A Sunny Day in Glasgow Are Lighter than Air in Sea When Absent
A Sunny Day in Glasgow includes members from all around the globe, including Philadelphia and Sydney. Such locations may strike some as odd, seeing as the art collective includes no members based out of Europe. This is, after all, a band with a sound deeply indebted to the electronic and shoegazing scenes from around the Old World. Their third offering, Sea When Absent, features the ethereal synths and dreamy vocals of Cocteau Twins, the pulsating guitar of My Bloody Valentine, and the innovative production of M83. Sunny Day certainly does not take any time to ease into things.
Upon pressing play, the air immediately fills with the throbbing synths and carefree vocals of “Bybye Big Ocean (The End).” Thirty more seconds into the album, and we have already reached the first chorus. It’s a jarring note to start off on, but one that is not necessarily unwelcome. The driven pace continues into the next track, “In Love with Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing),” a hypnotic number featuring the finest use of vocal effects on the album. As fascinating as these first two songs are, one can’t help but feel that this is a case of the parts being greater than the sum. Though Sunny Day presents some interesting ideas, it feels like there are far too many of them crammed into too little time, and in a way that does nott make a whole lot of sense.
But Sea When Absent isn’t all bad. These first two tracks are more of a stumble out of the gate, with Sunny Day finding a fairly firm footing for the remainder of the album. “Crushin” is the highlight of Side A, where the band is able to effectively transition from laid back ambiance into a rollicking guitar solo that feels like it’s been torn right out of Loveless.
In true shoegazing fashion, lyrics take a back seat, with Annie Frederickson’s vocals instead used as an additional instrument, conveying emotion through melody instead of words. Her gentle, airy voice can be compared to Elizabeth Fraser’s of Cocteau Twins, or to those of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, a band actually from Glasgow. While notable similarities between A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Chvrches do not end with the vocals, the difference between the two lies is within song structure, as Chvrches uses more conventional arrangements and A Sunny Day in Glasgow never seems particularly comfortable with following the verse-chorus-verse pattern or basic chord progressions.
Side B has its share of enjoyable tracks as well, namely “Boys Turn Into Girls (Initiation Rites)” and the anthemic “The Body, it Bends,” a soaring number that contains the perfect balance of accessible pop hooks and bizarre sound effects, leading this to this being the highlight of the album. Sea When Absent’s penultimate track “Oh, I’m a Wrecker (What to Say to Crazy People)” is the only other low point of the album, with Sunny Day once again unable to decide on a clear direction for their ideas. To bring the album to a close, “Golden Waves’” shimmering synths and layered vocals will call to mind M83’s introspective sound.
In an interview with the Village Voice, Sunny Day frontman explained the drama that filled the beginning of the recording process, including a broken leg and a search for a new lead singer. Such issues are paralleled in Sea When Absent; while cluttered early on, it manages to sort itself out, filling its remaining songs with gauzy instrumentations tinged with spacey psychadelia. While its unfamiliar chord progressions and less melodic moments can prove challenging, its beauty becomes more apparent after repeated listens.