Now, Now pulled many of us into the 2010s—right out of the Hot Topic era and into the brave new world of adulthood. Formed in Minnesota during the early aughts by frontwoman Cacie Dalager and drummer Bradley Hale, when the two were still in high school, the duo spent their first seven years honing their sound, refining their line-up, and coming of age before releasing their Neighbors EP in 2010. Throughout their music, a melancholy keyboard anchors guitar and drums that pay homage to emo forbears like Sunny Day Real Estate, American Football, and Paramore. Now, Now was a bit of a forgotten stepchild of the “scene” era, but for those who bought in, they were both vessel and balm for emo angst.
Dalager’s moody charisma lies in her velvety voice, paired with the drama of Tegan-and-Sara-esque syllable breaks. The band’s Neighbors EP burst like a firework into the new decade, just a year after their meandering debut album, Cars. After the instrumental intro track, the aptly-named “Rebuild,” electric guitars and drums weave a shimmering web that eventually nets the song’s soaring coda. Darkly-plucked guitars and plaintive vocals buoy the rest of the album through “Roommates,” “Jesus Camp,” and the title track, and through two emotionally-charged acoustic versions. All of it is about young crushes, restlessness, hometown ennui. “Tell them when they’re older / how you miss the neighbors / standing in the front yard / telling all your secrets / like they were theirs to tell.” Each song finds the listener staring Dalager in her huge, haunted, green eyes, spellbound by her lightly veiled tales of loneliness and longing.
Two years later, their cult-favorite album Threads dropped, a melee of fuzzy guitars, wide-eyed melodies, dark chords, and sharp drums that earned them a modest but diehard fanbase. This is the one most emo kids will cite: the moody guitars layer over and over and over, the ideal soundtrack for throwing a hood over your earbuds on a bus to anywhere. It begins with haunting opener “The Pull,” and ends with lyrics on “Magnet” that implore, “Can you still feel the pull?”
The album peaks on track four in the stripped-down strums of “Dead Oaks” — perhaps the band’s most beloved song. Though it’s less than two minutes long, “Dead Oaks” offers the effortless and infectious “Oh oh oh oh oh I’ve been up and oh oh I don’t sleep enough” that present-day fans will still echo at the top of their lungs.
From 2012 to 2017, Now, Now went pretty much silent. That summer, they rewarded their faithful fanbase with new single “SGL,” an electric ode to front-seat love that was satisfying, hot, and catchy as hell. Next came shimmering “Yours”: pop mastery that echoed the ‘80s and seemed radio-ready. “AZ” and “MJ” followed, showing off more emotive synths and charming, breathy Dalager vocals. A little under a year later, Now, Now released Saved, their final full-length album of the decade. Saved is fuller and punchier than their first two LPs, but the sharp vocals, piercing melodies, and compelling drums boomerang to 2012. 2010, even – “Back to the heart of it all.”
The last decade saw pop intensify and rock retreat, and Now, Now followed suit; yet, they remain emo kids at heart, along with many of us who still feel the pull. As the opening line of “Threads” incants: “Find a thread to pull / and we can watch it unravel;” their lyrics are hollowed out with longing, from 2010 to 2019 and back. Throughout the 2010s, Now, Now has remained a trap door out of adult life—a promise that you can always retreat into your hoodie’s sleeves if all else fails.