I first got into music back in the dial-up days. We didn’t have Spotify or Pandora; the closest thing we had to music streaming was our rich friend’s dad’s satellite radio. If we wanted to hear a specific song, we had to wait an hour or more to download it – yes, just one song. And there was nothing worse than spending hours waiting for a song to download, only for it to suck. Before adding anything to my Limewire queue, I needed assurance that it was gonna be worth it.
I spent hours a day poring over music sites, record label rosters, and liner notes, hoping to find bands that would be worth the download time. CPU processing was precious back then, and if you didn’t have an industrial cooling unit hooked up to your computer, downloading too many files at a time was a recipe for overheating your motherboard.
In my research, there was one band that I couldn’t escape: Sunny Day Real Estate. Nearly all of my favorite bands listed them as an influence. Any forum about emo gushed about them. A few authors even credited them with the genre’s genesis. I took a shot. I queued up “Friday,” and the rest, as they say, is history. Sunny Day Real Estate quickly became one of my favorite bands. From the punk energy of Diary to the prog-rock tinged How It Feels To Be Something On, every moment of their four-album discography was as close to perfect as emo got.
Lead singer Jeremy Enigk‘s solo output has been similarly brilliant, even if it lacked the fire of his full-band releases. His newest offering, Ghosts, has the same lush orchestration and anthemic songwriting that has marked all of his solo records, but there are more hints as to his hardcore punk roots than before.
The chamber pop of songs like “Empty Row” feel at home on his delightfully strange solo debut Return of the Frog Queen. “Victory,” with its plodding piano and bittersweet melody, is as heartbreaking a tune as anything on the masterful World Waits. The Beatles-esque “Ancient Worlds” is reminiscent of SDRE side project Fire Theft.
But there are a few moments where Enigk gets a little more rock and roll. “Sacred Fire” moves along with a driving beat about 20bpm faster than anything he’s done since the last Sunny Day album. “Amazing Worlds” sounds like an outtake from How It Feels to Be Something On. He even screams during “The Wait is Over” and “Onaroll.”
It’s tempting to say that this is Jeremy Enigk’s best solo record yet. And if it weren’t for the strength of those records, it’d be an easy statement to make. But in the face of such an impressive discography, it takes an incredible record to even stand toe to toe with the other albums. And make no mistake: this is an incredible record.