Review Summary: iTunes tells me this is emo.
In the days of my youth, a friend once told me that Fall Out Boy's Take This To Your Grave
was the best album ever, and I should listen to it right away. I told him I don't listen to emo ***. There are several hilarious misconceptions that took place in that conversation, like the insistence that Fall Out Boy made a classic record and my claim that Fall Out Boy is emo, but the one that still haunts me to this day is my vehement stand against all things emo. With all the negative connotations associated with that tiny little word, who'd want to be a part of that? For years I kept on my guard, watching out for any and all Hot Topic sponsored bands that might ruin the whole of my indie credibility. Then, on this very website, I found Sunny Day Real Estate. Cleverly hidden in the indie section, the high ratings of their debut album convinced me to go out and spend my allowance on Diary
. It was catchy stuff, and I decided to do a little more research on the group. To my shock and horror, Sunny Day Real Estate is considered by many to be true "emo". Initially I was devastated, but then I thought to myself: "Why am I freaking out? It's not a crime to like good music." So cut my wrists and black my eyes, I liked Sunny Day Real Estate.
My name is Adam, and I have enjoyed emo.
And I'm ok with that. Sunny Day Real Estate ***in' rocks. The band's third release, How It Feels To Be Something On
, shows the departure from the chaotic emotional tunes that dominated Diary
and The Pink Album
, and moves into what the band refers to as the "controlled chaos" that rules the second half of their discography. How It Feels To Be Something On
displays frontman Jeremy Enigk's penchant for careful construction, lyrical prowess, powerful vocal arrangements, and spectacular songs within its brief ten track span, and it makes for one pretty sick album. Enigk becomes the focal point here, as the band becomes vehicles for his songwriting, and the result, though different from the brilliant Diary
, is excellent.
In many ways, one can view How It Feels
as Sunny Day Real Estate's crowning achievement. The maturity and thoughtfulness this album has contrasts the raw purity of Diary
, and yet both albums are thoroughly enjoyable. Enigk's songs are masterfully arranged, blending the swooning beauty of his music with the innocent complexity of his lyrics, creating incredible tunes begging to be played in a stereo squeezed in a window somewhere facing the outside world. Make no mistake, these are love songs; and they're gorgeous. Enigk's warbly tenor is perfect for the acoustic ballads of How It Feels
, and equally impressive for the swelling electric tracks. "So you'll always have your time to shine/ Even in the winter of your darkest hour, I want to change everything"
he croons on "Every Shining Time You Arrive", and he couldn't sound more accessible. Enigk's lyrics are as relatable as they are emotional. Though his music may be more mature as opposed to their hardcore-tinged early albums, Enigk's lyrics are simple in their rhyming schemes, and yet intricate in their word play. "How is it you feel?"
he asks on the heart breaking "Guitar and Video Games", a song whose words blend introspection with the sheer adoration of a boy in love. As he sighs "All this time hiding from death, and we want to be strong, but we find the true story a tale writing itself as we sail/ a story, a tale writing itself as we wail 'oh no,'"
he invokes feelings of melancholy nostalgia for days long past.
The masterpiece of the album, "Guitar and Video Games" represents how the rest of How It Feels
runs. With just a simple rock set up, Sunny Day Real Estate craft achingly pulchritudinous songs. The withheld tension of the opening track "Pillars" sets up an atmosphere of tension that comes and goes as the album runs its course, finally releasing at "Guitar and Video Games", and yet rarely moves into the grandiose. The album is better for it. The minimal nature makes it extremely accessible and relatable, the two focal points of How It Feels To Be Something On
's appeal. Most of the songs are built off a catchy guitar riff and add dabbles of pop cliches. The album's title track takes the formula and twists it into a sweet waltz that uses simple tricks like resolving dissonance to make another stellar track. Enigk's fragile falsetto, pounding drums, and the chord changes build up the tension, releasing with a confident recitation of the album's title. The title track is representative of all the things the album has to offer: Beauty, tension, resolution, and a kickin piece of work.
The album closes with "Days Were Golden", a song which concludes How It Feels To Be Something On
like an epilogue closes an excellent novel. It's calm, as Enigk uses the lowest registers of his voice to add a whole new dynamic to finish off the album. The lyrics are at their most beautiful here, as the chorus reads "Come momma now, tell me the story, only laughing about our gilded wasteland devoured torn into pieces"
. The song dips and crescendos, and yet never gets too loud, never too crazy. "Controlled chaos". How It Feels To Be Something On
isn't perfect, there's some dull spots in the middle, but as an album, How It Feels
is gorgeous, excellently crafted, and beautifully emotive. If this is what they call "actual emo", then by joe, I need to go get me some tight black jeans.
How It Feels to be Something On
Guitar and Video Games
Days Were Golden