Sunny Day Real estate was originally formed in 1992 amid the Seattle rock scene, and consisted of three members. Dan Hoerner played guitar and sang, Nate Mendel played bass, and William Goldsmith was the drummer. This set-up didn't last very long however as they soon added what would be the defining member of Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk, on vocals.
The band was very enigmatic and shy at the outset, only releasing one picture, and only conducting one interview in the 2 years leading up to their debut release Diary
. In addition, the band never played live with all four members present.
In 1994, the group released Diary
to much critical acclaim. This was the same year that Enigk became a born again Christian. In 1995, perhaps due to Enigk's newfound religion, the band broke up for the first time. Just before the breakup, however, Sunny Day Real Estate released their follow-up album (an album that is usually refered to as "The Pink Album") LP2
After the breakup, Goldsmith and Mendel became members of the band Foo Fighters, and Hoerner quit the music business altogether. A year after the breakup, Enigk returned with a solo acoustic record entitled The Return of the Frog Queen
which he recorded with a 21 piece orchestra.
Two long years passed, the fan-base for Sunny Day Real Estate was actually growing despite the fact that they had disbanded, and fans eagerly bought up their first two albums. Then in 1997 the band reformed minus bassist Nate Mendel who was replaced with Jeff Palmer. The next year, the band would release the defining record of the 1990's, How It Feels to be Something On
. They began touring again, and recorded a live album simply entitled Live
In 2000, the band tried an album once again with The Rising Tide
. The album was the first not on the Sub Pop label, and had a stronger prog-rock feel to it, as well as a softer tone throughout. The album was again hailed by critics however, the new record label's (Time Bomb) deal with Arista fell through. This made promotion of the record and touring almost impossible. In addition they had problems with managers, and in 2001 they announced that they were officially disbanded again.
In 2003 three quarters of the original band (Enigk, Goldsmith, and Mendel) reunited under the band name the Fire Theft, and released a self-titled album. This project wasn't exactly the classic Sunny Day Real Estate, but it did give fans a little hope for a future reunion of the band, and possibly another studio album similar in sound to 1990s SDRE.
How It Feels to be Something On
was immediately praised by critics and fans alike, and lives up to it's billing as one of the greatest records of all time. The band has always been arty, but on this record they flirt with progressive rock. There is a spiritual feel (probably Enigks influence) to some of the songs, most notably "The Prophet". The band also shows a sense of maturity that wasn't there the first go-round. The biggest difference is in Jeremy's vocals which are no longer growled or screamed, but rather are sung, and his swooning is amazing.
The band at this point has also developed much sharper instrumentation, and much better chord progressions, and each song flows smoothly into the next song, creating an album that is a single entity and not just a collection of songs.
Jeremy Enigk - Guitar, Keyboard, Lead Vocals
Dan Hoerner - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jeff Palmer - Bass
William Goldsmith - Percussion, Drums
The album gets started with the song "Pillars". There is a faint ghostlike droning noise in the distance. After a little bit a nice guitar riff comes in repeating. Enigk's vocals come in after a little while, fading in mimicking the droning noise for a little bit. The song builds up to a wonderful climax at the chorus with "don't tell me you've gone astray I walk in circles." The pace of the vocals on verse is very good, and the song follows the quiet verse loud chorus format again. The part after the second chorus is one of the best parts of the song. It is immediately followed by an instrumental part that is nice and dreamy with just some faint, choir-like backing vocals. From this the song jumps right back into the pre-chorus a couple of times, and then hits with the chorus again. Beautifully done. This is a straight up amazing song, and what a way to get this album started.
The second song is not let down after the greatness of the opener. "Roses in Water" begins with a catchy little chiming guitar riff, and Enigk coming in singing "ho, ho, ho, ho, ho" before bringing out the falseto. The tone of his constantly ascending voice is great, and is one of the reasons that he is one of the instantly recognizable voices in music. This is a beauty, and the vocals juxtaposed with the chiming guitar riff create a wonderful mood. Each of the first two songs could be classified as "rocky", but they still have a certain brightness and softness to them that is hard to explain. There is an instrumental about 2/3 of the way into the song that takes the song out.
