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Music by VICE

(Almost) Every Single Deep Elm Release, Ranked

176 releases rated in order, from emo gold to indie rock garbage.

by Paul Blest
Feb 26 2014, 9:09am

Last week, Deep Elm Records, a seminal label for the 90s/early 2000s emo scene, put every one of their albums up for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. Deep Elm is/was home to bands like Latterman, the Appleseed Cast, Benton Falls, Cross My Heart, Planes Mistaken For Stars, and a bunch of cool, weird, and dogshit bands you’ve never heard of. So, instead of going for a walk, or mediating, or doing any number of things that could remotely be considered “healthy," I listened to every album (OK, a few songs from every album) that Deep Elm has on their Bandcamp and ranked and graded them. All 176 of them. These are dispatches from a sad life.

In order to keep my sanity, I stuck to a few rules:
No singles. Carly Comando put out two songs (Everyday and Everyday 2.0) that are better than 80% of Deep Elm’s catalog, but in the name of fairness, I’m only doing full lengths, EPs, splits, and comps.
No samplers. Compilations are fair game, but most of the sampler songs are just on other Deep Elm records.
Only albums on the Bandcamp. For whatever reason, there are a few records that Deep Elm put out that aren’t on the Bandcamp, like Moving Mountains’ Pneuma which is one of my favorite records on the label. For consistency, I’m not putting those albums in here.

Let's dig in...

176. The Sky LifeDimes & Discourses – Auto-tuned electronic music. Possible Christian rock vibe, but I don’t throw accusations like that around lightly. F
175. MuckafurgasonThe Pink Album – Out of all of Deep Elm’s bands, Muckafurgason is by far my least favorite. Just weirdo shit from the 90s that I don’t connect with at all. I love John Lee’s work on comedies like Delocated and Broad City, though. F
174. Muckafurgason - Tossing A Friend – Same thing, I think it’s dogshit. If you REALLY like They Might Be Giants, maybe you’ll like this. F
173. David SingerThe Cost of Living – 1. I hate solo piano-based butt rock. 2. This is remarkably less cool than the Incendiary album that was released last year. F
172. MuckafurgasonThe Gay EP – Ugh. F
171. Free DiamondsBy The Sword – Man, this sucks. F
170. The Lion’s RampantPlay Rock N’ Roll – This also sucks. F
169. The Sky Life Roots and Wings – Surprised this kind of music was still around in 2010. F
168. The Sky LifeLights and Electricity – Christmas music from a band I don’t like. F
167. This Is Indie Rock Volume Three – Out of a very corny series, this is by far the corniest. F
166. Late Night ConditionGive & TakeNeed For Speed soundtrack music. F
165. The Lion’s RampantIt’s Fun To Do Bad Things – Also fun to make bad music, apparently. F
164. This Beautiful MessFalling on Deaf Ears – Nope. D-
163. Emo is Awesome / Emo is Evil Volume 2 – I was burned out on this kind of music by like 2005. Not much has changed. D-
162. I Am Sonic RainIt’s Falling on Us – Sounds like a Gameboy dying. D-
161. Free DiamondThere Should Be More Dancing – The Blood Brothers were goofy as hell, but at least they had some redeeming qualities. D-
160. Unreleased 5 – Forgettable B-sides. D-
159. Les SagesAnimals – I used to like Copeland. My taste in music is awful. D-
158. Again For The WinBonus Deluxe Version – Pop punk with a piano. Sounds like a mess. D-
157. Lion’s Rampant - Half Women Half Alcohol – I hate 99% of all garage rock I’ve ever heard. This is no exception. D-
156. The Emo Diaries Chapter 8: My Very Last Breath – I checked out of most songs on this very early. Only reason this isn’t a straight F is the Slow Coming Day song. D-
155. BrandtsonDeath & Taxes – Can’t take this dude’s voice anymore. D-
154. SlowrideBullfighter – Always got this band mixed up with Slowdive. Sounds like blink-182, but this is the first time I’m hearing this band. D
