Words About Music
A Sunny Day in Glasgow “Sea When Absent”
With bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and Loop returning to the stage and the studio, it’s easy to forget that we are living in an age of burgeoning noise pop and shoegazing bands that nearly outshine their predecessors. This year we’ve seen incredible studio albums from French post-metal-turned-shoegaze act Alcest and beloved high-volume newcomers Nothing. Coming through with an exercise in pop experimentation and shoegazing production is Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow. The group’s revolving lineup has resulted in nearly a four-year wait for new music from the group, but the resulting album “Sea When Absent” is worth it.
While the band owes a good portion of its sound to Cocteau Twins’ revolutionary dream pop, it certainly sticks out in the contemporary shoegaze output. While bands like Nothing, Whirr, and DIIV tend to shoot for something more retrospective, A Sunny Day likes to use their influence to aim ahead. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them entirely original, but I would call them refreshing in a time where some bands are shooting for volume over noise. “Sea When Absent” is noisy enough to appease a fan of the scene that celebrates itself, but it’s also filled with ear-catching pop hooks, space-filling distortion, and creatively structured songs.
“Sea When Absent” can be sort of hard to dissect with so many different sounds at work. In short, it’s a grower. At first I thought it felt sort of lazy and hollow, but as I listened closer I noticed that nearly every bit of space on every song is filled to the brim with some sort of instrument or synthetic riff. I’m not sure which parts were generated by a synthesizer and which were played on guitars or drums. It’s a weird combination of electronic ambience and My Bloody Valentine’s garage-gaze loudness. It sounds like the kind of thing Sky Ferreira would make if she was a noise pop singer rather than just a pop singer (not to suggest that her album doesn’t have some noise pop influence).
Not every song on this album is great, especially in comparison to the masterful opening track “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End),” but “Sea When Absent” is consistent without being too samey. It does not fall victim to the high-reverb shoegaze curse. This is the first album I’ve ever listened to by this band, but I’d wager that this is the best record they’ve released. It sounds like they put thought into every inflection, every guitar effect, and every synthesized phrase. It’s a fun album that’s meant for the summer. Let’s see how it does in the fall and the winter.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Byebye, Big Ocean (The End), In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition of Passing), Crushin’, MTLOV (Minor Keys), Boys Turn Into Girls (Initiation Rites), Never Nothing (It’s Alright [It’s Ok]), Oh I’m A Wrecker (What to Say to Crazy People), Golden Waves