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Ten Underrated Records From Vagrant Records to Listen to While You Ride the Rails Out West

Founded in 1995 by Rich Egan, now at The Hard 8 Working Group management company, and Jon Cohen, now at Big Noise Music Group, Vagrant Records truly ruled the punk, emo, “emo,” and post-hardcore scene in the late-90s and early aughts with a non-iron and sincerely inviting fist that comfortably begged you to spend more than another year on the streets listening to their incredible roster. Before we highlight ten underrated records we must start by saying that these eight Vagrant Records acts are WAY too huge to be considered underrated anywhere on earth, and certainly for this piece by anyone, except your out-of-touch troll of an uncle named Rico: Alkaline Trio, The 1975, Saves the Day, Senses Fail, The Get-Up Kids, The Lemonheads, Thrice, and Dashboard Confessional. Let’s get down, kids!

Alexisonfire “Crisis” (2006)

While City and Colour, a hipster-approved project named after and featuring Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green, may be ginormous globally, and certainly very successful in the states, his other post-hardcore act Alexisonfire sure isn’t on 1/10 of C&C’s level here. Still, the band is quite popular in Canada, even debuting at freaking number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, proving that The Great White North is cooler in every way, literally and figuratively, than all US Americans. Alexisonfire’s third of five albums “Crisis” combines gritty growls with saccharine and soothing melodic vocals better than most of their peers, and deserves your attention if you were too busy blasting The All-American Rejects’ “The Black Parade” around this time.

The Anniversary “Designing a Nervous Breakdown”

In the “scene” world, the first Kansas band that people usually namecheck is a different band on Vagrant Records: The Get-Up Kids. However, The Anniversary deserves a large amount of praise as well for their incredible songs that all of your favorite bands just love like a milkshake. For whatever reason, they never truly broke out, and it feels that they walked just after The Rentals, and ran just before Motion City Soundtrack, disqualifying ‘em from the keyboard rock Olympics whilst The Rentals and MCS both won medals. Sadly, The Anniversary split up in 2004, but happily, they reunited for the Rockstar Energy Drink Taste Of Chaos 2016 San Bernardino date with such non-Vagrant Records bands as Quicksand, Saosin, Taking Back Sunday, and the fictional band in “Can’t Hardly Wait” called Loveburger, who covered Smash Mouth’s “Astro Lounge” a capella in its entirety back to front.

The Bled “Pass the Flask” (2007)

While The Bled’s “Pass the Flask” was initially released via Fiddler Records in 2003, Vagrant Records snatched the Tucson, Arizona group shortly after, and reissued this gem of an LP for the label, so it technically counts for the sake of this piece, so get off our fucking back. Since everything we say leaves this room, it must be said that this record’s influence permeated the late-aughts and beyond more than most bands, and especially more than Mickey from “Rocky,” the Arnold Schwarzenegger Tony Award-winning film’s tolerance towards quitters and bums. The band came out with three more solid LPs before calling it a day, but just like The Anniversary above, and any defunct act with child support payments, reunited for 2021’s rock and roll festival season, which included fun jaunts on Riot Fest, Furnace Fest, and Chanukah, the Fest(ival) of Lights!

Dr Manhattan “Self-Titled” (2008)

Potentially the most underrated mention on this list, the difficult to explain in layman’s terms and/or categorize Dr (without a period for some ungodly reason; weird) Manhattan released a way too slept upon self-titled LP, while bands in a similar but different world like The Gaslight Anthem and The Maine were absolutely blowing up. The party’s opinion is that Wauconda, Illinois is more well known with minds like ours, yours, and no one else’s for being a part of the set of “The Blues Brothers” than this enigmatic and unique band, and while we can’t change that with the masses who don’t know how to read, we hope to do so with you, friends. Join the circus and spin this one right now for the big apple and the small pepper.

Emanuel “Soundtrack to a Headrush” (2005)

Hey man, we’re still scratching our domes about the sad truth regarding Emanuel and will forever ask ourselves, “How the hell did this group not blow up?” So many post-hardcore/mall screamo acts in the mid-aughts with worse songs but possibly better haircuts now can afford private school tuition in Los Angeles, and while we don’t have access to each member of Emanuel’s bank accounts, we can surmise that royalties on this and “Black Earth Tiger” are long gone, or never ever there to begin with. If you missed the overground boat on this Louisville, Kentucky quintet, make tonight willingly your soundtrack to a headrush. Machine, yes, Machine, killed it as producer here and on non-Vagrant Records acts Armor For Sleep’s “What to Do When You Are Dead” and Boys Night Out’s “Trainwreck,” both of which sold more units and came out the same year as “Soundtrack to a Headrush.”