153. SettlefishDance a While, Upset – Made-up band name. Starting to question why I haven’t had a record released by Deep Elm. D
152. Cari ClaraMiniature American Model Society – Big Muse fans. D
151. SettlefishThe Plural of the Choir – Nope. Clown music. D
150. This Is Indie Rock Volume One – Honestly, Lakota’s song is the only one I really like on here. I like The Kidcrash but this one isn’t outstanding. D
149. Emo Diaries Chapter 11 – I don’t get what I’m listening to right now. D
148. Public Radio - Sweetchild – Big fans of the Postal Service and MySpace. D
147. Down To EarthPrisms – Very Receiving End of Sirens-ish. D
146. Ride Your BikeThe Connection – MySpace indie rock. D
145. She BearsI Found Myself Asleep – MySpace indie pop. D
144. Les SagesShare This – Another mediocre record that sounds like the Receiving End of Sirens. D
143. Lily & The PearlA Strange And Beautiful Trip – I have an irrational hatred of ukuleles. This should have been on MySpace Records. D+
142. Late Night ConditionMidnight Confessions – European radio punk. D+
141. This Is Indie Rock Volume One – Honestly, Lakota’s song is the only one I really like on here. I like The Kidcrash but theirs is subpar. D+
140. This DramaTarantula Mata – Sounds like The Bronx. D+
139. Sounds Like Violence / Desert City Soundtrack / Settlefish – Worth it for “January’s Loss” alone. C-
138. SlowrideAs I Survive The Suicide Bomber – No longer sounds like Blink. Definitely sounds like a Drive Thru band. C-
137. David SingersCivil Wars – Generic poppy folk. C-
136. Burns Out BrightDistance and Darkness – Sounds like every band in my local scene circa 2004. C-
135. Clair De LuneMarionettes – Circusy, jazzy emo. Not sure how much I like the combination of those three things. C-
134. FlandersUrgency Factor – Australian, dangerously close to butt rock. C-
133. Burns Out BrightSave Yourself a Lifetime – Very self-aware MySpace emo. C-
132. Sounds Like ViolenceWith Blood On My Hands – Already tired of this band’s dancey thing. C-
131. Unreleased 4 – Forgettable twinkly indie rock comp. C-
130. Moonlit SailorA Footprint of Feelings – Straight up post-rock. C-
129. This Drama San Diego XIII – Sounds like a butt rock band that opened for Black Flag in the mid-80s. Terrible name for a band that sounds like that. C-
128. AthleticsStop Torturing Yourself – Piano versions of Athletics songs. I don’t know why they needed to release this. C-
127. Our Lost InfantryThe New Art History – If Trail of Dead was a MySpace band. Second song really brings the whole thing down because it sounds like a Christian rock radio song. C-
126. Les SagesBlood Harmony – Average piano-driven “post-rock” release. C-
125. Lights & MotionSave Your Heart – More Sigur Ros, less Coldplay, but way cornier than the debut. C-
124. Postrockology – Compilation of the Appleseed Cast and nearly every band Deep Elm put out albums by after they dropped out of the emo game. C
123. Track A TigerSouthern Blue – Heavy Broken Social Scene influence on this one. Pretty average overall. C
122. The Cast Before The BreakStill – Standard post-rock. C
121. Last LungsLook At That Old Grizzly Bear – Sounds like Deep Elm post-2006. C
120. Goonies Never Say DiePaul / Sink Jacinto? – Gets heavy in the middle. C
119. Cari Clara – You Better Run – Very Radiohead. C
118. Track A TigerI Felt The Bullet Hit My Heart – Bee Gees for sad kids. C
117. Ryan Mallot and Kelly ThomasS/T – Country duets. C
116. DorenaHolofon – Standard post-rock album. Later stuff blows this away. C
115. Clair De LuneAssisted Living – Slightly less clowny, but still pretty clowny. C
114. Desert City SoundtrackPerfect Addition – Slow moving piano music. Still sounds like Desert City Soundtrack, but it doesn’t move me at all in either direction. C
113. Sounds Like Violence - The Pistol – Band from Sweden that sounds like International Noise Conspiracy with feelings. C
112. The Emo Diaries Chapter 10 – I’m not going to write out the titles anymore because I’m getting douche chills. C
