If there’s one genre that seems to be singled out for an unfair amount of maligning, it’s emo. For many, there’s something about the image of skinny white guys in tight shirts and horn-rimmed glasses screaming awkward lyrics about pain and betrayal that, well, just sets something off. And for those people, The Moon Is Down is ripe for the picking. After all, it’s incredibly earnest, with those too-emotional vocals and too-poetic-for-their-own-good lyrics. But it’s also so confident and emotional that it stands a good chance of silencing most of its possible detractors.

Really, what’s so bad about being earnest? Alright, I’ll admit that lot of the so-called ​“emo” crowd is, well… the primary reason I can’t take it seriously is because every song that bands like The Juliana Theory write seems engineered to make girls swoon over how sensitive and honest the band is. And, as all guys know, girls are suckers for that super-sensitive indie guy. (It hasn’t worked for me yet, but I keep hoping.) However, Further Seems Forever could just change some minds.

The primary reason that Further Seems Forever succeeds is Chris Carabba’s vocals, who can out-sing any pimply emo boy out there. Of course, now that The Moon Is Down is set for release, Carabba has left the group to work on a solo project (which I assume to be Dashboard Confessional). It remains to be seen just how that will affect the group, but whatever the outcome, The Moon Is Down remains an album whose passion seems like less and less of a liability with each listen.

The other part of Further Seems Forever’s success is their pedigree, which boasts some impressive names, especially hardcore vets Strongarm. The aggression is still there, but it’s been streamlined and channelled through a more pop-oriented sound. Clocking in at around 30 minutes over the course of 10 songs, The Moon Is Down never really takes a breather. As usual, the brevity works, and the album never really outstays its welcome.

It also helps when you have something to say, and believe it or not, Further Seems Forever does. Oh sure, they still sing about girls and relationships — the band’s name is a reference to dreaded long distance relationships — but at least they don’t sound all whiny when they do it. Again, much of that is due to the vocals, and the result is some powerful stuff. Even a critic as jaded as myself has to choke back a sob when I hear Carraba belt out ​“I’m waiting to give whatever the world may bring/I’d give you my life ​cause I don’t own anything” (“New Year’s Project”). And even on the slower numbers, the group plays with passion and conviction.

You could compare them to The Juliana Theory and Sunny Day Real Estate, but they stand comfortably between the two. They may have the Theory’s pop appeal, but they carry the Estate’s depth (minus all of the prog rock-isms). Or imagine a Weezer that didn’t spend their childhood reading comics and playing air guitar in the garage. Further Seems Forever may not be the next big indie crossover but given the general mediocrity of their peers, they manage to stand quite a ways out from the crowd.