For all the flak that emo bands get for their crybaby angst, they've shrewdly dried their eyes long enough to figure out the one surefire way to survive in today's fickle music environment: evolution. Just ask Saves the Day, the Princeton, New Jersey wunderkinds, who had a makeover rivaling Demi Moore's after their breakthrough 2001 disc, Stay What You Are. Shrinking to a quartet when second guitarist Ted Alexander departed, STD jumped to Dreamworks for its latest, In Reverie, whose sparkling power pop ditches the disarming indie-rock patchworks of Stay. Songwriter Chris Conley still sings like Rivers Cuomo huffing helium, but his lyrics aren't so prone to prose, searching instead for happiness and peace with breezy poetic brevity and hippie overtones.
Tour pals Taking Back Sunday experienced their own changes this year, with guitarist-vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper leaving after the release of last year's Tell All Your Friends. Back up and running again with new members Matt Rubano and Fred Mascherino, TBS: The Next Generation shows no signs of ditching its trademark chug-a-lugging chords and sinus-clearing screamage.