Sunny Day Real Estate
How It Feels To Be Something On


5.0
classic

Review

by Chris Maziejka USER (49 Reviews)
August 15th, 2006 | 12 replies | 2,670 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist


3 of 3 thought this review was well written

When you first listen to an exceptionally good album, there are a few things you think of almost immediately after finishing. One of the many raving thoughts you may have is something along the lines of ’absolute best album, ever. While seeming a bit overboard sometimes it doesn’t. To you, that album may either hold a special place in your compendium of musical knowledge, carving out a place on the wall to stay forever. Other times it just comes off as an awesome record. Whichever, when it comes to Sunny Day Real Estate, two thoughts as well will be in the listeners mind. Like many indie acts, SDRE are one of the ‘love or hate’ groups. When it comes to their specific albums, this case goes so mind-numbingly deep its hardly fathomable. What does the usual music fan think then hearing a SDRE song? Or entire piece for that matter. If your not an experimental aficionado, its doubtful that this band will appeal to you in the slightest. I distinctly recall my first encounter with the group, simply a music video of theirs spotted whilst reluctantly surfing the channels, looking for something to do. I heard ‘In Circles’ off the bands debut LP Diary. Needless to say I was very unimpressed. I mean I liked it, it was a fine song and all but it felt so god-damned boring. So self-indulgent and uninteresting, and generic, only saved by an exceptional bassline. The song did seem however like it could really really grow on me (which is ironic as to what was stated before, so I’ll explain it in full soon enough). I wanted to hear the rest of their discography, just nothing more off Diary. Arguably their worst work, according to me at least. It is without a doubt a very good album – just not up to par with what they could have done afterwards and really did. Sunny Day Real Estate sucked up to their ultimately enthralling level of talent and decided upon making something new and old both at once. This album easily pertains to past release and effect from the band at the same time managing to feel much more progressive on certain songs, and unbelievably emotional on others. Actually, all of the songs feel emotional in a way but to the maximum level, others simply cannot pull it off as well as something like say, ‘Pillars’. One of the best songs on the album definitely showcases what to expect for the rest, and convienently, it’s the first track. Speaking for what said before, I need to confirm this bands appeal to you. Are they love or hate or do they grow? Well, if they do, that means you enjoy them. Like a new pair of shoes, at first they feel uncomfortable and need to settle for a bit before you can just slip them on without even thinking about it. Same goes for ‘Sunny Day’. If you don’t like them, well…lets just say you’d be in for one of the worst musical performances you’ll ever hear in your life. I can see what makes these guys un-fun and how they may turn you into a manic-depressive. Ha ha. It isn’t that funny.

Much like their original work, their roots, Diary, SDRE incorporates their signature gloom attitude into their songs. Every single one of them feels like it belongs in the corner of a dark attic playing guitar almost inaudibly and singing softly to itself. A lot of emotion, all over the place, hinted in not only Enigk’s vocals but his guitar play as well. These feelings aren’t limited to him though, as the rest of the band join in on the fun and create one of the saddest atmospheres you will ever hear, guaranteed. It seems a crime to the theme of the album’s sound to even describe it; sometimes I think it needs no introduction nor body (much less a conclusion, you’ll be feeling this for a long long time), and should just be left be. Only to enter your ears, not your mind. Was Jeremy a control freak? Perhaps, its very likely he put that into the music, being the genius he is. Maybe it is an exhausted detail, but the songs grip your mind and refuse to let go until it finishes out. You need to hear them to fully appreciate it, but you can definitely catch a wind if your merely browsing. Not the full effect by any means, as with such emotional music it becomes not a song as much as pure poetry. You don’t just read half or a quarter of a poem and move on, do you? When you really mean on hearing it, that is. No. You don’t…so why here? If anything, if the songs really do want to be left alone it is a crying plea for help and restrainment from suicide. The actual songs feel like they’d jump at the chance to kill themselves and just end it all. I think Jeremy had a very bad gut feeling in studio, and wanted to get the songs over with as quickly as possible. But unfortunately he wasn’t thinking of his recording well-being prior, so, the tracks all exceed normal length and drag themselves out whilst staying very interesting. A near impossible task is pulled off by Sunny Day Real Estate, progressive music in a sense (of emo) exists on this record and it is never boring.

Yes, keeping your attention while singing in a sleepy drawl over ghostly instrumental is a tough thing to do. But SDRE do it right, they’ve always known how and knew it since they began working together. Its kind of an elite sense of mind, as if the band knows they can produce some of the most epic songs ever written and holds back just a tiny bit so to shake things into the right place. Otherwise, some of their records may end up like Angels & Airwaves works, songs that fly from the singer’s mouth but just don’t seem to go anywhere. Like a recovering drug-addict so to speak, your life has ended and you don’t know where to go or what to do with it. Consciously altering substances were your life then and nothing else. So nothing else is now.

How does Jeremy exceed my expectations? How exactly are they supposed to ‘keep my attention’? Songs have to be good to do that. Very good.

