Press: Ashes Grammar
Metromix Des Moines
A Sunny Day in Glasgow got its start in Philadelphia when founders Ben Daniels and Ever Nalens returned to their home city after living in the United Kingdom for several years. The band earned some early acclaim when indie music site Pitchfork Media gave the band’s debut album, “Scribble Mural Comic Journal” an 8.0 out of 10, high praise from the notoriously stingy review site.
This week ASDIG has a new EP, “Nitetime Rainbows,” and a gig in Des Moines Thursday at the Vaudeville Mews. Daniels answered a few questions via e-mail while on the road.
Q: On your fall tour the band got in three car accidents in three days. Was there any worry that the entire tour might be problematic, or that you might be cursed?
A: Haha, those first three car accidents were all very minor and more funny (can a car accident be funny?). I actually felt like the last tour was charmed or something. There were no massive problems. We did get in a “proper” car accident in New Orleans where a guy ran a red light and drove right into us on the driver side. It could have been a lot worse than it was (as the driver could have easily been killed). And then, on a positive note, the shows were all fantastic.
Q: Tell me about the “Nitetime Rainbows” EP. Was this material that was worked on while making “Ashes Grammar,” or more recent compositions?
A: This is all stuff that we started with “Ashes Grammar.” We started recording close to 35-plus songs and after about six weeks Josh (Meakim, guitarist) and I realized we needed to cut back or else the album would never get done. So these songs were all put on hold. There’s another whole album’s worth of songs from this time as well. We’re working on getting these done for later too.
Q: You’re playing Glasgow in May. Has the band played there before, and if so what kind of reaction have you gotten?
A: We’ve played in Glasgow twice and it’s like playing in your hometown or at your best friend’s house. They are so nice to us and we love playing there. The first time we played there, there were only three of us and we had to borrow instruments and play with drum beats on an iPod. It was a terrible show, but the crowd was so nice and they even made us play an encore and then everyone just hung out with us for the rest of the night.
The next time we came back with the full band and played a sold-out show that was attended by Stephen Pastel and members of Teenage Fanclub, which was kind of mind-blowing.
Urban Outfittersmp3 post
Pitchfork The Top 50 Albums of 2009: #42
The term “dream-pop” has been bandied about for the better part of 25 years now, but it may just as well have been invented to describe Ashes Grammar. Sure, Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 and Slowdive and whoever else made “dreamy” music, but they also made more or less linear records comprised of 10 to 12 tracks mostly falling in the three-to-five-minute range (Pygmalion excepted). The emphasis there fell squarely on the pop half of the descriptor, with pretty effects and leisurely tempos merely serving as signifiers– much the same way gauze around the lens signifies dream-time happenings in old movies.
Ashes, on the other hand, sprawls across 22 tracks, ranging from 10 seconds in length to six and a half minutes. Sometimes it seizes on a sound that makes you go “wow,” and sometimes it just drifts along, unfolding with its own otherworldly logic. There are linguistic flights of fancy (“fall forward, feel failure”), bits of apparent nonsense, fragments and clips of phrases and distant, half-remembered old tunes. In short it’s very much the dream experience, rather than the dream representation, in recorded form. You’re not always fully cognizant of what you’re hearing. You just know you like the way it feels, and there are times when you wish it could inhabit your headspace in perpetuity. –Matthew Solarski
A Sunny Day in Glasgow made a post-Ashes Grammar appearance at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan with new singer Jen Goma.
Under the RadarA Sunny Day in Glasgow Best of the Decade Artist Survey
A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Top Ten Albums of the Decade
1. The Knife: Silent Shout (Deluxe Edition)—Specifying the Deluxe Edition because of the live album that comes with it, which I think is actually better than the studio album. The version of “Heartbeats” from the live record is the most beautiful song of the decade. But the album itself is nearly perfect (I think). Every song sits together so well and it really just feels like its own little dark and beautiful world.
2. Xiu Xiu: La Forêt—There were a bunch of years during this decade where I kind of gave up playing any music at all. But I started listening to La Forêt all of the time and I just got so into it, it made me want to start playing music again (thank you, Xiu Xiu!). It’s funny too, because I lost my copy of this record after a year or so, and I haven’t really listened to it since 2006, maybe? I remember more how I felt listening to it than I remember how the actual songs go.
3. Boards of Canada: Geogaddi—I don’t really have anything profound or novel to say about this record, but I listened to it a ton this decade and it’s easily one of my favorite records of all time. ASDiG gets asked about what “dream-pop” bands we like all of the time and I always mention Boards of Canada. I guess people think of them as IDM or whatever, but I don’t feel like anyone would/should object to calling these guys dream pop. This record is super dreamy. I also like this kind of dark, occult/math theme running through it. Math is cool.
