After a 20+ year career, mewithoutYou have sadly called it a day, after playing their last show ever in their hometown of Philly on August 20. They formed in the early 2000s and quickly benefited from the emo and post-hardcore boom of the era, and for many, they were "your favorite band's favorite band," having never gotten as commercially successful as most of the bigger bands of the era but were feverishly loved by several bands who did break through like Paramore, Thursday, Say Anything, Circa Survive, Thrice, and more. For others, they were simply your favorite band. mewithoutYou were truly the kind of band who could spark that kind of intense fandom. They were unlike any other band before or since; post-hardcore was their starting point, but mewithoutYou were an ever-shapeshifting band that went on to explore art rock, indie rock, post-rock, folk music, baroque pop, and more, and they always took an experimental approach to whatever genre they were working within. And even as they changed stylistically over the years, there were always through-lines connecting their newer material to their older material through recurring melodies, lyrics, and song titles. Aaron Weiss is a vocalist like no other, constantly varying between screaming, speaking, shouting, and singing in a manner that was entirely his own, and his approach to lyricism was just as singular. It should come as no surprise that a band whose first EP was named after a Leonard Cohen lyric had an interest in poetic lyricism, and Aaron also had an interest in religion that helped land the band a deal with Tooth & Nail Records, but the "Christian rock" stigma never followed mewithoutYou because it never fully described them in the first place. Aaron pulled influence from the texts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and he approached religion in a way that was personal, literary, and unpredictable. He and his brother Michael (mewithoutYou's guitarist) were raised by a Jewish-raised father and an Episcopalian-raised mother, who both had converted to Sufi Islam, and he started attending Christian church on his own as a teenager, so Aaron's experience with religion was wide-ranging and ever-growing, and mewithoutYou's music reflected that.
Behind Aaron's complex lyricism, the interlocking guitars of Aaron's brother Michael first with Christopher Kleinberg and then with Brandon Beaver were just as inventive as Aaron's vocals and defied expectations at every turn. Rickie Mazzotta held things down with drumming as forceful as it was melodic, and their bassists -- first Daniel Pishock and then Greg Jehanian -- locked in perfectly with Rickie while simultaneously providing thrilling counterpoints to the guitar work. They operated as a tight-knit unit, where each member's contributions were as crucial as the next. (And just as essential to mewithoutYou's career were their well-chosen producers and visual artist Vasily Kafanov, who painted all of their album covers.)
The phrase "ahead of its time" gets tossed around a lot in music criticism, but as mewithoutYou were coming into their own on now-classic albums like Catch For Us the Foxes and Brother, Sister, they earned it. They went overlooked and underrated by many during their early and middle years, but their influence extended to a new generation of musicians, leaving a profound impact on the likes of Touche Amore, La Dispute, TWIABP, Julien Baker, Foxing, Pianos Become the Teeth, Tigers Jaw, Balance & Composure, Hop Along, The Hotelier, and others who helped shape the new wave of post-hardcore and emo revival of the 2010s. As those bands helped course-correct a style of music that got chewed up by the mainstream, mewithoutYou kept making great music that fit in seamlessly with the new bands, and they eventually shared a record label (Run For Cover) and a producer (Will Yip) with many of them. Even now, mewithoutYou still feel underrated, but the love for them has grown louder and stronger over the years, and I suspect that'll keep happening after their breakup. Especially as an even newer generation of artists like Bartees Strange, The Callous Daoboys, and Kaonashi sing their praises.
With mewithoutYou's career now set in stone (probably), we're celebrating their career with a list of all of their albums and EPs, reviewed and ranked in order of greatness. mewithoutYou don't have any bad albums, so ranking them was not easy, and the ranking I came up with is just the highly subjective order of one longtime mewithoutYou fan, and probably an order that would slightly differ if I did this list again in five or ten years. I think some people see ranking albums as an inherently critical thing, something that's more negative than positive, but making this list was really just a labor of love, a fun way to engage with other mewithoutYou fans and hopefully help provide some kind of starting point for new ones. And more than anything else, I just wanted a way to commemorate one of the greatest to ever do it.
Read on for the list...