Words by Dan Singer
A Sunny Day in Glasgow has been making noisy, experimental dream pop for eight years now, but I only joined the party about three weeks ago. Thanks to Pitchfork’s insistence that I stream the band’s new album, Sea When Absent, I checked out the lead single “In Love with Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)” and was instantly captivated by its sprawling, swirling mess of synths and reverb-drenched vocals. I was curious as to how the six-piece — which wrote Sea over email threads and was spread across two continents — could pull it off in a live setting. Would the verses still glitch like futuristic alien transmissions? Would the floor rattle from the onslaught of fuzz that shows up in the back half?
As it turns out, “In Love with Useless” was the first and weakest song A Sunny Day in Glasgow played at DC9 on Sunday night. It felt rushed, and the ethereal vocal hooks from Jen Goma and Annie Fredrickson lost their impact when the mix drowned them out almost entirely. There are bound to be some kinks to work out when a band whose members spent much of the past year apart is on the second night of its tour, but I expected a disappointing set would ensue. Luckily, A Sunny Day in Glasgow has a lot more to offer than one strong single, and once the band hit its stride the results were both engaging and blissful.
Sea When Absent tracks “Crushin’” and “The Body, It Bends” added some much-needed clarity to the haze with tight R&B grooves during the set’s most lively stretch. When the band amped up the fuzz it sounded more like Sleigh Bells than shoegaze, but in the best way possible. Every so often a song would unexpectedly dovetail into an intense coda or a thick burst of noise, and these twists gave a restlessness to A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s music that makes it stand out compared to other bands that work with similar textures but leave them static. By the time the set ended with “Shy,” I was more than satisfied. A Sunny Day in Glasgow may be too sprightly and erratic for every My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive fan to embrace, but it pushes the soundscapes those bands perfected into the modern age, allowing them to evolve and mutate in rewarding ways.
I’ll also add that I was very impressed with local openers Cigarette, who stuck with traditional dream pop tropes but nailed the execution. With three equally airy voices floating over rich, melodic chord progressions, Cigarette was a calm and likable appetizer in advance of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s controlled chaos.