4. Panda Bear: Person Pitch—”I’m Not” is maybe the second most beautiful song of the decade? This record is also kind of perfect, I think.
5. Björk: Vespertine—I really love how delicate the music is on this record. Also, I have always wanted someone to write a song where they sing “I love him I love him I love him I love him” and have it be about me. Sigh
6. Caribou: Up in Flames—This record always seemed to me like it felt “modern” without trying to be “modern.” I’m not even sure what that means, but I love this record so much and it was all I listened to for a year or so.
7. Daft Punk: Discovery—The fun songs on this record are probably the funnest songs released in my lifetime. But then the moody ones are there too. And even the straight up fun ones have at least a moment of drama or something that pulls back a little which just makes it even better. Anytime I listen to this record I always catch myself smiling constantly.
8. Ulrich Schnauss: A Strangely Isolated Place—Every song on this record is so lush and gorgeous, I feel like it should make you desensitized to that kind of sound, but for me there was always this really human element to this record. “In All the Wrong Places” is just so emotional, gets me all the time.
9. Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit—I have so many wonderful memories from this decade where these albums were playing in the background or that happened while I was listening to these records. I took this epic trip around Scotland and Sweden with my friend Naomi right after Dear Catastrophe Waitress came out and she brought it along. Always makes me think of those good times.
10. The Clientele: Suburban Light—This one may not count because it’s a collection of singles from 1997-1999, but it came out in 2000. This band is so great, and I think this is their best record. “(I Want You) More Than Ever” is too good.
Top Album of 2009
1. jj: no. 2—I moved to Sydney, Australia in September, and I’ve been really kind of depressed because I missed so much autumn and I don’t really know anyone in Sydney. But this record has been really cheering me up. “Masterplan” is my favorite song of the year. It’s hard to say after this record. I’ve liked so much stuff this year, I feel like it’s been an exceptionally good year for music, but nothing has really grabbed me as much as the jj record.
What was the high point of the last decade for you, personally?
After Scribble Mural Comic Journal came out, we got a one line email from Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins saying something like “Hey, this is great!” He probably sent 10 of those that day to random bands, but I don’t know, it really meant the world to me. Really loved getting to live in London for a couple years too.
What was the low point of the last decade for you, personally?
Panic attacks and art school (tied).
What are your hopes and plans for the next decade?
I kind of feel like I will be surprised if I am alive at the end of the next decade. I can’t imagine going through something like the past decade again. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just can’t believe everything (good and bad) that happened in the past decade. I guess I would hope that something makes sense to me in the ’10s.
Which artist and their music do you think most defines the last decade and why?
I feel Beyoncé was always there, either with Destiny’s Child or on her own. She’s probably the person I will most associate with this decade.
Which musical trend or scene from the last decade do you feel was most overrated/overhyped? Which one was most underrated/under-hyped?
I feel as though no one really deserves anything, and therefore, everything is perfect in terms of hype/rating.
Do you think what is considered “indie rock” is different than it was when the decade started? With the commercial strides made in the past decade, how do you think the definition of “indie” rock has changed?
Probably. I don’t really remember what it meant in 2000 though, or really what it means now. But god, I would hope a genre would evolve over a 10-year period. The definition of “indie” has probably just broadened over the past 10 years.
What big issues and challenges do you foresee musicians and the music industry facing in the next decade?
No idea. Thinking or talking about any kind of “industry” is just too tedious to me. The only aspect of music making that I am even half good at is the actual making of music. But history tells us that most musicians are almost always broke, so I bet that will still be the case.
Which political and societal change/development from the last decade most concerns you? Which one most gives you hope?
Lots of wars in the past decade, which I guess doesn’t make it different from any other decade, but also doesn’t make it any less vulgar. This was the first decade I really paid attention to politics, and I’ve gone full circle to the point where I don’t pay attention to politics anymore. This gives me hope because the conclusion I came to is that politics have so completely and totally failed, I feel like more people might catch on to that idea and the world might turn into a better place.
What are your thoughts on President Obama’s job performance thus far?
I honestly have not paid attention at all.
What are your thoughts on the healthcare debate and what would your preferred eventual outcome be?
I think it would be wonderful if everyone could have healthcare. It’s really the only civilized and humane option. Is this something that might happen?
Which global issue (or issue within your own country) would you most like to see resolved by 2020?
War/killing people for no good reason. I can’t think of a good reason to kill people.
How do you think you’ll describe the last decade to your children, grandchildren, or other young people in the future?
I feel like this is the decade where everything in my life happened to me. I will probably bore my grandkids with personal stories. But I will probably tell people that this was the decade where people got so mad about politics, they were moved to apply bumper stickers to their cars en masse.
What was your life like in January 2000 and how has your life most changed since then?
