A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Ashes Grammar


4.5
superb

Review

by Kiran EMERITUS
November 27th, 2009 | 71 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unconventional, ambitious foray into the world of dream pop that succeeds on all fronts.

Glasgow is, most parts of the year, miserable. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark and during the winter, a permanent canopy of grey looms threateningly above the city, cloaking the sun. Ashes Grammar would symbolize those tiny, brilliant streaks of yellow light bursting through the clouds of Scotland. You could throw around names like The Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, or Mercury Rev in regards to A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s sophomore release but to reduce it to comparisons, name-drops, and soundalikes would not do it the slightest bit of justice. Ashes Grammar is an album as ambitious in concept as it is precise in execution. It is a 22-track leviathan of dream pop that moves with a rusty sheen, criss-crossing teasingly into snapshots of a hazy lo-fi world where the colours emanate in a phosphorescent glow, offering to pull us in.

Though fractured in form, where many tracks don’t pass the 2-minute mark and/or are interludes, Ashes Grammar has a remarkable flow. The band throws conventionality to the wind, scattering songs across the album in a manner that is not messy but causal. This lack of structure makes this an album that cannot just be dipped in and out at the listeners’ pleasure but instead one that not only needs to be listened to as a whole but also deserves to be. In fact, if it weren’t for the track listing, instances such as the first 3 songs would easily be mistaken for just one, as the three build upon a hymnal, choir-like quality to lead into the first fully formed song, conventionally speaking, the percussive “Failure” which pulses with an exciting, jangly melody.

To remark that the interludes detract from the album would be to miss the point entirely, as they are nothing short of coquettish in manner, teasing, and act as rewarding bridges between each jarring, beautiful song. Perhaps the best metaphor would be that of likening it to an old quilt held together by stitched patches of design, where despite it’s tattered state it is as enveloping as ever, a cohesive whole. The very size of Ashes Grammar makes it something to fall and get lost into, to explore. Tracks like “Shy” and “Passionate Introverts” move with a clear direction, as each gauzy, paper-thin layer of vocals and sparkling synth collapse into each other, letting each moment shine and slip away with grace as another takes its turn. The production of Ashes Grammar is fundamental in it’s beauty, where no layer is ever significantly predominant, but instead create a nearly elemental atmosphere where a listeners ear is grabbed by an emerging vocal hook or a distant shimmering guitar. The gorgeous, ethereal vocals of “The White Witch” are not nearly as loud as the beat of the singular beat of the drum or the warm guitar melody that lifts it but are immediately noticeable and so easy to latch onto, where on repeated listens a listener may draw an entirely different experience from it. That’s the beauty of Ashes Grammar and what can keep a listener coming back over and over again.

For all of it’s depth, it would be a crime to not comment on the immediate aesthetic beauty of Ashes Grammar. It’s not a sound atypical of the genre; the bright, glowing melodies and celestial vocals make for songs that are modestly huge. These aren’t the type of songs that would move mountains, so to speak, but rather brighten sunny days. The two things that really set this young band apart, however, is their penchant for hooks, which are to be found in abundance, and their uncanny ability to master song dynamics. Every song has a heartbeat; some underlying rhythm or pulse that audibly moves it forward, that breathes life into the composition and gives it wings to soar. The title track builds upon a beamish guitar rhythm, and as it lifts with melody and pace, so does the song. Similarly, a humming sets the tone for the fantastic “Close Chorus” and remains for its entirety, shifting melodically in pitch. Many of the interludes serve as introductions of these motifs, making it all the more rewarding to find it again in the song that follows.

Ashes Grammar is, undoubtedly, a brave album and A Sunny Day in Glasgow pull it off with seasoned tact that deceives their youth as a band. They’ve struck gold on only their second attempt and with such potential, if this is the sign of great things to come, we can expect some very, very great things out of this young Philadelphian quintet. It would be a shame to be intimidated by the tracklisting or length, as it is constantly accessible in sound, despite its conceptual difficulty. This is, without hesitation, one of 2009's gems and listening to Ashes Grammar, you can’t help but feel that Glasgow just got a little bit brighter.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

most difficult review ive ever written but wanted to see one up for this as 7 ratings is just criminally low

Roach
November 27th 2009


2148 Comments


Glasgow is a terrible place full of terrible people

Kyle
November 27th 2009


667 Comments


I've never listened to this, even though I like pretty much all of its reference points. Not sure why that is. Got a whole heap of stuff to get through at the moment, but maybe I'll try it after that.

Good review.

Ponton
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


5793 Comments


Wow, I really like this review.

I've never listened to anything like this, but I may eventually give it a listen.

RandMcNally
November 27th 2009


158 Comments


Roach your a c@nt, Glasgow is an amazing city! Best shopping in the UK outside London, more greenspace than any other city in the UK and some off the best architecture in Europe. It also has one of the best music scenes in Europe. Yeah it has its horrible people, but no more than anywhere else. It does rains alot though. lol
I dunno what your problem with Glasgow is but you should grow up and stop being a bigot.

Kiran
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ya, I like Glasgow apart from the depressing weather. Been twice but both visits were quite brief.

Observer, I wouldn't know where to start in the genre as I sort of just eased myself into it with more obscure albums that friends recd me, not the classics (the first three recommended by reviewer albums are quite highly regarded), but this is really good and I think it would be quite accessible.



Ponton
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


5793 Comments


Alright, I guess I'll eventually give it a go.

I heard "Failure" on Youtube. It may take me a while to get into it.

Roach
November 27th 2009


2148 Comments


way to take my comment too seriously RandyMcNally

although Glaswegians truly are the worst people in the world


Minus The Flair
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


862 Comments


really want to like this but right now i'm fairly indifferent. i don't really hear the hooks i'm meant to be hearing, and i just can't see what seperates this album from a lot of the other stuff in the genre. but i'll stick with it, i'm usually to slow to brilliance.

Meatplow
November 27th 2009


5524 Comments


I have an album from this group but I have never listened to it.

Kiran
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

meatplow, i'm guessing you have their debut? i've only heard it in passing, so can't really comment, although i would assume if you listen to and enjoy that, you'll enjoy this!

Meatplow
November 27th 2009


5524 Comments


It would appear to be Scribble Mural Comic Journal.

I'll check it out on the strength of this review ;]

RandMcNally
November 27th 2009


158 Comments


Well as a glaswegian you insulted me personally, as well as most of my friends and family and the place I was born, and as your comment was neither funny, witty or clever I see no reason why I should not take it seriously, despite the fact that you opinions equate to nothing more than the moronic rambling of bigoted malcontent ? So yeah, your a c@nt.

RandMcNally
November 27th 2009


158 Comments


...good review btw. lol

Roach
November 27th 2009


2148 Comments


moronic rambling of bigoted malcontent

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


3742 Comments


why are you getting so pissed he said glasgow is rainy holy shit!

also i have this album but haven't listened yet, will now though

Roach
November 27th 2009


2148 Comments


I think he's getting pissed at me jt

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 27th 2009


3742 Comments


didn't read the whole thread fuck

well he's a glaswegian so he doesn't matter

Roach
November 27th 2009


2148 Comments


he may as well not even exist

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 27th 2009


10417 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agree with matt



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