by Hobey Echlin
Sunny Day Real Estate makes soaring melodic indie rock the way the Good Lord intended it -- literally. Singer Jeremy Enigk found God a few years back and broke up the first incarnation of this Seattle quartet soon-after, only to carry on his anthemic(!) songwriting with a chamber orchestra(!!) to make 1996's Return of the Frog Prince. Now back in full rock mode (sort of) the reunited Sunny D's still favor weird time changes and top-heavy melodies, so much so that at times Enigk still seems to be in medieval music mode; between songwriter's Gregorian drone and equally purple lyricism on "Two Promises," and other tunes he and the band sound more like men in tights than tight rockers. The bounty, however, of such indulgence is plentiful; the gorgeous energy at the close of "Rose In the Water" is an utterly unafraid finale to an equally unafraid song that hasn't been heard in rock since the grand, heartfelt passion-meets-power of pre-Fugazi Washington D.C. emo-core a decade ago.
But some of the real treats here are the quieter moments; when Enigk sings "wanna change everything" in a tender falsetto on "Every Shining Time You Arrive," he seems to know he can't. Then when the harpsichord kicks in and the whole thing trods as proudly as a J.R.R. Tolkien hero, it's clear this ain't some standard post-grunge wank. Like Jeff Buckley if he was more into Lord of the Rings than Led Zeppelin, Enigk is a tousled-haired hero lit up by his own possibilities and weaknesses. It's uncanny that on "The Prophet" Enigk sings "will you carry me across the sea" while the band crashes majestically between wide-eyed melodies and wide-open runs; besides being the album's apex, it makes the fact that Buckley drowned last summer eerily coincidental. But more importantly, it shows just how well Sunny Day Real Estate can avoid the myths of rock to wind up in a place altogether more satisfyingly mythical.