In January 2000 I had never been anywhere that wasn’t Philadelphia, and over the course of the decade I’ve managed to spend a lot it abroad. That’s been exciting. Otherwise, though, I think I am basically the same.
How are you most like your parents? How are you least like them?
My mom used to be a music teacher and she is a professional flautist and she pretty much plays every instrument there is. I am pretty much positive that I get my music stuff from her. My dad has an encyclopedic knowledge of doo-wop from the 1950s and ’60s, specifically around the Philadelphia area. I think I get my music collecting/nerd tendencies from him. My parents are both well-adjusted people with respectable jobs/careers/homes/etc.—this is where we differ.
What were some of your favorites of the last decade in terms of movies, TV shows (which ones did you watch most religiously), books, comic books, websites/blogs, and video games?
I don’t really watch TV ever, but when I lived in England I saw this show called Teachers a few times. That was really funny. I hated reading/learning prior to this decade, so I’ve been catching up with everything written prior to this decade. Until it got to be too depressing for me to read anymore, I used to read this blog called Rigorous Intuition. It deals largely with what most people call conspiracy theories, but really it’s a lot more than that. Rigorous Intuition turned me onto a lot of cool stuff like Terrance McKenna and the holographic universe and meditation. I am happy to say, without irony, that Love, Actually is my favorite movie from this decade. Also really liked that American Splendor movie. Ooh, and the Batman movies!
Which technological advancement from the last decade are you most surprised that you previously lived without?
Cell phones I guess?
Where (which city) and how did you celebrate December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000? Did you make any preparations for the Y2K threat? Do you already have plans for New Year’s Eve 2009?
I was in Philly with my friends. It was fun. I remember we all woke up at like 6 PM on January 1 and made a big breakfast, it was nice. I didn’t own anything really then, so I didn’t make any Y2K preparations. I am kind of excited to spend New Year’s at the beach or something completely different to northeast U.S. New Year’s. I guess it’s summer in Sydney then.
Name five things that you’d put in a time capsule to represent this decade, one to be opened in a 100 years.
Um, a Kompakt Records compilation, skinny jeans, a selection of people who appeared on reality TV shows, a picture of my dog, Gertrude, and veggie burgers from Trader Joe’s.
If you could be God for a day, what would you do?
Make it autumn everywhere, all the time.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
I think I already am mostly invisible, so I don’t know what I would do differently.
If you could live in alternate reality/universe, what would you like that reality to be like? (For example, a world where JFK was never assassinated or one where Hitler was assassinated before WWII.)
I would have liked to see what John Lennon or Kurt Cobain would have done had they kept living. Also, I want to live in the universe where Jonathan Richman can be president of the world. And maybe the Phillies win the 1993 World Series?
If you could travel in time and visit your 10-year-old self, what would you tell them about your future?
Far too much to write here. Tying this one into the previous question, I want to live in the world where I could do this.
Which conspiracy theory do you most believe?
When New Coke was introduced in the ’80s or whenever, it was because this was when corn syrup became a viable cheap sweetener. So Coke wanted to use it because it was so much cheaper than real sugar, but they couldn’t get Coke to taste exactly as it did with real sugar. So they deliberately made an inferior Coke (New Coke) so that everyone would forget how old Coke tasted, and then when everyone hated New Coke, they brought it back with the corn syrup and everyone was happy.
What were your goals for your music career at the beginning of the decade? What have/haven’t you accomplished?
I don’t think I had any at the start of the decade. It would be nice to make money someday from music. Make that one a goal for the ’10s.
Do you believe in ghosts and/or aliens? What’s the spookiest/strangest/weirdest thing to ever happen to you?
Yes. I have had two out of body experiences. They were strange but wonderful. I felt really good after each one of them. Didn’t do anything crazy, but I walked around my apartment and looked at what was happening as I was sleeping in my bedroom.
What do they think was one of the biggest surprises to occur during the past 10 years (politically/musically/socially)?
I don’t know. Socially speaking, probably me getting a girlfriend.
Given the exceptional variety and innovation represented by the albums that have been released over the last 10 years, do you think the 2000s will be remembered as one of the most vibrant eras in the history of music?
I do, and I hope it’s seen that way. I don’t know this for a fact, but I feel there was probably more music made during this decade than ever before. That is really exciting to me. Maybe no one makes money anymore, but more people than ever are making music and that is arguably the best thing that people can do.
Do you have any other thoughts about the current state of the world or the state of the music industry?
It’s not as bad as it seems (if you think things are bad) and not as good as it seems (if you think things are good).
