Review Summary: A tasteful solo album, that embraces the familiar sound of his former band, Sunny Day Real Estate, while adding new elements that firmly establish, Enigk, as talented solo artist.
Escaping the long reaching shadow of your former band is an immeasurable task, especially when your band was a pioneer of a genre. So goes the story for Jeremy Enigk, vocalist and guitarist for the indie giants, Sunny Day Real Estate. While not necessarily the sole inventors of the post-grunge/emo scene, they were the styles biggest act, and are typically referenced as a major influence by all the groups that followed them. So when Enigk approached his 2nd solo album one could not be sure exactly what direction he would take his songwriting. Would, World Waits, be a follow-up to his first solo album, released 10 years prior, or possibly a further extension of the music he explored with The Fire Theft and Sunny Day Real Estate? Perhaps an even bigger question would be, could he truly step out of the shadows from those bands and still make engaging, relevant music without the help of his bandmates?
World Waits was the perfect album to address all of those questions. It establishes Enigk as a talented songwriter whose maturity shines through on an album full of intimate, yet engaging, songs. Sometimes the word, maturity, can imply boring. Many artists, who try and establish a solo career after leaving high profile acts, fall flat on their face, when their weaknesses are exposed without the help of their former bandmates. Enigk, on the other hand, showcases an album full of strong material, which sets the course for music that is original and solely his. Naturally, there are moments that hint back to his former days with Sunny Day Real Estate, but there are many more moments where he takes a completely different road, musically, doing things he could have never done within the confines of his former band.
The difference is immediate, when the first track “A New Beginning” kicks in, slyly beginning with those chiming clean guitars, only to erupt into full orchestration, with bells, strings, and an uplifting sound, seldom heard on a Sunny Day Real Estate album. With this precedent, he lets the listener know, this is going to be an album entirely different then the melancholy post-grunge material of his former band. The 2nd track, “Been Here Before”, begins with a gentle guitar and a familiar ‘clean’ sound that SDRE fans could appreciate only to have a cathedral organ explode in half-way through the song taking it in a different direction altogether. Perhaps the most glaring difference between Enigk’s solo work and that of SDRE is the energy level. Rather than continue to play on the ‘quiet/loud’ vibe of SDRE, the music is much more laid back, at times, coming off as almost folk music, preferring the addition of a violin into a song’s chorus rather than a distorted guitar. Without breaking the album down into a song by song review, this maneuver of adding new elements into his signature indie rock sound is explored heavily. Every song takes this approach, whether it is a moody piano, subtle electronica, or even tribal sounding percussion, Enigk finds something to ‘spice’ up the songs. Some artists take this approach, to their detriment, adding elements that are unwarranted or out of place, while on World Waits, it feels like natural extension of the song.
Enigk’s experimentation pays off, with a tasteful album that sounds familiar, yet wholly refreshing and new. Hardcore fans of his former bands may be turned off by his methods of integrating the added instrumentation, perhaps waning for a SDRE part 2. However, those who enjoy his past work and see this expansion as something new will find an album that showcases a gifted songwriter full of ideas and unafraid of trying something original. He could have easily rested on his laurels and made another album like Diary or LP2, but instead pushes forward in establishing himself and a sound that is singularly a reflection of himself as a solo artist.