Diary (Sub Pop, 1994)
Sunny Day Real Estate (Sub Pop, 1995)
How It Feels to Be Something On (Sub Pop, 1998)
Live (Sub Pop, 1999)
The Rising Tide (Time Bomb, 2000)
When Sunny Day Real Estate first emerged from the Seattle scene of the early Nineties, they immediately stuck out from its grungy contemporaries. SDRE liked hardcore punk as much as any urban white kids, but its principal goal was to harness the emotionalism and heroic earnestness of bands such as U2 and the Clash. Critics called it "emocore," then just "emo," and a new movement was launched. But in truth, few of the many other bands so tagged can match Sunny Day's balance of power and grace.
Diary is a promising although occasionally monotonous debut. Jeremy Enigk's thin, reedy voice is an acquired tatse, but when he howls over Dan Hoerner's intense guitar rhythms on "Song About an Angel," it's pretty overwhelming. After Diary, Enigk underwent a born-again experience, and the band responded by breaking up; bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith joined Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters. Sunny Day's self-titled second album, released after the split, is suprisingly dull despite a couple of great songs, "Red Elephant" and "J'nuh."
Three years later, Sunny Day Real Estate was once again a going concern, with Goldsmith (but not Mendel) back in the fold. How It Feels to Be Something On is the band's best work to date. Enigk's melodies are subtler than before, with a pronounced raga influence, and his guitar interplay with Hoerner is spiky and intricate. A live album followed, its principal interest being that it improves on several songs from the first two records.
In 2000, SDRE made the jump to a major label (or, more accurately, a label distributed by a major conglomerate). And you sure can tell; The Rising Tide is punchier and more rock-radio-friendly than How It Feels. Fist-waving anthems such as "One" are delieverd with total commitment. There still isn't much humor in Sunny Day Real Estate's songs, but when great music is played this passionately, it's hard to complain.
Staying true to their tumultuous nature, SDRE broke up once again after The Rising Tide. Enigk, Mendel, and Goldsmith regrouped as the Fire Theft; their self-titled debut upped Sunny Day's drama level, adding prog-rock touches such as chamber orchestra, children's choir, chiming glockenspiel, and raging guitar solos. Enigk has a had a productive solo career, too — fans of Sunny Day's more recent work might be especially interested in 1996's, Return of the Frog Queen, which features dazzling, if enigmatic, orchestral pop.
In 2009, Sunny Day Real Estate reformed and launched a North American tour, and Sub Pop released re-mastered versions of Diary and Sunny Day Real Estate.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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