Sunny Day Real Estate
by Chad Jewett
“Lipton Witch,” a Record Store Day single splitting sides with Circa Survive, is our first new listen from Sunny Day Real Estate since 2000. More intriguingly, it’s the band’s first new release since the late-2000’s rediscovery of their first two albums and the renaissance wave of emo that held the band as a standard bearer. As such, the song is something of a mini-event, on par with, and in some ways exceeding the new songs that began to trickle out from Braid in 2011, or whatever American Football has cooking in a few days (my money is on a tour, but I’ll take a new album, thanks!). Braid’s problems always seemed surmountable, even if it was a blessing to have them back and a gift to discover the ways they’ve warmed their ultra-cerebral mathematics into something a humanities major might take to (I still listen to the gorgeous Closer To Closed as much as the vaunted Frame & Canvas). But Sunny Day kept coming back in half-steps that seemed self-defeating. To use a basketball analogy, they were Steve Nash – a former MVP who kept coming back hurt and leaving worse off.
The joy of “Lipton Witch” is, thus, in its brightness. Gone are the prickly, overwhelmed guitars of Diary, the hidden tunnels and nervy idiosyncrasies of LP2. Instead, we’re given whole-chorded major key expansiveness, springtime college rock rooted in reedy strums that you could liken to Archers of Loaf, or Promise Ring, or Samiam, or Superchunk and on and on. There’s even an Alternative Nation aura to the cover art of the disc, the kind of early 80s Star Wars comic book image that ends up getting photocopied into a show flyer. There are similar intangibles in the song itself. If you were of a certain predilection in the mid-90s you were listening to Foo Fighters for traces of Diary. It’s now 2014 and you can’t help but hear “Lipton Witch” with the post-grunge caramel coating of There Is Nothing Left to Lose. If Sunny Day Real Estate has ever gestured outward, it’s on “Lipton Witch.” If they’ve ever really looked to embrace us under conditions other than adjacent emotional devastation, it’s on this record (there’s a telling collectivism in a line like “This world is breathing, this world is dead I know / Let’s keep this secret, so we can take control”). Jeremy Enigk’s melodies are direct and theatrical and stirring. The song is a delight to listen to — a lovely surprise in every sense of the word.