Four Flavors of Emo

Helping a young genre grow up.

Ah, but the lyrics. It doesn't get any more emo-cliché than "Raining in My Heart": "Raining, we do not belong/Shaming, me for holding on/Blaming, you for what went wrong." And then there's "Something to You," one of the weakest calls for self-improvement you'll ever hear: "This song won't really change anything... I understand that my words don't mean shit." Sounds like the pep talk Devil Rays coaches deliver each year to ensure another losing season.

The Forecast, however, has devised an absolutely winning move by melding the big power-punk hooks of Hey Mercedes, the Promise Ring, and Jawbreaker to whiskey-soaked alt-country scruffiness and rip-roarin' Southern-rock 'tude on their second album, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Victory). Call 'em the Giddy-Up Kids if you like — the quartet's combination of twang and crunch on "A Fist Fight for Our Fathers," "It's a Long Drive," and "Every Gun Makes Its Own Tomb" is far more fresh and engaging than the agreeable-if-pedestrian emo-guitar catharsis found on last year's Late Night Conversation, and the songwriting overall is particularly sharp and evocative without being cloying. Not even a guest appearance by labelmate Mark Thomas Kluepfel of Action Action on closer "Welcome Home" can ruin the vibe.

And the band's made even more distinctive, unrivaled even, by the male-female vocal interplay among gritty-voiced singer/guitarists Matt Webb and Dustin Addis and powerful singer/bassist Shannon Burns; the three exchange verses and harmonize throughout, with Burns taking the lead on "Fist Fight" — when was the last time you heard that on an emo album? Burns' increased vocal load is highly welcome, a huge reason why Gunmen is better than Conversation, and it certainly serves as a reminder that the dearth of women in the emo arena, past and present, is nothing short of pathetic. But if the Forecast is indicative of where emo is going, then the future looks exceptionally bright.

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