Monday, January 26, 2009

Gold Soundz: Sunny Day Real Estate

Contributor Mike Bailey enjoys talking about records from yesteryear -- the 70's, 80's and 90's -- that influenced what's happening today. Thus, Gold Soundz was born. (Props to Pavement for the perfect name.) In this piece, Bailey takes a different seminal indie record every week and examines its significance and impact on the present.

Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary
(Sub Pop, 1994)

There was a time when "Emo" was not such a polluted word. Sure, bands didn't like the label anymore than Nirvana liked to be called grunge, but the terms gave focus to styles of music that also produced very dedicated social followings. Grunge gave us a flock of flannel wearing, unwashed youth, while emo gave us the precious indie rocker with skinny jeans, jagged haircuts and Morrissey crushes. (What, too pointed?)

For more thoughts on Diary and the "Seven" video, follow us after the jump.  

Two albums, released on the same day in 1994, are often cited as the spark that lit emo's flame; Weezer's "Blue" album, and Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary. Two short years after the release of these records we would see the debuts from Jimmy Eat World, The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids as well as the formation of Vagrant Records - all tent poles for second generation emo (for the sake of argument we'll call Fugazi, Rites of Spring, etc. the first generation). This brand would reach it's commercial peak in the early '00's with albums from Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional before being reduced to what is left today, mainstream rock acts like Panic At The Disco and Fall Out Boy.

At the time of it's release, Diary seemed like a nice record that generated good underground buzz. The lyrical themes are introspective and faith leaning - singer Jeremy Enigk speaks softly alongside delicate verses before straining over big crescendos and powerful choruses. On repeated listens Diary reveals itself to be a sweeping, unguarded epic influenced by the overflowing complexity of prog-rock as well as the vulnerability of punk. The first three tracks alone are enough to satisfy; "Seven" and "In Circles" feel vital and seem to culminate within "Song About An Angel" as Enigk screams "Sometimes you see right through me…". Redemption feels near even as the characters continue their internal struggle.

And like that the spark was gone. The original line-up of the band released one more, semi-finished, record before bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith would leave to join The Foo Fighters. There would be two more records by various reincarnations of the band, but Sunny Day's influence would far outweigh their remaining output. Diary was their Rushmore and bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Rogue Wave and Bright Eyes have to mark it as a touchstone. It's a great record whose overall impact is often times clouded by it's many imitators, but fear not emo-phobes it has little in common with Pete Wentz and his mascara wearing cohorts.

- Contributing writer Mike Bailey

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