Far “At Night We Live” (2010)

Far’s 1998 now-classic LP “Water & Solutions,” released via Immortal/Epic Records, may be the most underrated post-hardcore emo adjacent album of all time, and it has A LOT of strong competition for that coveted “award,” but their comeback effort “At Night We Live” deserves accolades too! The record serves as a poignant memorial to the late Chi Cheng of other Sacramento now-legendary act Deftones, and Far rocks and rolls through twelve songs in glorious form. Maybe this album was too late to be embraced, or maybe it was a tad too early to catch on. Whatever the case, it’s somebody’s struggle for sure, and we want y’all to explore this one and its predecessors. Fun fact/burns: Ginuwine’s sex anthem “Pony” gets the rock treatment here, and it’s for bachelors, bachelorettes, and anyone who auditioned for either show, but not the over sixty crowd on “The Golden Bachelor.”

Koufax “Social Life” (2002)

As of today, Toledo, Ohio’s indie pop act Koufax has under 1200 monthly listeners on Spotify, proving that more than Saturday is alone, and that we’re all going down. Formed in the late-90s, Koufax released their debut EP for another cool label called Doghouse Records, signed with Vagrant, and released their debut “It Had to Do with Love” two years later in (we’ll make it up to you in the year) 2000. But we’re here for more “life” than “love,” and 2002’s “Social Life” is a perfect example of a band being ahead of their time whilst putting out a throwback of an experience that would’ve KILLED twenty years earlier. There must be something in Midwestern water other than what was in Flint’s, and Koufax proved that small towns don’t always have small minds via their older souls and younger bodies.

Moneen “The Red Tree” (2006)

Moneen or “.moneen.” with TWO PERIODS if you NASTY, formed in Ontario just before the 21st century, released two full-length studio albums for Smallman Records, a Winnipeg-based label that also put out quality efforts from Comeback Kid and Choke, signed with Vagrant shortly afterward, and subsequently released one of the more slept upon efforts of the mid-aughts, “The Red Tree.” While said record got some music video airplay on MuchMusic and FUSE, MTV in America did not give it any love, and neither did many press outlets. Alas, Moneen are certainly the smaller of the two Canadian acts mentioned here, the larger one being Alexisonfire, but Moneen’s musicianship stood out amongst other acts in the Warped Tour world. The about-to-be-mentioned Max Bemis of Say Anything certainly took notice, and hired singer/guitarist Kenny Bridges for the latest incarnation of SA.

Rocket from the Crypt “Group Sounds” (2001)

Rocket from the Crypt may be the biggest band listed here, but in what may be the paradox of the century, is forever and ever amen underrated, and the band’s first LP after leaving super independent Interscope Records, “Group Sounds” is a sweaty cacophonous mess from front to back that makes us want to get dirty AF and listen to over and over again. If you caught the band playing this front to back at the aforementioned Riot Fest last year, you have a good check that’s gonna stick and an epically grandiose amount of savoir-faire that has the heart of a lion, and not a stupidhead rat. S.O.S.: Bring us the head, yeah, B-Unique, spit some vitriol and venom, AND bring the ghost heart if your inner system hasn’t heard this gem, writing checks that your body can’t cash.

Two Tongues “Self-Titled” (2009)

Like we stated in the sterling intro to this very piece, Saves the Day may be too huge to have an album name-checked here, and because of said posit, the aforementioned Say Anything, who is certainly on equal or larger footing to STD, is as well. However, their rockin’ side project Two Tongues isn’t! Fun fact: The artists on this recording, Max Bemis, Chris Conley, David Soloway, and Coby Linder, have a collective FOUR amount of tongues that we know about, so this band is a lie, and so are you! Come on! It would be seven more years until this album’s sequel, “Two Tongues Two” was released, and we’re back against the wall waiting for you to come home and for the third one, which will hopefully be better than the third Godfather movie, which isn’t that bad, but not that good.