Jeremy Enigk – [Album]

Thursday, 07 May 2009

This album is a study in the measurement of rain. And considering Jeremy Enigk hails from Seattle, that kind of makes sense. The former front man of the now-defunct (and somewhat ironically) named band Sunny Day Real Estate brings his fourth solo effort, Ok Bear, out into the murky filtered light of cloudy days. From dizzying drizzle of acoustic guitars that still hearkens the outdoors, to cloistered pattering of lonely pianos and ambient synth sounds, to torrential floods of booming drums and crackling electric guitars, Jeremy Enigk’s latest album Ok Bear is sure to keep you indoors close to your music machine on the nicest of days.

The album opens with “Mind Ideas,” which features enchanting and ambient harmonies mixed with moments of dissonance that works nicely with a piano streaming down the windowpanes. Touches of bands like Travis can be heard ever so subtly falling to the floor, but they don’t make themselves an overall presence. As a listener, you feel kind of cozy and wrapped up in the warmth of Enigk’s slightly sad vocals. And then “Late Of Camera” starts, and like so many earth-rattling thunderclaps, wakes you out of your reverie.

“Late of Camera” starts in destruction, with collapsing distorted guitars and drums that break long enough for Enigk to establish himself as being present, then everything dives in together, mashing up into one churning flood of sound. There are moments of pause where chimes gently sway and Enigk catches his breath, then we break back into heavy guitars. This one has a distinctive Smashing Pumpkins flavor to it, a bit of a standard chalkboard-diagramed alternative rock feel, but the dissonance does enough for originality you won’t be bored.

This drop back to mid-90’s alternative rock isn’t just felt with “Late of Camera.” It’s a theme carried by songs like “Life’s Too Short.” Enigk’s voice is filtered through yellowed glass and has an aged reel-to-reel recording sound. There’s a good weight to this; it has the heft of many instruments and backup vocals doing many things but doesn’t feel burdened. “In a Look,” which rests a little further down the play list, has a very progressive, modern opening that fades back to make room for heavily distorted guitars that hearken back to the simpler times of the 1990’s and it’s alt/grunge rock fascination. Enigk’s voice, which can at times feel a little over the top, fits well here. It takes you back to the days of Soundgarden, the Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus, and maybe Audioslave before Chris Cornell started making very bad pop music.

But before you break back out your Doc Martins and your season series of Friends, remember 1. No one should ever do those things, EVER, and 2. There’s another side to this album’s sound.

“Just a State Of Mind” falls hazily back into sleepy acoustic pluckings and tambourines dripping in the background, sounds found on his previous album The Missing Link. This follows “Life’s Too Short,” which, when combined, feels a bit like we tripped back to Woodstock, with the hippy-esqueness of this song, and the thick rock mentality of the previous track. This builds into hopeful shoegazer sound with touches of sadness. Enigk’s voice just feels like he’s forcing it a bit on the slow songs, but there’s still the earnestness needed for such music. Following this is “Sandwich Time.” I’m not going to lie, I was very hopeful this would be about a pastrami on rye (it’s not). This number features slow movements with pianos and Enigk’s voice questioning people who are just ghosts. Scuttling background noise adds texture to this sleepy little ditty that takes on whimsical tones and touches of carnival swirling sounds (but you’d kind of expect it with a song called “Sandwich Time”).

Towards the end the sleepy, almost emo-movements play the anchor for the album. After a track titled “Restart” (which is almost like a reset button for the album. It’s upbeat and light, sunny even, unlike, well, everything else on this album) follows “Make Believe,” which I mention only because Enigk channels Bob Dylan so much here it’s scary. Put on “It Ain’t Me Babe” by Dylan after listening to “Make Believe” and try not to freak out in amazement. “Vale Oso” plays the part of penultimate song, and it does its job well. Its very slow, introspective, holy; a hazy drizzle of a song. The guitars are reminiscent of hymns in a Spanish church. Enigk’s voice here is stripped, humble, awed. Touches of ambient sound light down on the track like so many feathers forgotten. And finally finishing the torrent of sound is possibly the most profound song on the album: “Sant Feliu de Guixols,” which I can’t pronounce but I like. It’s a waltz for lonely dancers played out on piano. It’s sweet and mournfully sad, like memories of lost true loves. Other instruments, guitars, drums, ambient synthesizers all join the dance in perfect choreography.

Don’t be afraid to get drenched in the audible downpour that is Ok Bear by Jeremy Enigk. This is a case where it is indeed fun to play in the rain.


Jeremy Enigk – “Mind Idea” – [mp3]
Jeremy Enigk – “Life’s Too Short” – [mp3]

OK Bear is out now
. Buy it on Amazon.

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