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Review: A Sunny Day in Glasgow

By Christopher Bosman

With the advent of music piracy, MP3 players, and MySpace, the way listeners consume music has changed. In response to those changes, the music industry has shifted from albums to single songs, and there has been a revitalization of singles, 7”s, 12”s, and EPs. The members of A Sunny Day in Glasgow, however, have rejected that. Their second full-length project, the recently released Ashes Grammar is an Album. With a capital A. Songs flow into one another seamlessly, floating from one track to the next with careful planning. Certain elements spread throughout the entire album, giving it a sense of cohesion, like the eternally hazy vocals of newcomer Annie Frederickson, the delightful use of handclaps, and the inventive drumming of Josh Meakim.

Pacing, once one of the most important things to consider when tracklisting an album, now often an afterthought, is taken well into consideration here. It’s a good thing, too. While Ashes Grammar is undeniably pretty, it’s the pacing of the album that, mostly, keeps its shimmering gauze from becoming rote.

Proper opener, the inappropriately named “Slaughter Killing Carnage,” sets a template for most of the album: Gentle, ethereal vocals, an omnipresent electronic haze, and a fluid ebb and flow between tracks and even within the same song. Of course, twenty-two tracks of that would end up being a bit boring. Thankfully, there are tracks like “Failure,” which seems to take its cues from the recent explosion of Afro-pop bands with its thundering percussion and furiously strummed acoustic guitar chords, while still managing to sound undeniably like ASDiG.

Especially powerful is the one-two punch of “Evil, With Evil, Against Evil” and “The White Witch.” Placed directly in the center of the album, both tracks do enough to break from the standard formula to revitalize the album at its midpoint. The former actually seems, for the first time on Ashes Grammar, an honest to goodness song, forgoing the lolling breeziness for more structure and definition. The latter begins by copping Blur’s drumbeat from “Song #2” before taking it on a dream-pop ride, with cascading guitars and otherworldly vocal cries.

The second half of the album bogs down a bit as more songs begin to run into each other and ASDiG’s attempts to switch up their formula either sound half-hearted or simply fail. While the band likes to occasionally slip into darker moments, they usually manage to transmute them into something brighter and engaging. Therefore, when “Blood White” trudges in, sandwiched between two slices of glowing ambiance, and refuses to move from its dark, stereophonic flutters and incessant, chirping vocals, its four minutes become infinitely too long.

The latter half of the album boasts more single-worthy tracks (particularly “Starting At a Disadvantage” and “Nitetime Rainbows”), and the closer “Headphone Space” ends the proceedings on a high note. Despite that, it’s hard not to think that the album, with lowercase a, is hampered a bit by its desire to be an Album, with a capital A, like when the wonderful, lilting melody of “Disadvantage” is diluted by its similarity to tracks around it, barely salvaged by its plucked, slightly dissonant strings. While the style that A Sunny Day in Glasgow has cultivated is enjoyable, what makes the first half of the album so wonderful is its more surprising moments, something that fades down the stretch for Ashes Grammar.

 

 

To listen to Sunny Day in Glasgow, visit their MySpace page:

http://www.myspace.com/sunnydayinglasgow

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