Philly outfit A Sunny Day in Glasgow may detest being called a “shoegazer” or “nü-gazer” or “dream-pop” band, but unfortunately that’s what happens when you run your guitars through tons of reverb and delay pedals, add some gauzy female vocals, and layer the hazy, woozy drones and noises on thick. But whatever labels stick to them, the good news is that the shit sounds fabulous. Their sound manipulations may remind you of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, or Cocteau Twins, but their songs don’t sound like anyone else, and ASDiG augments their atmospherics with all sorts of synths, electronics, percussion and the occasional bright melody or vocal harmony to create a brilliant psych-rock shimmer that’ll have you thinking more about how good you feel than what to call it.
Ben Daniels is on a journey. Since he started A Sunny Day in Glasgow in 2005, the songwriter-guitarist has moved from West Philly to Canada to Australia, lost his singing sisters Lauren and Robin to school and relationships, and found cool new collaborators in synth player/sampler Josh Meakim and vocalist Annie Fredrickson.
Jarring, right? But noise-pop practitioner Daniels seems to have taken everything in stride. He sounds as happily miserable as ever, and the major chord melodies of new Ashes Grammar seem to have benefited from the tumult.
“Losing my sisters was definitely tough — plans for Ashes nearly went out the window when that happened,” says Daniels. “But overall, the songs kept me going. It was just me who was in a constant state of doom.”
There’s plenty of echoing ambient drone in new cuts like “Failure” and “Shy” that would have fit fine on 2007′s Bloody Valentine-like Scribble Mural Comic Journal. But Ashes opts for denser melodies and bigger beats, adding levity to angst-laden lyrical sentiments like “Fall forward, feel failure.”
Part of the openness comes from moving Sunny Day recording operations from an apartment at 45th and Osage with “one mic, and guitars plugged directly into my Mbox thingy” (where Scribble was born) to Ashes’ home-base warehouse in Lambertville, N.J., recorded on a brief trip to the U.S.
Then again, it could come from one confident aspiration. “I don’t really have any goals other than to not write boring songs,” says Daniels. “Melody is just another way to convey information.” The conveyance is crucial to his existence. “I really love making music. I pour my heart into it. It’s the one part of my life that isn’t half-assed.”
The funniest aspect of Daniels’ self-aggrandizing rap is how it feeds into his love, fear and loathing of his former hometown. Daniels knows how suffocating Philly can be, and says it feels like a prison in the same breath he enthuses about how much he loves it.
“It is wonderful to be back,” he says. “I miss America and Philly so much. There are so many common household animals that can kill you in Australia. I don’t know why I everleft Philly.”
That’s a joke. He left for love; his girlfriend works in Sydney.
But thinking about Philadelphia reminds him of how he ignored the people he cared about most while making Scribble — “some record that three people might listen to once and then say ‘I don’t get it’ — and how his band fell apart but for a moment. And how he bases most of his life and music on desperation. “I make all my decisions based on that.” But he loves Ashes Grammar, loves this version of the band and how Meakim’s synths “blows the sound up” and is happy to live Down Under.
“I would have moved to the bottom of the ocean if I could have then, so yeah, life’s much better now. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something? Probably not, though.”
PopMatters Slipped Disc: A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Ashes Grammar
It wasn’t supposed to work. It wasn’t even supposed to happen: following A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s 2007 debut, founding vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniels got sidetracked by personal matters and bassist Brice Hickey landed in the hospital with a broken leg. The finished product, recorded largely with replacement singers, squashed 22 tracks into a shape-shifting hour, populated by obscured hooks, half-formed ideas, and spare parts. All of which belies Ashes Grammar as a work of extraordinary beauty. Core players Ben Daniels and Josh Meakim oversaw the record like hawks and sculpted it into a floral dream-pop paradise designed to heighten the senses. Everything seems to have been drawn from a canon of sensual music, built according to a strangely fitting logic. Drums switch between an acoustic kit and a programmed bass thump from the Mille Plateaux school of 4 a.m. clubbing; shoegaze guitars morph and reappear from different angles; choral chants melt into melodic swoons sourced from who knows where. It’s a place of thrilling, almost limitless possibility, whose colossal length gives the impression that it has no boundaries. We’re meant to cross into it, drink in its aroma, and take the chance that its abundance of riches might really be glistening with sharp teeth.
The highlight of Ashes Grammar, one of 2009′s most immersive, headphone-friendly albums, “Close Chorus” sees A Sunny Day in Glasgow combining the polyphonic voices of a church choir with a shuffle-step drum loop lifted from an illicit late-night party amongst the pews. Leader Ben Daniels has honed his craft over two LPs now, but “Chorus” is the first time he’s mixed Georgian folk music and Gregorian monastic chanting with the requisite Cocteau Twins or “Blown a Wish”. Even so, the band seems to be operating here based on hazy memories of past sensations more than any direct channeling of influences. Appropriately then, when those angelic voices split like light through a prism and braid together into an impressionistic tapestry, the effect is positively haunting.