"Every Shining Time You Arrive" is an acoustic ballad style song. Enigk's vocals come in with a nice little melody, and an electric song comes in to keep pace after the verses, but the acoustic and the vocals are the centerpiece. The amazing climax is on the chorus of "wanna change everything, wanna change everything, want to blame everything onnnnnnnn..." It is such a beautiful part, and a highlight on the album. This is the type of song that you wouldn't hear on the bands first two albums and is a sign of their maturity. This is also is one of the best on the album.
From the high of "Every Shining Time You Arrive", the album goes into "Two Promises". Their are dueling guitar parts, and the vocals are deeper than the previous songs, almost creating a darker style song, but the instruments keep it from becoming that. There is a nice part where Enigk "why don't you leave me here. how could you leave me down here?" where he gets a bit emotional with his screaming, and it is pretty effective. The song has so many different parts, styles, and moods that it is hard to relay them all to you, but to this point the band is 4 for 4 because this is a great one.
"100 Million" begins with a distorted electric guitar riff then everything else hits at once. Pulsing vocals come in in the style "pay for..., pay for..., pay for...". After each line there is a nice shimmering guitar riff, and the drumming and everything else are all excellent around this part. This is a well produced song. The verses continue following the same pattern and there is not real chorus. There is an instrumental part and then the song goes soft with shimmering vocals and guitar. I would say that this is the chorus, but it is almost more like an interlude because it has a completely different feel to the rest of the song. This part is Jeremy at his finest vocally, when he sings "100 million...fences around us...can we have everything...including the moon and the sun and the stars." From here the song returns to the style from the beginning. There is one more softer chorus part, and that leads to the end of another amazing song.
"How It Feels to be Something On" starts off with a softer feel to it. It isn't a love song or even a ballad, but it is almost a song sung by Enigk in retrospective. This seems to follow the form of several other songs on the album with a softer verse, buildup to the heavier chorus, then a small let down afterwords. This is again exectuted flawlessly. The vocals again are incredible, and the transition from the heavier chorus back to the softer part is very nice. I'm not sure this song tells how it feels to be something on exactly, but it does elicit a wide array of emotions, all of them good.
If there is one song on the album that doesn't really belong, it is "The Prophet". It begins with a long part with just a simple chant and some instrumentation. The instruments are nice, but the chant begins to grate after a while. The chant lasts for about half of the song (5 minute song), so for 2:30 the song is building up with the chant, then halfway in Jeremy Enigk takes over on vocals. This is actually my favorite part of the record, but the problem is it doesn't go with the first part of the song. I love the part where he sings "will you carry me across the sea, will you carry me?". This is by no means a skippable song, but the beginning is the lull in an otherwise perfect album.
"The Shark's Own Private Fuck begins with just a bassline. Soon after it is joined by arpeggiated guitar and simple drums. The vocals are soft as well, and the nice little variations in the way Enigk sings here are nice. The chorus of "the way you were" is the highlight of the song, and while this is still a good song, it isn't one of the stronger on the album. It has a more old-school Sunny Day Real Estate feel to it on the rockier parts, so this is a good song for fans of the first two records.
"Guitar and Video Games", and "The Days Were Golden" are arguably the greatest two songs to close an album ever. "Guitar and Video Games" has a magical feel to it. It reminds me of being a young kid again, and listening to it now brings back so many good memories. When he sings "all this time looking for love and you want to find peace and you find me." and "all this time hiding from death and we wanna be strong but we find the true story. a tale writing itself as we sail. writing itself as we wail 'oh, no'". This is my favorite song on the album and not enough can be said about it.
"The Days Were Golden" follows the style of a buildup and letdown at the end that is followed on the album. This is surely the album letdown. The song is another magical one, and second favorite on the album. The song brings out so much emotion in me, and is just a very nicely sung and warm song, and a great song to end the album on. It switches from major to minor on the chorus, only to come back with an amazingly sung part after the chorus that serves as a nice pick me up from a slightly darker chorus. I can't get enough of this song, or this album.
"Roses in Water"
"Every Shining Time You Arrive"
"How It Feels To Be Something On"
"Guitar and Video Games"***
"The Days Were Golden"***
Recommended for Fans of:
Les Savy Fav
What more needs to be said about this album. I consider it to be one of the greatest of all time, and certainly my favorite album of the 1990s. I usually want to rate cautiously, but this is a clear 5/5 without a doubt. If you have heard it, you should know what I'm talking about. If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend it, and you are in for a pleasant surprise.