[Lewis Hollow Recordings - October 17, 2006]
*Sixeyes Score: 7.5 out of 10
Review by JP Swenson
Let me start off by saying that in the mid 90’s, I LOVED Sunny Day Real Estate’s first 2 albums (Diary & the self-titled/Pink albums). In 1995, in the Pacific Northwest, Sunny Day Real Estate were enigmatic legends: they didn’t do interviews, they wouldn’t play shows in California, they were featured on a movie soundtrack that also had U2 (even if it was for one of those awful Batman movies), they appeared in a Nordstrom ad, and had a video on MTV. I was blown away by Jeremy Enigk’s first solo album, 1996’s Return of the Frog Queen, the chamber pop left-turn he made during SDRE’s first break-up. When Sunny Day reformed, I was a bit underwhelmed by 1998’s How it Feels to Be Something On, but embraced it like the prodigal son who returned home, and I learned to love it. The Rising Tide was a giant leap toward mediocrity. When The Fire Theft came out, I immediately wanted my money back.
Thankfully, World Waits is no Fire Theft, but it’s not a Return of the Frog Queen either. This one lands somewhere in the middle, and that’s about as much as I had hoped for. The songs on here were written over the past 10 years, some shortly after Frog Queen, some intended for The Fire Theft, and some just for this album. Jeremy’s voice is still that elfin/Jon Anderson (of Yes)-meets-John Vanderslice type of yowl. The album opens with the too-literally titled instrumental “A New Beginning”. With it’s mid-tempo 6/8 lilt & lack of histrionics, “Return to Sea” is one of the better tracks on the album. On the other end of the spectrum is “City Tonight” which sounds like a contender for The Fire Theft, but it (thankfully) lacks William Goldsmith’s over the top, overplayed drumming, and is therefore more credible as a solo Enigk effort, rather than a band showing off their chops. The star of this album is the layered vocals & melodies, backed by delicate guitars & strings, not fancy drum or guitar work, and that’s a good thing. “Damien Dreams”, an old live favorite from the Frog Queen days, finally shows up here and is almost unscathed by the past 10 years. It’s slightly reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s “Dream Brother”; it’s deceptively uncomplicated, and it highlights Enigk’s ability to form an engaging, melodic song around a simple chord pattern. “Wayward Love” and “Dare a Smile” are acoustic based songs that wouldn’t be out of place on Return of the Frog Queen; “Dare a Smile” is another contender for “best song on the album”, with its hints of John Lennon and arcing string line that gently propels the song along. The title track is a somber ballad that once again avoids the overblown operatic route and instead focuses on lyrics and a beautiful string section in the background.
The problem I have with this album is Enigk’s continued tendency (during the rocking songs) to rely on soothing keyboard patches, overly harmonized vocals and the fact that when he screams, it only highlights his worn vocal cords. Mercifully, there are only a few moments on the album that display these negative traits, and overall this is a welcome (music critic cliché alert!) return to form.
+ been here before
+ river to sea
>>GO to the HYPE MACHINE for more of Jeremy Enigk.