New York Press
Near the end of a six-week tour, the Philadelphia based band A Sunny Day in Glasgow promoted its new album, Ashes Grammar, on Saturday night at Union Hall.
The band was the fourth to perform that night and filled the dark room with devoted followers shouldering their way up to the front with their iPhone cameras. A Sunny Day in Glasgow brought its own lights, thus brightening its presence, and stood on stage in a V formation save the drummer who sat between the legs of the unclosed triangle.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow did a remarkable job of setting itself apart in sound and creativity. Despite having filled the concert room, I think a few competitive bocce ball players trickled in from their games upstairs. Not surprising though, starting out with faster numbers, the band’s psychedelic sounds and electro waves coupled with the vocals was like being called back to a torrential sea by sirens. At times, the vocals were the afterthought to the balance as the guitar strumming and mounting volume pushed them into the background melody. The pace seemed meant for a musical shape shifter, transitioning from the sound of slow raindrops to indistinguishable screams underwater.
Overall, A Sunny Day in Glasgow delivered bravery in pop music and a surreal satisfaction, making it a sunny night in Brooklyn.
A lot has changed for A Sunny Day in Glasgow since their first album, 2007′s understated classic, Scribble Mural Comic Journal. The entire line-up is different after the exit of principle songwriter Ben Daniels’s twin sisters–who were the band’s lead singers–and an accident with a tool box that left bass player, Brice Hickey, confined to bed for two months with a severe leg fracture. On Ashes Grammar, the Philadelphia-based band has reformed with a new singer, Annie Fredrickson, and a more bombastic approach: the bedroom aesthetic of the debut has given way to the huge sound of a New Jersey dance studio where the group recorded much of the album. We caught up with Daniels on the phone to talk about hurricanes, Alvin Lucier’s way with an empty room, and Australia, where Daniels is headed once he gets off tour.
There was quite a bit of drama when you started this album.
Things kind of fell apart, yeah. When we started recording it, it was mostly Josh [Meakim] and I getting the music done. After our last tour that we did in 2007, my sister [past ASDIG vocalist] Lauren [Daniels] moved away to Colorado to go to grad school. So Josh and I wanted to get a new singer anyway. We’d been working with this one girl for a while, but I guess she decided it wasn’t for her. A week later, our bass player–[Brice Hickey] my sister Robin’s boyfriend–seriously broke his leg in four different places. He was confined to bed for two months. He couldn’t even get up to walk around. My sister Robin had to take care of him so she wasn’t able to come out to the studio. There was a period when we didn’t have any singer and we didn’t know what was going to happen. Then we met Annie [Fredrickson]. She jumped right in and Josh, Annie, and I got the record done.
It’s a very brooding album. There are some real melancholic moments on it.
Yeah, yeah I would agree with you [laughs]. Going into it, there were themes and ideas I had that I was going to try and explore lyrically, but then all this stuff started happening. I listen to it now and it’s like, “Oh yeah, that came from everything going to hell.” It definitely impacted the mood.
You worked on it in an abandoned dance studio in New Jersey, right?
Well it wasn’t entirely abandoned. They used it during the week. But we were able to use it on the weekends. It was great. It was enormous. It had huge ceilings and we could be as loud as we wanted to. With this album, I didn’t finish any of the demos before going in to record. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on the demo and fall in with the demo and then hate anything as I re-recorded it. So all the songs weren’t really worked out. You know, if I’m working something out in my apartment, I have the headphones on, I’m being quiet, it’s a totally different sound, all contained in my computer. If we go to this space and can be really loud, you can try things with feedback. Do you know Alvin Lucier? We were able to try his thing [recording a voice then playing it back into a room, then re-recording the playback] out. In that sense, it was more relaxing and easy going. In every other sense it was more stressful [laughs].
In what ways other than broken legs and missing singers?
We’d go there on the weekends, and it would just be Josh and I, and we’d spend 12 hours a day recording music, fooling around, doing whatever. During the week, though, we’d have to start mixing, seeing how what we did over the weekend sounded. It’s kind of easy for me to write music, but lyrics and melody? That’s something I really have to work with. During the week, I would listen to the stuff constantly, just trying to hear the melodies, trying to write words. At that time, I had a day job. I was working 60-hour weeks. I wasn’t sleeping basically for the entire recording of the album. It took over my life. It was kind of depressing in a lot of ways [laughs]. I’m glad it’s done.
Where were you living at this time?
I was actually house sitting for this professor in Philadelphia. It was this enormous house.
Did any of these songs come out of that space?
All the songs were written there. It was a really long-term house sit. I pretty much wrote everything in the basement there. “West Philly Vocoder,” that’s me kind of doing that Alvin Lucier thing in various rooms of that house.
It seems like a lot of the music you make is directly influenced by the space where it’s been recorded.
Certainly I’m reacting to it.
