Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sunny Day Real Estate

Diary (1994)

Sub Pop Records

Some albums leave that mark on you, something forever etched, imprinting words that showed why music is and will always be...a science, an art, a labor of love...and simply put, pure unadulterated passion. In essence, these particular records show that music is...well, it's something more. I'll let you in on a little secret. A year or so ago, I suffered a mental breakdown (family, friends and love issues —— the whole nine) and well, depression set in, in the worst way possible —— and one of the bands that pulled me out this slump was Sunny Day Real Estate. They were the definition of substance and Diary embodied that in spades. It was an album I was addicted to in the 2000s (when I understood more about life) and a record that I forgot about as life passed by. I didn't forget about it because it lacked quality —— in fact it's the total opposite. It was jammed with heart and soul and comforted all your anger and despair. The reason it slipped away from me is because as I matured, I lost a lot of that heart, and a lot of myself along the way. These tracks, however, were the magic and the light that brought me back.

Diary reminded me a lot of myself growing up, struggling and longing to find a place in the world in the 90s and 2000s. It was a coming—of—age album back then and come 2013, there I was — heartbroken, a hopeless romantic, wistful but still, fighting for a sense of optimism and for those pieces of me I desperately had to regain. Then I remembered I could turn to SDRE and the memories came flooding back. It was the best friend I hadn't spoken to in ages. It further spoke to me as music that indicated where I wanted to be —— somewhere better. It transitioned from being a playbook to being a remedy. Jeremy Enigk had that kind of power and this album showed why. The inception of Diary is rife with a revolving lineup and uncertainty as to who should front the band and be the final product. The band struggled with their identity and how to shape their debut and this shows up at times in the incoherent music, but this kind of non—linearity and abstract, muddled mess often yield something beautiful. Think I'm wrong? Listen to "Seven". SDRE to me were my personal pioneers for emo. They crafted lovely melodic rock and roll with quiet, twinkly melodies and then brought me crashing back down to earth with dynamic, heavy and complex guitars. I often don't like discussing who influenced them or who SDRE influenced but if I had to explain it to you, I'd say go pick up records from Penfold, Mineral, American Football, Small Brown Bike, Braid and The Promise Ring.

The slow builds into loud chaotic rhythms were a formula they mastered and something which I think really drove the emo—revival (and yes, let me never died). Diary was a template many bands pulled from but dare not carbon copy because something so real (while not totally unique) is hard to capture. Amid the multitude of lineup shifts, the reunions, the leaked music and the ever—present rumors of NEW albums, these all punctuated that the carousel of news regarding these guys will always have us up in arms craving more SDRE. Why not? They live on in so many bands. You can hear the twinkly vibe in Jimmy Eat World records at all turns and also, the passion that Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith injected into Foo Fighters to this very day are hard to ignore. Oddly enough, Texas Is The Reason and Foo were in my player last week and I kept thinking of Enigk. I had to immediately dive back into "In Circles" and it dawned again how they really laid the law down for variant tempos, slow to fast to melodic, brilliant backup/dual vocals and all in all, drowned you in emotion. Sure, the tracks are kind of long but Enigk as a poet needed this to elaborate on his driving guitars and a musical focus assembled to tell the band's character and true nature. Helped on by Goldsmith's smacking, clean kitwork and Dan Hoerner's slicing guitars, it proved an aura hard to imitate. "48" showed another nice feature in their diversity — from distant to heavy to contemplative. In short, SDRE revealed how to be full of range while singing about love, loss and life in a soothing, drawn—out and hard—hitting manner.

"Pheurton Skeurto" as a throwback to Cap'n Jazz also impressed me because it reminded that they didn't want to swarm and allowed a breather —— something their follow—up records kind of lacked. "Grendel" also lofted the user into a musical interlude a la Thursday which again got me thinking how many vocalists were influenced by the relatable Enigk and the arrangements SDRE laid down on the whole. Their distinct, clean and well—produced music was interspersed with so many connective, personal daggers and fluctuating sounds that could touch the fabric of a post—punk fan, a post—hardcore fan and well, an emo fan. Even the demo—tracks and bonuses on the reissue had an enormous amount of the raw energy that made the band one of those that had mainstream prowess yet had you silently wanting to keep them as your own hidden gem.

As Enigk's style and religious stance evolved, many said they lost their essence but to me, they still remained solid. It's just so fucking difficult to reimagine something like Diary. You're left in its shadow and that must have been very intimidating. "Lipton Witch" this year was a sign that good things still remained but it was up to SDRE to explore. Would they? Could they? That's when Diary comes back into the fold. It's like the first love you never get over. SDRE helped coin what emo meant and will always mean musically, to me. They paved the way for my high school days with Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, JEW and The Used and now, this track remains open for so many emo bands to walk through (queue Evan Weiss and the lot of them). This pathway must be noted as one that leaves me grateful and sincerely humbled to have listened to such a powerful group that will resonate with me until I'm gone.

In ending, to SDRE, I'd like to say —— thank you for your diary. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was saved by it.