By Garrett Strickler
Artist: A Sunny Day In Glasgow
Album: Sea When Absent
Label: Lefse Records
Released: June 24, 2014
In Glasgow, fall, winter and spring all average around just two to three hours of sunlight per day and there’s nearly always some form of precipitation.
These conditions would surely give any actual sunny days in Glasgow a certain significance and would probably give residents of the city a sense of obligation to seize and take full advantage of these few days out of their year.
A sunny day wasted on deciding what to do, bickering with friends or otherwise under appreciated would give way to a unique sense of melancholic disappointment. That feeling of wishing your precious sunny day could have been just a little better, a little more salient, is what it feels like listening to “Sea When Absent.” There are plenty of sublime moments throughout the album, but the record struggles to carry it’s own weight between the high points.
While ASDIG continue expanding upon their unique brand of shoegaze-pop, “Sea When Absent” feels distinctly different from the band’s previous releases as it marks a shift toward a more analog aesthetic. There are fewer tracks that rely on drum machines as the primary means of percussion, and gone are the synthy, ambient interlude tracks that have peppered their previous records. These modifications to the band’s sound pay dividends over the course of the record and work particularly well on the steady, laid-back tracks like “Crushin’,” “The Body, It Bends” and “Golden Waves.”
Not so coincidentally, these down tempo, groove-centered songs are the best cuts from the album. It’s clear that ASDIG feel an obligation to include segments of ambience and electronic experimentation in order to distinguish themselves from the radio-friendly, indie-pop circuit where some perusing listeners may be tempted to include them.
At times these segments feel forced (the stuttering bridge of “In Love With The Useless,” the meandering, out-of-rhythm “The Things They Do To Me” consistently drown out vocals) and at others they feel like intentional moments of depth that become more meaningful on repeated listens (the slightly out of tune vocals on album opener “Bedbye, Big Ocean” and the laughter at the end of “Double Dutch” ).
The band finds success at numerous points throughout the LP, but between highlights they seem content to wander around aimlessly with their newly discovered “real” instruments. At times it feels like the drummer and bassist are left alone on an island with little more than a synth flourish or a flimsy guitar and no real purpose, only the instruction to “just keep playing.”
However, this kind of overall sonic development from an already well-established band should be a good sign of things to come and will almost certainly translate to a better live performance. The record isn’t perfect, but there are also a handful of truly great moments not to be missed.
Ultimately, “Sea When Absent” is best enjoyed like any sunny day in any city: with optimism and gratitude.