So on a song like “Close Chorus,” how is that influenced by its environment?
The day we started, there was a hurricane that had come up from the Philadelphia area. The roof of the dance studio was a tin roof. In the middle of the song there’s a break where the drums die out and it’s just a horn sample loop. You can hear this static sound. That’s the rain. We didn’t want to re-record it [laughs].
So you were also dealing with natural disasters aside from everything else?
Yeah. I don’t know if you know rural New Jersey at all, but it’s right on the Delaware River, and it’s always flooding. So we were like, “Oh God we’re gonna have to evacuate!” It never flooded, but we were ready to grab all the electronics and run out of there.
You recently moved to Australia.
Yes. I got another job down there. I really don’t like it actually [laughs]. It’s not really working out.
That must be hard. It’s so far away from the people you make music with.
Yes. We’re on tour now and we’re actually going to be on tour next year, so I’m not going to be spending a lot of time in Australia over the next 12 months. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the next album. But it will get done.
I hope there’s less turmoil.
Me too! I really like everyone in the band right now. Everybody really wants to be in the band.
The Place Project
just took a photo at dealy plaza, where jfk was shot. the misfits sing about jfk.
SMCJ was recorded all in my apartment and it was all direct-in. not much space there. but for ashes grammar we did record it in a huge warehouse type place. i feel like this definitely had an impact on things. we were able to experiment alot with sounds and natural reverb and natural harmonics and stuff like that.
I dont think [the place you listen to A Sunny Day In Glasgow] really matters. for me, i like it in headphones, walking around a city in your own little world. probably in the rain.
I love [listening to music] on the train. i love travelling because you have no problems when you are travelling. there’s nothing you can do about anything. you just have to get where you are going. so i love to stare out the window and listen to music and forget about my life
i’ve gotten alot of mileage from my time in scotland and london. it was wonderful to get to live there for a few years. i didnt really write any music in those places, but when i got back i wrote alot about that time. my year in glasgow happened to coincide with alot of really bad things happening in my life and i was pretty depressed there. and then it never occurred to me that it could rain everyday in a place and that the sun might go away one day and not come back for weeks. so when the sun came out it was like taking alot of drugs or something. it was just an intense part of my life and those sunny days were just really special to me. i think scotland is the most beautiful place i’ve ever been. i am also a fan of Maine.
I live in Sydney now, but the band is in philly and i’ve spent the rest of my life in philly. it’s a great place to live. not too expensive, lots of kids, lots of music. i seem to be only able to write songs in philly too. i am little scared about living in sydney now.
we are on tour now. i am listening to the following alot:
jj #2 by jj
wasp’s nest by the 6ths
charm of the highway strip by magnetic fields
Philadelphia Inquirershow preview
When Ben Daniels went to make the first A Sunny Day in Glasgow album, he drafted his sisters Lauren and Robin to provide the ethereal, angelic vocals to top his blissful dream-pop soundscapes. Scribble Music Comic Journal, the Philly band’s ’07 debut, was very lush (and very Lush, as in the early ’90s British band), a stirring blend of effects-laden guitars, electronic ambience, and floating vocals that occasionally coalesced into bubbly pop hooks.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow (ASDiG) toured in various incarnations, depending on the sisters’ availability and the comings and goings of others drafted for tours, and the flux continued throughout the recording process of Ashes Grammar, the recently released follow-up.
“As it was going on, it was a roller-coaster, despair after despair kind of, but it worked out,” says Daniels, on the road in Georgia.
With multi-instrumentalist Josh Meakim and singer Annie Fredrickson, he completed the album. It’s a remarkably coherent 22-track collection that mixes brief, ambient tracks (think Eno meets Cocteau Twins) with more expansive songs that soar (“Shy”) or rumble (“Failure”). It’s easy to get lost in the ebb and flow – the flux – of the album’s swirling textures and layers.
“I think it’s not as poppy as the first one, and people like poppy,” says Daniels. “I was concerned we would lose some people on this one, but people seem to like it.”
When it came time to tour, Daniels enlisted locals Ryan Newmeyer and Josh Herndon to play bass and drums, respectively. For a second singer, he tried a “crazy global Internet search,” putting out word for auditions.
“I had no idea so many people would want to join our band,” he says with a laugh. “I told them, ‘If you do this, you are not going to make any money, ever, and you’re probably not going to sleep.’ ”
The eventual choice, New Yorker Jen Goma, saw the search mentioned on the popular music blog Brooklyn Vegan. The ASDiG that will conclude this leg of its tour Tuesday at the Johnny Brenda’s is “a very stable lineup,” says Daniels.
Daniels, who concedes that he tends to “kind of naturally agonize over things,” is looking forward to the homecoming.
“We’ve been on tour for three weeks, and I’ve kind of been exhausted for two and a half of those. It’s kind of my default. I need to eat some fruits and vegetables.”
