You know how some records just beg to be played on nighttime drives? Ack, sorry I asked. It’s a well-flagellated cliché to describe certain music — anything Bristol Sound, The xx, Tindersticks, and so on — as “three-AM music” or the like. Well, Autumn, Again, the newest musical dispatch from the ultra-industrious and under-appreciated A Sunny Day in Glasgow, feels like six-AM music. I don’t mean hungover, still-dark-outside six AM; I mean the matutinal moments experienced by voluntary early risers — the only part of the day when, to paraphrase my grandfather, no one’s come around and messed it up yet.
After a frosty synth loop, “Fall in Love” hits like the first gust of dew-laden air through a garden door onto bathrobe-clad skin. Zube Tube guitars and combustible percussion flurry over spiraling girl-vocals, precipitating flawless amethyst pop. Autumn, Again sounds a little as though Ben Daniels and his shifting cast of comrades planted the opening 10 seconds of the impeccable My Bloody Valentine song “I Only Said” in soft, moist loam and tended it till shrub-sized. Accordingly, the album seems in constant danger of becoming too pretty, but its concision and bounty of hooks ensure that its snowflake sonics never turn to lace armchair covers.
The album was apparently conceived as an outlet for songs deemed too immediate to have found a place on last year’s grand Ashes Grammar and distributed for free as an offering to their growing fanbase. Daniels et al. were right to excise these pure pop numbers from that more atmospheric work, but Autumn is by no means a lesser addition to their discography. The textural bent of their previous LPs sometimes obfuscated the assured songwriting hanging behind all the haze, here given the space to gleam. “How does somebody say when they like you?” comes off like the sultry second cousin of The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love,” while “Moments on the lawn” frisks over a beat that could easily support a rapped verse or two in another context. The lyrics, though empty and utilitarian more often than not, never cloy or work against the swooning thrust of the songs.
The clarity of the recording draws attention to the vocals — a staple of the band since Daniels’ twin sisters sang in its earliest Philly incarnation — upping the Slumberland quotient, with the band even sounding a bit like a White Lodge version of Black Tambourine in a couple spots. The album’s centerpiece (and the earliest-written song in this collection), “Drink drank drunk,” would plummet into a shoegaze quagmire were it not for Annie Fredrickson’s vocals pulling it welkin-ward. They ice the tops of these delicate constructions.
Autumn, Again is a rarely dynamic dream-pop album, an ideal caffeinated companion to birch skies and stubbly faces. It is a secret pleasure like the sound of a sleeping town and the feeling of control that comes with the first morning light.