Philadelphia dream pop outfit A Sunny Day In Glasgow is as prone to creating beautiful music as they are to making something nebulous and disorienting. And believe me, I mean that in a good way. The group of three siblings and two friends carry on a longtime but low-key tradition of Philadelphia shoegazer pop, a legacy carried on by the likes of The Lilys and Mazarin, but with broader and more experimental tendencies. The group is just as likely to cite composers like Arvo Part or Steve Reich as influences as they are pop groups. And they put as much gorgeous detail in minor instrumental pieces as they do in their big, lushly arranged pop songs.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s second album, Ashes Grammar, is a prime example of how fluid and meticulous a piece of art the band is capable of constructing. It’s an album composed of 22 tracks, some of them pop songs, some of them brief interludes, but it flows seamlessly almost as one sole piece of music. It begins with a ten second abstract piece that flows into another brief a cappella track, but it’s not until the third track, “Slaughter Killing Carnage (The Meaning of Words)” that the listener is really treated to a fully-formed song. And it’s not until track four, “Failure” that the listener is treated to a song with a hook. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s such a gorgeous and sensuous journey through the group’s layers of electronic effects and vocal harmonies that structure seems almost secondary.
When the group does opt for a more structured song, however, the results are absolutely sublime. The aforementioned “Failure” bubbles with electronic precipitation before shuffling into a reverb-heavy stomp. Immediately thereafter, A Sunny Day In Glasgow unleashes a woozy shoegazer disco, filtering My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins-style dream pop through a danceable lens, making for something both high on energy and heavy on sonic ecstasy. Stretching past six minutes in length, it’s the albums longest track, but it builds gradually into a stunning piece of work, reaching soaring climaxes during its choruses, in which the Daniels sisters’ vocals become an ethereal but haunting element that completely makes the song. Meanwhile, “Shy” pulses along a motorik rhythm before flowering into a sunny, surreal slow-dazzle. And “The White Witch” loops for a bit before unleashing a graceful and innocent verse.
As one sets his ear to the sweet tones of Ashes Grammar, the listener can just as easily take close notice of each song and each movement or just lay back and let the ongoing rush of music wash over him. Either option is a winning one, as it’s just so lovely an album that, like a peanut butter cup perhaps, there’s no wrong way to appreciate it.
Asobi Seksu – Citrus
Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
MP3: “Ashes Maths”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.