Brooklyn Veganshow preview
Also this weekend, Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow are in town playing Saturday at Union Hall and Sunday at Le Poisson Rougue. Their new album, Ashes Grammar, is one of the year’s more overlooked albums (it got an 8.3 on P4K but not Best New Music), it’s a 22-track ethereal wonder, with songs flowing into interstitial soundscapes and back again. (It reminds me a lot of Slowdive’s 1995 album Pygmalion.) Maybe not the best record for picking a song for a mix CD, but as a cohesive listening experience, it’s gorgeous. Since making the album, the band went through a state of flux when they decided to tour, losing both singers Robin and Lauren Daniels, resulting in a worldwide search to fill their void. They settled on Jen Goma who, along with Annie Fredrickson, are now fronting the group. Will be curious to see them attempt to recreate the album’s sonic miasma in a live setting.
Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Best of ’09: Band Lists…
It has been a tumultuous few years for A Sunny Day In Glasgow, luckily things seemed to brighten a bit in 2009 as the band managed to release their highly anticipated (and fantastic) Ashes Grammar. Of course there was a lot of flux that surrounded the band since the release of their first record back in ’07, but the band really managed to push through and make one hell of an album despite everything. Ben Daniels, the front man of the band, has really good, really pop oriented taste. It’s so good I actually went and downloaded the 20-songs on his list and turned it into a mix for myself. No, I can’t post all 20 tunes here (I’m posting a bunch though) but you should be able to track them all down and enjoy them as a whole. And I would highly recommend doing so!
Top 10 Song of 2009:
1. jj – “Masterplan”
2. Pearl Harbor – “Lost At Sea”
3. Trailer Trash Tracys – “Strangling the Good Guys”
4. High Places – “I Was Born”
5. Animal Collective – “What Would I Want? Sky”
6. Keri Hilson (feat. Kanye West & Ne-Yo) – “Knock You Down”
7. Max Tundra – “Which Song” (know this came out in 2008, but i didnt get it until this year)
8. John Maus – “Do Your Best”
9. Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
10. Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”
Top 10 Songs of the 2000′s:
1. The Knife – “Heartbeats (Live Version)”
2. Xiu Xiu – “Clown Towne”
3. Daft Punk – “Digital Love”
4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan”
5. Atlas Sound – “Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel”
6. Ulrich Schnauss – “In All the Wrong Places”
7. Tickley Feather – “Natural Natural”
8. Panda Bear – “I’m Not”
9. The Clocks – “For My Skunks”
10. AFX – “Snarkling Pontanell”
Washington City Paper show preview
When I called up A Sunny Day in Glasgow for an interview Tuesday, the Philadelphia-based band was having a bad day. The group played in Savannah, Ga., the night before, and spent Tuesday morning exploring the city’s historic Bonaventure Cemetary—a site whose spookiness is a pretty good fit for a Sunny Day in Glasgow’s excellent, haunting new record of deconstructed dream pop, Ashes Grammar. The band probably won’t be going back there soon: While walking around the cemetery, singer Annie Fredrickson was attacked and bit by a stray dog, and the sextet spent the rest of the morning in the hospital. (Fredrikson’s fine.)
Anyway, the band told me they had to pull over, switch drivers, and call me back, but I didn’t hear again from the group’s leader, multi-instrumentalist Ben Daniels, until yesterday. After getting off the phone with me Tuesday, Daniels told me, the band barely avoided a collision in their van. (A Sunny Day in Glasgow is no stranger to road accidents, apparently.)
Once I did have Daniels on the phone, he was in good spirits, and he discussed covering the Misfits, emulating a classic of avante-garde music, and recording Ashes Grammar in a dance studio in New Jersey and a house in West Philadelphia. The band performs tonight at the Red and the Black with Young Republic and the Torches. After the jump, my condensed interview:
Washington City Paper: I know you’ve been covering “Hybrid Moments” by the Misfits on tour. Why that song?
Ben Daniels: Last year, when we were recording the record out in this really quirky farmland town, any time we’d leave it’d be one in the morning, and there were no street lights or anything of that—just a bunch of farms, and like a pumpkin patch. It was really dark, and [band member] Josh [Meakim] and I would always try to put on the scariest music we had on our iPods. And one day we put the Misfits on, and we were like, “oh man.” We had forgot how awesome the Misfits are, and kept talking how we wanted to record a bunch of versions of Misfits songs. And it didn’t happen until the very last day in the recording studio. We did a couple and “Hybrid Moments” was the best.
WCP: What other songs did you do?
BD: We recorded a version of “Last Caress” and we did “Halloween” and I started a version of “American Nightmare” [editor's note: awesome], but that never got done.
WCP: The Misfits are kind of unappreciated pop songwriters.