Pillars

Epic. I said it before, and now again, epic. Sunny Day Real Estate knows how to write epic songs. It takes a lot of energy to do something so invigorating, but despite their obvious lack thereof (conveyed through the gloomy atmosphere shrouding all their albums in obscuring clouds of sleepiness) it comes to an ultimatum and at that point is powered to infinite, like how Goku turns SuperSaiyen to defeat his most deathly of enemies. To save the earth. ‘Sunny Day’ can’t do that, but some humans like to think they can, and SDRE make the most of it. On ‘Pillars’ the band work both as individuals and as a group to turn the lyrics into a brief story of sorrow and woe, wet with tears and exhausted of moving. Moving, that’s what the band does here, their very consistent on this first song. Complete with an unmatched rhythm section and bass player, Jeremy dictates them to victory with his drone alongside a guitar (or keyboard). Leading them into darkness Enigk tells a tale that puts himself in the past with bygone memories and employs only the finest orchestra of a band to help him along in his journey through the chasms of his mind. Thinking a lot. A lot of thinking went into this song, in order to tell each member just what to do. Like a book that begins slowly and softly with a haunting fade-in, ‘Pillars’ progresses to a massively emotional song crammed with sadness. Even if that’s not what the song was meant to show to you, sadness, its undeniable and very strong at this point. The rising action has began already. Its like one of those stories, just like that to begin with a bang and try to solve everything and re-do the puzzle by the end. Cleaning up before your mother comes home, this is telling a story before the inevitable finale reaches us. ‘Pillars’ sets the mood with an eerie but catchy type of bass, which all on its own does the former task and gives you an idea as to what What It Feels Like will actually feel like. Bass guitar plays an imperitive role in moving the record along. The backbone of the musical group here enjoys the limelight, as they were in the past second to Jeremy’s vocal display. ‘Pillars’ will tell you this right off the bat, the record is indeed one of depression, moods and colors. Several different colors. Picture this song as a haunted gray, one that sticks in your mind to morph from just that to a hazy hue of blue. Colors make the mood what it is and if What It Feels Like were a film, it would likely have the same effect as the album. Suicidal feelings swimming all around.

The Days Were Golden

Ever hear the saying, ‘Do you know why the caged bird sings?’ I did. Jeremy Enigk is a caged bird, and he is singing. Very nicely I might add. But there’s another time for that, so for now I can tell you this much…

This song makes Jeremy sound as though he desires to escape from some position. One he either could be in at the moment, in studio right now (speaking at the song’s perspective), or a predicament going on in his life at that point in time. Likely that was the case, as a spree of emotion runs its course throughout and makes you believe just what I said. One of the easier ways to describe this song is just as the saying says…its meaning at least. Enigk is attempting to escape from a dreary atmospheric hellhole and writes a song about it. Now, neither you nor me are particularly sure what exactly these lyrics mean (at times, SDRE can be as indecipherable as the Mars Volta at their peak). But the songs they appear in shouldn’t be too far a shot off the definition. So if it were to relate greatly to the mood, I’d say one has been attempting to leave this place that we like to call earth, in so many different ways, shapes and forms and eventually stops at a brick wall. He realizes that its not bringing him anywhere, trying to kill himself, and leaves the knife behind, instead to reach for pen and paper. What this song’s lyrics tribute to will be left alone now, to make it easier to picture in your mind what instruments make of it. Arguably (really though its very true) they’re the highest point of musical discovery and production and instruments make or break a song (again, an argument, as bad vocals can really make it a ruiner). What these players find in themselves always comes out to greet us in note form, and on ‘The Days Were Golden’ its absolutely no exception. Fighting fire with fire, the emotion that Jeremy builds up with his vocals battle with the instruments right there in studio. This song listens like it was an argument in itself, like Jeremy had been standing too far away from his peers and sang like no other time…as if to escape. At certain parts in the track it appears his joy gets ahead of him and he takes a step back to join his band. Then as the chorus creeps in with a very sarcastic tone he moves away once again. A gain and then a loss, several times throughout ‘The Days’.

Guitar and Video Games

Continuing that happy attitude with a ghostly house to sing in, ‘Guitar and Video Games’ is one of the two massive closers of the album (massive, as in…very good) and draws upon the previous described in such a way as to almost replicate it. But it does the happy thing much better, and easier so it seems, and eventually you’ll come to a crossroads, with a sign based on your feelings whether either of the songs progresses better. Into the upbeat atmosphere, that is. This song likely is a better representation of that because, in a minor detail that sums this track up it really departs from the album’s theme. I mean, it sounds similar to every other song, but for the most part ‘Guitar and Video Games’ can’t hold a candle to the emotion that appears on the various other tracks. Jeremy still provides what is expected of him and apparently his band knew what to do, but in the end GVG is not what you expect. Which obviously is a good thing, sitting amongst a plethora of winding crying tied up emotions coming from the mouth of a confused religious man with a band of angry members who likely did not appreciate Enigk as much as thought. Ironic that such a song could be even thought about in that studio setting, but it happens. Still this song like the others makes past SDRE work seem very immature (music-wise) and child-like, in the sense that those other songs from the past records don’t carry the same feeling as this. They rode out well.