111. Brandtson/Camber - Remember the music that played in the background when they played baseball highlights on Sportscenter in the 90s? C
110. CamberWake Up and Be Happy – Cool guitar work, similar to the first couple. C
109. The Emo Diaries Chapter 7: Me Against The World - Pretty representative of the entire catalog I’ve listened to so far. C
108. Red Animal WarBreaking In An Angel – Small Brown Bike fans might like it. C
107. Lily & The PearlSnowglobe - Lullaby music. C
106. BrandtsonFallen Star Collection – Started off well, but didn’t do much after that. C
105. BrandtsonLetterbox – Somewhat heavy, average emo punk album. C
104. Walt MinkColossus - Weirdo folk music for people who like Blur. C
103. BrandtsonTrying To Figure Each Other Out – This is what Boysetsfire sounds like to people who have face tattoos. C
102. Desoto JonesThe Troubleshooting Is Over – Forgot this band existed. Pretty standard mid-2000s MySpace band from New Jersey. C
101. Lily & The PearlElephant - She picked up a Scottish accent between records. C+
100. CamberAnyway I’ve Been There - Sounds like later SDRE, but dangerously close to sounding like Incubus. C+
99. Ruth RuthThe Little Death – Apparently this band was on RCA? Serial killer power pop. C+
98. Pave The RocketTaken In – Fairly standard Dischord-with-feelings band. Decent, though. C+
97. CamberBeautiful Charade – Forgotten emo band that sounds like Mineral with the whine of The Get Up Kids. C+
96. The White OctaveStyle No. 6312 – Points for creativity. People who like the Front Bottoms should download this. C+
95. Last Days of AprilAngel Youth – Decent, but I can hear From First To Last and Panic! At The Disco forming because of this band. C+
94. Hundred HandsLittle Eyes – Appleseed Cast side project that sounds exactly like the Appleseed Cast. C+
93. Unreleased 1 - Totally understand why this was unreleased. Standard early Deep Elm stuff. C+
92. LewisEven So – Jazzy, moves too slow to keep me interested. C+
91. This Is Indie Rock Volume Two – Pretty standard emo-tinged indie rock. C+
90. Desoto Jones Stay Awake Stay Alive – Further Seems Forever worship. C+
89. Unreleased 3 – Very Mineral feel. C+
88. SettlefishThe Quiet Choir – Acoustic versions. Appleseed Cast vibe. C+
87. DartzThis Is My Ship – Dancey Q and Not U type stuff. Reminds me of the more forgettable Million Dead (pre-Frank Turner) stuff. C+
86. Ride Your Bike Bad News From The Bar – Sounds like a musical. C+
85. The Dandelion WarGeometries and Orchirds – Dreamy folk stuff. C+
84. Nathan XanderJohn Wayne/Darkness – Folk Country with a story. C+
83. Benton FallsAshes and Lies – Standard Benton Falls fare. C+
82. Last LungsFive and Nine – seven-inch single, pretty par for the course post-rock. B-side is better. C+
81. Dandelion War We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes – Post-rock with some Eno in it. C+
80. U137Dreamer on the Run – Guitar-driven post-rock from Sweden. You can probably imagine where this one went. C+
79. The Emo Diaries Chapter Four: An Ocean of Doubt – Some gems on this one, but also some bad ones. B-
78. StarmarketCalendar – Heavy Texas Is The Reason/Samiam vibe. B-
77. StarmarketFour Hours Light – Way different band from when they started. Cornier, but still decent. Fans of Jason Biggs comedies will enjoy. B-
76. The Emo Diaries Chapter 5: I Guess This Is Goodbye – I should hate this one based on lyrics and structure, but the guitar is wobbly and the horns aren’t annoying. B-
75. The Emo Diaries Chapter 6: The Silence In My Heart – Early 2000s pop punk. Deep Elm’s answer to early Drive Thru. B-
74. LoghEvery Time A Bell Rings An Angel Gets His Wings – I was sure this was going to be really goofy post-rock, but I was pleasantly surprised. B-
73. The Appleseed Cast Lost Songs – Probably too ambitious, but I like it. B-
72. Unreleased 2 – Pretty average b-sides collection. B-
71. SlowrideBuilding a Building – Grungy punk vibe. I don’t like the first couple of Slowride records I’ve listened to, but this is decent. B-
