This year may need more to save it, but a new Sunny Day in Glasgow release is a more-than-welcome improvement. Of course there are many other experimental dream-pop gazers afoot, and many are superb in their own right (pinkshinyultrablast, No Joy, Helen, Wildhoney). But this band still lays claim to a spittin-in-a-jet-engine gleeful class all its own. I’d argue that the pop songwriting on this double EP (supposedly relatively hastily put together) rivals a lot of the best pop music clamoring about our psyche wherever we go. And this group’s uncanny pop/art damage avalanche-surfing is only getting better, despite the continued geographical separation of its members. A newly piercing sort of bliss is happening here amidst the trademark disruption, and it’s one that the humble presentation and jokey vibes serve to heighten rather than temper.
These songs reside in a realm of unabashed homecoming, the familial revelers kicking out and shaking the walls despite peripherally wary eyes clocking stress cracks. The quaintly mocking notion of “planning weed like it’s acid” and the world-weary-bordering-on-cynical notion of “life is loss” are shims for the same rickety table we all want a place at. It’s buzzing with activity. The “is” and “it’s” are lowercase, suggesting (beyond grammar considerations) a through-line of temporality as the enemy of aphorisms both silly and solemn. Everything is true, nothing is. Everything is great, nothing is. Amidst great doubt we are (god willing) in movement. Our easy smiles betray our infinite gratitude for the tender clamor of bodies in common industry. Noise and confusion, our fair due; noise and confusion, our favorite sound.
As consistently outstanding as their discography is (2007’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal and Tout New Age, 2009’s breakthrough Ashes Grammar, 2010’s Autumn, Again, and a staggering comeback in 2014 with Sea When Absent), A Sunny Day in Glasgow have a tendency to top themselves each time around. For a fully-streaming, somewhat informal release, Planning Weed is of that unmistakable sort of top-to-bottom replayable quality that imperceptibly turns my money into pieces of plastic (this one’s just on CD so far). I’ve never heard songs so twee and so epic all at once, with elephantine swinging hooks like Leatherface (RIP Gunnar) coming at you just when you thought the party was in the thresher (yeah that’s me over here, mixin’ my horror analogies). Twenty or so listens in and it’s becoming clear that these nine Rubik’s bullets to yr <3 are each dumbfounding wonders unto themselves. Nevertheless, I must single out “Follow Me (Only)” as a new favorite in the canon of exceptional ASDIG tracks. It starts like Walkmen, then turns a bit Strawberry Jam, but quickly blossoms into something more infectious and panoramic than both combined. There is an intense feeling in the tight space of the main vocal, as it’s hectored by moaning robo voices of what seems another song, the moans gradually morphing into a command of “rise up.” The main vocal then finds itself a (temporary) clearing and a new melody. Just as a fetchingly unwieldy framework emerges, the song subsides for a lovely 40-second space rock outro. This song is like experiencing the best kiss you ever had and dying before you ever have to miss it.
It’s almost upsetting how accessible these songs are, as there’s nothing normal about them either — not even for this band. They pelt you with maximalist confetti as you navigate the winding roads to comprehension of their structure. Sometimes this structure is glimpsed, sometimes it falls away completely for a delectably refined wall of neon fuzz and bludgeoning skree (check that interlude 1:14 in on “Bimbo”). A Sunny Day in Glasgow continue as forerunners of the shoegaze/dream-pop game, because they are the most restless innovators of either camp. They are obviously reverent of the classic modes, but far from beholden to them. These six men and women continue to make music of action and surprise, of engagement through harrowing, joyous deconstruction. Where A Sunny Day in Glasgow are concerned, the ubiquitous yearn-inducing sounds of massive, tingling potentiality are not so placidly curatorial. You’ve never heard these songs before, and it seems safe to say you’ll never hear anything like them again.