A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s previous record Autumn Again boasted the droll tag “2010 Pop Songs” on its front cover. Truth in advertising, on one level, but it was also the kind of deadpan joke the Philly sextet likes to incorporate into their song titles — a tacit acknowledgment, maybe that their uncanny, unclassifiable music remains perpetually overlooked. They’ve never sounded of a definitive physical time or place. And even permissive subgenre tags like “dream-pop” or “shoegaze” never quite nailed them; A Sunny Day In Glasgow was a genre of one.
Their fourth LP Sea When Absent still finds ASDIG in their own universe — they’ve just allowed the atmosphere to become more permeable. The reverb has been drastically cut back, the songs have been shortened and sharpened, and an outsider producer has been hired to give them context (Philly scenester Jeff Ziegler, who has also worked with War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and Nothing). Where Scribble Mural Comic Journal‘s “Things Only I Can See” summarized ASDIG’s insularity, now they’re revealing the pop album that always existed beneath Ben Daniels’s off-kilter, unorthodox tinkering. All of their unique qualities are pushed to the fore: song structures that jumble sugar and substance like an impulse-driven buffet goer, giddy vocals signifying the inexpressible joy of new love, and instruments that have no discernible physical origin.
The newfound focus also stresses ASDIG’s previously underrated malleability: they can swoon like Smokey (“Crushin’”), bang like hip-hop (“Golden Waves”) and channel pure rave ecstasy (“In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)”). They would’ve been in the right slapping “2014 pop songs” on Sea When Absent, but they also would’ve sold themselves short trying to put a tag on this weird, wonderful music.