70. Desert City SoundtrackFuneral Car – Really interesting piano and drum work. Rainy day music. B-
69. So Sad AltheaNo More Sadness, No More Lies – Would have been really into this if it was on a FIFA game soundtrack. B-
68. Track A TigerWoke Up Early The Day I Died – Mellow folk rock. I kind of get a Rilo Kiley vibe, but Rilo Kiley is way better. B-
67. Track A TigerWe Moved Like Ghosts – I like this a lot more than the other one I reviewed. The strings and drums back the vocals nicely. B-
66. Nathan Xander The Fear – Appalachian country music for Bob Dylan lovers. B-
65. Goonies Never Say Die In A Forest Without Trees – English post-rock. Sounds like English post-rock. B-
64. Moonlit Sailor So Close To Life – This band definitely wrote at least one whale documentary theme song, right? B-
63. Cari ClaraIt’s Our Hearts They’re After – Points for originality. Dig this production. B-
62. I Am Sonic RainBetween Whales and Feverish Lights – Sounds like a nightmare with Russian Circles playing. B-
61. Goonies Never Say DieNo Words To Voice Our Hopes and Fears – More nightmare music. B-
60. Summer HoursAlone Together – Consistently has the worst album art on this label. Hop Along-ish. B-
59. Emo Diaries Chapter 12 – Eh. B-
58. The Cast Before The BreakAs Your Shoulders Turn On You – Decent. B-
57. Coma RecoveryGoddverb – Interesting weirdo rock in the vein of 65daysofstatic. Post-rock, I guess. B-
56. Floating: The Nathan Glocke Story – Soundtrack for a hopeful documentary about a quadriplegic surfer. In other words, the quintessential Deep Elm album. B-
55. Lights & MotionReanimation – Sigur Ros + Coldplay. I love Sigur Ros and don’t mind Coldplay. B-
54. The Emo Diaries Chapter 9 – Should have quit after this one. B-
53. The Emo Diaries Chapter 1: What’s Mine Is Yours – Jimmy Eat World makes it worth it. B
52. Pop UnknownSummer Season Kills – Wedding music for people who have favorite cardigans. B
51. The Emo Diaries Chapter Two: A Million Miles Away – Glory days of this comp. B
50. Cross My HeartS/T – Cross My Heart wrote great music that was depressing as shit. B
49. Pop UnknownIf Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra – The best Pop Unknown release. B
48. ImbrocoAre You My Lionkiller – The intro is terrifying. B
47. Dead Red SeaBirds – Weird jazzy band. Try to imagine Minus The Bear if they didn’t have technical guitars. B
46. BrandtsonDial In Sounds – None of the three albums I’ve listened to by Brandtson sound anything alike, but his voice is way, way, way better on this one and it makes all the difference. B
45. Benton FallsGuilt Beats HateFighting Starlight is the better album, but the opener can hang with any of the songs from the first record. B
44. Emo Is Awesome / Emo is Evil Volume One – Man, Deep Elm loves calling themselves emo. B
43. Drive Til MorningS/T – Imagine early Sun Volt with strings and a late 90s emo tinge. B
42. SurroundedSafety in Numbers – Northern European post-rock. Pretty good. B
41. SlowrideC / S – Sounds nothing like Slowride. Kind of like a dronier Small Brown Bike. B
40. Small Arms DealerA Single Unifying Theory – Singer of Iron Chic’s band before Chic. Really good Long Island punk. B
39. Cover Your Tracks – Some solid covers including “Fishing The Sky” by a dude from Slowride. B
38. Forty-Fives – Nada Surf is on here. B
37. Down To EarthRoom For The Three of Us – Catchy clown music. Better than any Portugal The Man song I’ve ever heard. B
36. Papermoons New Tales – Heavy influence from Death Cab and other Deep Elm bands. B
35. AthleticsWhy Aren’t I Home? – Pretty emotional post-rock in the vein of Moving Mountains. B
34. Moonlit SailorColors in Stereo – This band really wants to inspire you to go out and do some shit with your life. If I ever climb a mountain the intro to “Vacant Library” will play in my head over and over. B
33. Lily & The Pearl How We Survived - Female country vocals with guitar swells. Way into it. B+
