Unstable band relations, an ever-changing musical landscape and a conversion to Christianity haven’t altered the focus of former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman Jeremy Enigk. Since the earliest days of his now-defunct emo rock band, Enigk has always written abstract portraits, creating scenes within a listener’s mind while still providing specific emotional depth and a strong and distinct voice to carry the whole thing. Such honest storytelling applied to his post-SDRE project, the Fire Theft, and it certainly applies to his second solo album, World Waits.
Although Enigk drops the grunge and prog-rock qualities of his other bands, he still provides Sunny Day Real Estate fans with a solid collection of songs to obsess over. In comparison to his previous solo effort, 1996’s The Return of the Frog Queen, World Waits is less influenced by chamber and orchestral music and driven more by a controlled rock sensibility that sometimes comes unhinged. However, though downplayed, those elements do still manifest throughout the album.
World Waits opens with the aptly titled “A New Beginning.” Epic and powerful, guitars and bells crash over a string section, one-upping Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s mix of rock and classical music in under 90 seconds. The following track, “Been Here Before” is slightly toned down by comparison, but no less enthralling.
While fellow `90s rock vocalists like Dave Grohl and Scott Weiland have aged, their voices losing both their edge and even their ability to hit notes, Enigk’s remains in fine form. His immaculate voice glides just as well over the soaring organs and pounding drums of “Been Here Before” as it did on his first SDRE 7", Thief, Steal Me a Peach.
The acoustic strum of “River to Sea” allows Enigk to mellow out as he reflects, "Turn around / your life is in your hands." The statement is simple, but true, especially for him. World Waits was actually released on Enigk’s own label, Lewis Hollow Recordings.
Midway through the album, “Damien Dreams” showcases the kind of fervor Enigk hasn’t truly worked up since Sunny Day Real Estate’s first full-length, Diary. Actually, a decent chunk of the material on World Waits dates back to 1995, when SDRE was still kicking out emotive jams. The actual moments of vocal pyrotechnics only last a few seconds, but they’re some of the best seconds any Enigk fan could hope for.
The title track and “Wayward Love” have a sort of Peter Gabriel vibe, but with a bit more whine to them. “Wayward Love” has some of the underlying percussive power of the Gabriel tune “Solsbury Hill,” while “World Waits” has the sentimental message and subdued instrumentation of something like “Don’t Give Up.” They are also like the aforementioned Gabriel songs in that they are beautiful to hear.
Going farther with the Gabriel comparison, Enigk has crafted a lush and intricate album on par with So or Peter Gabriel 1: Car. World Waits has 10 tracks of smart, well-crafted pop music. Like The Return of the Frog Queen, it’s a brief affair, closing in at around 36 minutes. But man is it a good, honest effort.