Sunny Day Real Estate - How It Feels To Be Something On (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sunny Day Real Estate

How It Feels To Be Something On (1998)

Sub Pop Records

FACT: emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate pretty much broke up in between all four of their albums. These dudes just could not get along, which bums me out since I consider their three proper LPs (the leftovers that constitute “the Pink Album” don’t quite count in my opinion) to be some of the best songwriting this side of the universe. Diary will always be my first love, but the ambience, spirituality and groove of How It Feels To Be Something On sit mighty well with me too.

The aggression is used sparingly here, so you really feel it more when it does come about. Generally, though, this one is probably the closest in spirit to the orchestral indie gospel folk hodge-podge of frontman Jeremy Enigk’s solo work. Earnest, strident, U2-like bands were plentiful in the ’90s (wassup Live?), but few could add/match the slinking atmosphere of How It Feels, not even U2 themselves.

Opener “Pillars” is cool like a snowman with a leather jacket and nothing to prove. Contrast it with “Seven,” from Diary, for proof of how far the band has progressed from its grungy roots. “Pillars” is downright ominous, opening with otherworldly guitar ‘n’ drums. Bass flits around while Enigk chants. This song is felt, but it would be darn hard to throw oneself into it. When it finally explodes, it’s earner. Same thing happens all over again with “Roses in Water.”

How It Feels rarely rocks directly. Rather, it’s almost prog-rock the way it convulses; sometimes it even goes folk style, as heard on the dreamy “Every Shining Time You Arrive.” Of course, the record does approach noise every so often, such as on the title track and “The Shark’s Own Private Fuck,” a veiled shot at former/current bassist Nate Mendel (who, let’s be fair, went for job security with Foo Fighters. Can’t blame him given how many times SDRE broke up). Overall, though, this album confounds whatever expectations Diary and LP2 created. Born of frustration, How It Feels is one of the best records of ’90s, whether we’re talking emo, indie rock or alternative.