Bright Skies

The main difference between Sunny Day Real Estate's 1998 release, How It Feels to Be Something On, and its just-released The Rising Tide, lies in the lyrical content: On How It Feels, singer-lyricist Jeremy Enigk focused his very cerebral and very born-again perspective on a love relationship; on the latter, he focuses his very cerebral and very born-again perspective on the overall human condition. Accepting Enigk's tendency toward vocal grandiloquence and overly literal lyrics as necessary, um, evils resulting from his perspective, The Rising Tide is a cathartic journey during which Enigk attempts to empathize with and inspire other poor souls weathering what he clearly perceives as the storm that is life.

In the eight years since Sunny Day Real Estate formed, its songs have grown longer and more musically complex, while maintaining Enigk's critical-yet-hopeful bent. The Rising Tide kicks off on Enigk's dark side with the sonically and lyrically disturbing "Killed by an Angel" ("Welcome to the lonesome world of Abel/Where every brother's knife is set to slay you"). But hope returns on "One," a song with a somewhat trite message about unity that nonetheless relieves the cringe brought on by "Killed by an Angel." And from here, the album grows increasingly optimistic with every song -- with the lone exception of "Snibe," an anthem ridden with early U2 elements, from the Edge-y guitars to the Larry Mullen Jr.-style drums to the overtly political theme ("Snibe is the greed of money and power," Enigk says in the album's press kit. "Snibe is in all of us.").

It's during the group's sunnier moments that Sunny Day Real Estate is at its best. "Rain Song" -- the only relationship-focused song on the album, and a mostly positive take on love, despite the pain that inevitably accompanies it -- beautifully overlaps two lead guitar lines (a common Sunny Day technique); one line is sweet, the other a little bitter, resulting in a melancholic flavor that perfectly complements the song's message. "The Ocean" and "Tearing in My Heart" do the same, blending melodic, bittersweet music with contemplative lyrics. But it's the last two songs on The Rising Tide that bring the listener to the crest of the album's wave. "Faces in Disguise," which communicates the desire for an escape from our flawed world, is nearly euphoric, achieving a serene, watery quality that comes from reverbed synth effects and Enigk's uncommonly smooth vocals. The title track (and album closer) is essentially a second part to "Faces in Disguise"; if "Faces" expresses the desire for rapture, "The Rising Tide" fulfills it -- this is where redemption comes. The title says it all.