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Jul 14, 2014

A Sunny Day In Glasgow


Sea When Absent

Don't stop, sometimes I feel so happy  I'm in love with useless.

Sea When Absent, the new record from Philadelphia-based band A Sunny Day in Glasgow, would have been the perfect soundtrack for this year's rain-soaked Minnesota June. Like the album art would suggest, the music sounds like a tropical thunderstorm, with beauty punctuated often by a precipitous haze.

The record kicks off with the guitar driven “Bye, Bye, Big Ocean (The End)” that hits like a bolt of thunder, not relenting until the bridge. Things continue to pick up with “In Love with Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing),” in which singer Jen Goma declares “Move to the beat, sink to the street, it’s in your blood” over lifting synths.


While fellow My Bloody Valentine acolytes The Radio Dept. have taken the neo-shoegaze sound to more claustrophobic depths, the members of A Sunny Day in Glasgow revel in the open—or perhaps the sunny—going the mile to burry catchy pop songs underneath a sonic haze. In many respects, Sea When Absent finds the group wading into sounds somewhere between CHVRCHES, Sleigh Bells and School of Seven Bells. It’s a particularly welcome place on the spectrum given SVIIB’s recent and tragic collapse.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow has largely flown under the radar since their debut release, The Sunniest Day Ever EP, undergoing several line-up changes that have left guitarist Ben Daniels as the only original member. During this time they’ve managed to hone their sound from a cacophony to a concise set of pop tunes. On this record, the band harkens back to the sound of the sophomore, and often considered their best effort, Ashes Grammar, to create a textured collage that’s at once abrasive, ambient and psychedelic. As some reviewers have pointed out, many of the songs, despite a fairly straightforward structure, warp three-minute songs into what seems like five-minute anthems.


It’s a remarkable feat that the band should sound more cohesive than ever, considering that at no point in the production of the record were all six primary members present in the same room. Daniels, instrumentalist Josh Meakim, bassist Ryan Newmyer, drummer Adam Herndon, and vocalists Jen Goma and Annie Fredrickson are now scattered about Australia and the US.

In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Daniels recalled a chain of emails that discussed the concept for the new record, that they would bring in someone to mix the album to prevent Daniels from muddling the clarity and simplicity they were aiming for. In the end, their vision was maintained through outside producer Jeff Zeigler of Kurt Vile/War on Drugs fame.  In contrast to earlier efforts, the latest brings dual-vocalists Goma and Friedrickson to the forefront of the soundscape and writing process. The result is an album with perhaps their tightest vocal melodies yet, best demonstrated on “Oh, I’m a Wrecker (What to Say to Crazy People),” “The Body, It Bends” and the harmonized verse of “Boys Turn into Girls (Initiation Rites). Clocking in at fifty minutes, the dream comes to a close on a high note—literally—with “Golden Waves.”


While the storms have hopefully cleared for the month, it’s not too late to get lost in the fresh, headphone bliss of Sea When Absent, and I couldn't recommend doing so more.

Kevin Karner