32. Walt MinkGoodnite – Big Sunny Day Real Estate vibe in the beginning, then it gets all country. Awesome. B+
31. The Appleseed Cast / Planes Mistaken For Stars / Race Car Riot Split – Split with three of the best bands from the emo era of Deep Elm. B+
30. Planes Mistaken For StarsKnife in the Marathon – When Planes started to really get chaotic. If you were one of the 450 Germans to love Boysetsfire you’ll love this. B+
29. Five EightThe Good Nurse – One or two instruments away from a Mike Patton acid trip. B+
28. Red Animal War / Slowride split – Full weirdo worked for both bands here. B+
27. Lock and KeyNo Fate – Kind of out of place on this label, but still a solid punk band. Think Hot Water Music and the Ataris. B+
26. 500 Miles To MemphisSunshine In A Shot Glass – I’m a sucker for this Drive By Truckers shit. B+
25. Summer HoursInside Out – Fans of Hop Along are probably going to like this a lot. B+
24. PapermoonsNo Love – I like this. Kind of reminds me of Jason Isbell and other alt-country types. B+
23. The Appleseed CastThe End of the Ring Wars – Excellent record in the vein of Mineral and SDRE. B+
22. Cross My HeartTemporary Contemporary – Favorite CMH album. Dude needed a hug. A-
21. The Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl Pts. 1 + 2 – Defining record for this band. After this, they went full weirdo and never looked back. A-
20. Triple Fast ActionCattleman Don’t – Replacements-worship with a little tinge of Texas Is The Reason or maybe Weston. A-
19. The Emo Diaries Chapter 3: The Moment of Truth – “Last Verse” by Starmarket is one of my favorite Deep Elm songs of all time. I love how much the singer doesn’t care, he just belts that shit out like he’s Ray Charles. A-
18. Planes Mistaken For StarsS/T EP – Favorite Planes Mistaken For Stars record. Before they got weird. A-
17. Carly ComandoCordelia – Straight up beautiful piano music a la Phillip Glass. A-
16. Red Animal WarBlack Phantom Crusades – This band has gotten better with every song by them that I’ve listened to. A-
15. Desert City SoundtrackContents of Distraction – Really cool Southwestern vibe here, kind of the best of both At The Drive-In and the Mars Volta wrapped in one. A-
14. Too Young To Die compilation – I’ve reviewed every band on this compilation at this point, and the message is good. A-
13. Keystone KidsThings Get Shaky – Great piano pop from Keystone Kids. Fans of Slingshot Dakota will dig this. A-
12. Small Arms Dealer Patron Saint of Disappointment – Always liked this album more than the other one. “Auggie Doggie” is heartwrenching. A-
11. 500 Miles To MemphisWe’ve Built Up To Nothing – Early Alkaline Trio if they were a dirty country band. A-
10. Benton FallsFighting Starlight – Benton Falls defined their sound on this record. Count Your Lucky Stars did a nice reissue of this a few years ago. A
9. Carly ComandoOne Take – Beautiful piano record. A
8. DorenaAbout Everything and More – Excellent post-rock album. A
7. Lock & KeyPull Up The Floorboards – If Far made driving music. A
6. AccentsGrowth and Squalor – “Indie folk” has gotten a bad reputation since Mumford & Sons turned that shit into arena rock. If you like the more depressing Ryan Adams stuff, you’ll love this. A
5. LattermanTurn Up The Punk, We’ll Be Singing – This band was always such a weird fit on Deep Elm. Great fast-paced punk song, though. A
4. DorenaNuet – Hands down the best non-Moving Mountains release on Deep Elm since Latterman. A
3. Latterman We Are Still Alive – Incredibly soul crushing record for a band that made such positive music. A
2. The Appleseed Cast Mare Vitalis – Favorite Appleseed Cast album. Weird, but not too weird. A
1. LattermanNo Matter Where We Go..! – My favorite record of all time. “Get out there and do shit” punk. I’m biased. A

Paul Blest is now instinctively ranking every single thing he does. Breakfast got a B- this morning. Follow him on Twitter - @pblest