Ah, that precious post-alternative gunk, anthems penned by soft boys with bright eyes and dashboard confessionals on their minds: emo. Emotional. Evocative. Derivative. Emo. Whereas there were originators like Sunny Day Real Estate's Jeremy Enigk, who could make you cringe by simply repeating the words "In circles," these days it's as if any skinny boy with a tattoo and a lack of chauvinist lyrics falls under the umbrella of emo, a.k.a. the biggest guitar craze since grunge first saturated youngsters with Teen Spirit. And while the moniker is used lightly in current music, often referring to songs about Midwestern girls with record players, East Coast girls in film school or West Coast girls who surf, "emo" was a term coined to encompass something far greater than mere lyrical styling. It was carefully placed hearts on sleeves: the way a singer sang, not just what he sang about, and the way the rest of the band supported his emotions.
Based on its latest record, Two Conversations, Kansas-via-Los-Angeles quintet the Appleseed Cast comprehends how this emo philosophy came into being. Songs float along slowly for brief moments before audacious bouts of rocking out. It's during the floating moments that the narrator of each song, supported by tinkling, delayed guitars and behind-the-beat drums, wonders where he fits into the overall scheme of things. But moods here change like superhero alter egos: In an instant, the very same narrator, now entrenched in driving rock guitars and tambourines, professes both his love and understanding of this here universe. The moods recall the atmospheric pop-prog of U2 and Pink Floyd, two influences many emo bands incorporate without even realizing it.
What separates the Cast from its contemporaries is that it pays close attention to how its instrumental dynamic embraces the emotion of the lyric at hand. This attention to detail and emotion will likely be an important asset in its future endeavors, and we can only hope that, at some point, the band will find a way to dilute its influences completely, in favor of its own new brand of conveying emotion -- something, perhaps, distinct from this thing so widely referred to as emo.