‘Guitar and Video Games’ is How It Feels to be Something On’s ‘In Circles’. You remember the high-pitch guitar intro, that unforgettable bass-line and the typical Jeremy lay downs? Its been brought back to life and buffered properly, now it appears on this album. This track shares almost every aspect with ‘In Circles’ to a point where its doubtful this reference was not purposeful. Jeremy wrote another television single, as almost every album needs, with an enthralling chorus in a high on music tone and a backing equal to an orchestra with a single voice. It feels so epic but at the same time, if anything negative, its cheesy. Cheesier than the other tracks though. Whilst still an exceptional piece, ‘Guitar and Video Games’ redeems this work of cemetery-esque whines and moans with a much needed upbeat compilation. It just feels very out of place at once, alongside being quite a piece of the mold. Its imperitive to exist here, and if it hadn’t the album would be so very incomplete. Incorporation of Jeremy’s hotbed of feelings on the right note made this song what it is. If your stuck in a ditch trying to let this album grow on your ears, ‘Guitar and Video Games’ may be just the route your looking for.


There is nothing left to say that hasn’t been described by these phenomenal tracks. This collection of the three, most moving pieces on the album sum up its theme of a storybook. Much like the entire discography of Sunny Day Real Estate it sounds like a storybook. It can’t be classified as early emo, or emo at all because emo music does not tell a tale as much as it expresses an overload of anger and sadness and confusion in a lengthy explosion of screams and chords. Sunny Day is a polar opposite of that type of music, relating much more to Fugazi as a bit of a mainstream emotion. Known and accepted in a much easier way, as its not hard on your ears in any sense SDRE make what is the definitive ploy to musical project. In the dictionary of music, under the explanation of the word itself it shall list a number of bands who make this sound what it really is. Somewhere close to the top, the massively influential and intelligently crafted Sunny Day Real Estate. They are like other classic groups people who make music what it should be, how controlled it needs to be and what it consists of. I suppose Jeremy Enigk’s newfound religion helped him suppress a dangerously exceeding superiority complex, which if it came out to true form would have been devastating and perhaps the end of SDRE earlier than necessary, and What It Feels Like to be Something On would never have existed. Such a crime is unimaginable at times and scarily possible to think about. But don’t fret, as it happened and this emotional progressive piece portrays such a picture in ones mind as to trigger ultimate realization of life itself. A story of any kind may be the cause of such feeling in a listeners mind’s eye. When its told very well, then it becomes massive. Sunny Day’s final release should very well have been regarded as one of the greatest pieces of music of all time. Simply I have to admit (and am not ashamed in any way either) it is most definitely the truth, and if you’d like to experience such a masterful work of art I’d highly recommend taking a shot at any Sunny Day Real Estate record. But if you want a beast, a real audiobook, you need to find How It Feels To Be Something On.

At times this may be deemed as an impossible task, for Sunny Day Real Estate are not a very commercialized group. So if you lack the disc, you must hunt for such tracks as mentioned earlier, and as well as the title song and ‘Roses In Water’. Both of these are a format of sorts, keeping the theme in place and not letting it stray a bit. I felt the others performed overall better, so, as sidekicks these songs revolutionize the term.


Credits:

Guitars/Keyboards/Vocals: Jeremy Enigk
Guitars/Vocals: Dan Hoerner
Bass: Jeff Palmer
Percussion: William Goldsmith



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user ratings (323)
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4.1
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2006



16081 Comments


I couldn't finish the review unfortunately.
But I've heard some songs from this album, and it doesnt seem up to par with their other material.

Zebra
Moderator
August 15th 2006



2647 Comments


Wow, I give you major street cred for writing so much about one album and justifying your opinions. To be honest I didn't read every single word in your review but I read a good chunk of it. Excellent work. This Message Edited On 08.15.06

Cygnus Inter Anates
August 15th 2006



721 Comments


[quote=review]Ever hear the saying, ‘Do you know why the caged bird sings?’ I do. Jeremy Enigk is a caged bird, and he is singing.[/quote] lol

francesfarmer
August 15th 2006



1477 Comments


Sue me.

Neoteric
August 16th 2006



3243 Comments


Wow, this is long.

The Jungler
August 16th 2006



4827 Comments


Yeah man, I'd shorten it up on the next one, either that or break up the paragraphs a little bit. I'm a fan of the larger paragraphs, but this is almost ridiculous. What I read was very well done, I'm a big fan of SDRE.

francesfarmer
August 16th 2006



1477 Comments


You all need to listen to this, if you haven't. Its one of the most dedicated works ever made. The band put more effort into this record than most groups employ throughout their entire careers.

heyseuss
August 22nd 2006



384 Comments


Mmhm.

Sepstrup
August 28th 2006



1563 Comments


So basically, no one read the entire thing.

Two-Headed Boy
August 29th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Didn't read the whole thing, but I liked what I read.

Jefe
August 29th 2006



5 Comments


Very wordy, but well-written. I'm gonna go check out this album.

Moraff
August 29th 2006



30 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I like Diary so I'll look into this. Goood review



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