one of my personal favorites on the EP. The brutally honest title, synth swells, loud-soft dynamic, and time signature changes make for a beautifully longing and melancholic atmosphere. The song ends with a crushing assault of guitar chords and some of my favorite lyrics on the album, which I interpret as painting a dichotomic natural picture of the world post-suicidal thoughts:
kind blanket skies
tear through my
willing flesh and bone to dust
in the wind
in your skin
cloudless in melon-tinged sunsets
and locked at the wrists
Following this with my personal favorite track “Illinois//alberta” was the one-two punch that completely sold me on this debut. On the song, guitar riffs and woozy synths work together to paint an auditory picture of a love so great that it feels permanent and physical. As the instruments fade out to a single faint guitar noodling and “entwine your ribs in mine like strands of hair, like two lonely spines” screamed one word at a time, as if it was being forced out of him, YAAMC perfectly captures the intensity of his love. A calming acoustic guitar passage and bittersweet vocal sample provides the perfect ending to the track. The lullaby tranquility of the next song, “Metamorphosis”, provides the backdrop to another longing ballad dedicated to YAAMC’s love interest. In parallel to the title hinting at a cycle of evolution, the track progresses from a depressive vocal sample and minimal backing track to an intense ballad, ending the song with the same sparse, melancholic instrumentation. Finally, the album ends with the comparatively upbeat math rock riffs, muddy harmonies, and fast drum machine loops of “Snowy!”. After a minute of fun midwest emo riffing, the track fades into a minimal synth line reminiscent of the mysterious melancholy of “Laura Palmer’s Theme”, and ends with another vocal sample.
Despite its brevity, YAAMC displays a level of technical prowess, willingness to take risks, and genuine songwriting talent on his debut EP that makes his art truly peerless. With more releases, I’m sure he will become fondly known among the tight-knit group of underground-famous artists playing more experimental and varied takes on emo and skramz.
Overall score: 9/10
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