BD: Yeah, I agree. They’ll say the craziest shit you’ve ever heard and follow it with some beautiful, poetic line.
WCP: And “Hybrid Moments” sort of has beautiful lyrics.
BD: Oh yeah, yeah. “When you cry/your face is momentary.” That’s pretty fantastic [laughs].
WCP: How did you find that recording space?
BD: I guess in August last year, when we got back from a short tour in Europe and we we were like, “alright, we gotta find a space, get things set up, and then go back to Europe once more.” I called a bunch of spaces in Philly and they were all really expensive and we didn’t really have any money. I just saw on Craigslist this person advertising a space for artists or dancers or whatever. It was in this town called Lambertville, which is about an hour and a half from Philly, and it was part of this larger warehouse. They had studio space, and they had actually taken a longer lease than they realized, and they were just looking for people to do whatever they wanted in there on weekends, so they were happy to have us.
WCP: I read that during your sessions for Ashes Grammar, you experimented with recording and rerecording amplified sounds, kind of like Alvin Lucier.
BD: Yeah, definitely. In “West Philly Vocoder,” it’s me doing that thing. And we went into every room in the house I was house-sitting [in West Philly] and Josh was getting found sounds and mixing it all together. And we did that a lot in the recording space. The recording space is actually in the key of A, and a lot of the songs were recorded in the key of E. It’s weird.
WCP: Do recording spaces have keys?
BD: That’s what Lucier was doing—resonating the natural harmonics of the room. Whatever sound you start with, by rerecording and rerecording, it’s eventually just the room that’s kind of ringing.
WCP: I saw Alvin Lucier perform once, and he was making music with, um, brainwaves. He had these electrodes on his head which connected to kick drums and other instruments around the room.
BD: That’s kind of amazing. I have a friend who’s really into experimental music like that. We put out an EP called Tout New Age a couple years ago, and right after that came out, he came over to my house and said, “You have to hear this guy. It’s crazy.” And he played me that original recording of “I Am Sitting In a Room.” And I was like, “That’s so cool. I didn’t know that was possible to do.”
WCP: The band went through some pretty significant lineup changes around the recording of the album. What bearing did that have on the recording sessions and the final product?
BD: I think it had a huge bearing. We did this tour in Europe, and Josh and I came back and starting playing and doing that thing. And, honestly, all we talked about on that tour was, “Yeah, we’re gonna record and it’ll be great.” And so when we got back to Philly, it was a little hard to find a space, but when I found it I sent an e-mail out to everybody that said, “I got it. We can record on weekends. It’s going to be great.” And then [vocalist] Robin [Daniels], my sister, sent this e-mail back to me that was like, “Basically, I’m not around on any of those weekends. It’s going to be hard for me to do anything on this album.” That was an immediate punch to the gut. So we worked around that for a little while. And then Brice [Hickey], our bass player who’s Robin’s boyfriend, he was taking stuff out of the trunk of his car, and he slipped on some leaves or something—he’s not sure how he did it—and broke his leg and was confined to his bed for two months. And Robin had to take care of him, so they were out of the picture. That was a really stressful time. We were really fortunate to meet Annie [Fredrickson], because for a lot of it, everything felt like it was falling apart, and it was going to be the end of everything, and I think that mood is all over the album a lot.
WCP: That seems like it’s a theme in the lyrics.
BD: Yeah, I started out with a loose concept—I don’t want to say it’s a concept album—that I wanted to explore, and I did that to a certain extent. But by December, it kind of felt very meta. It was just gloomy, malevolent stuff.
Washington Post show preview
BEN DANIELS CREATED A Sunny Day in Glasgow; he can surely take it away. And during a dark time for the band, he almost did.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s debut, “Scribble Mural Cosmic Journal,” was based on Daniels’ twin sisters’ haunting, reverb-drenched vocals and his dense, sample-heavy arrangements.
After they left the group, Daniels and drummer Josh Meakim were working with a singer who wasn’t fitting their vision, so she split, too, leaving the band without its signature sound — a lead female voice. At the time, the pair were in the midst of working on the group’s second full-length, “Ashes Grammar.” To fill the vacated role, Meakim suggested he’d do the singing.
“After that, I was like, ‘We can’t do that — it’s not the band at that point,’” Daniels said.
“I was definitely very close to scrapping it, but it was weird,” he said. “I really like the songs, and they kind of keep you in it. Even though they take forever to get done, you listen to it and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to finish this.’”
A little perseverance and a random e-mail from Ryan Newmayer, a longtime fan and neighbor in the band’s West Philadelphia home base, led to them meeting Annie Frederickson. She became the new vocalist and the group finished the record, with Daniels’ sister Robin adding vocals sporadically.
But Daniels wasn’t done juggling yet. When the group wanted to take these songs on the road, they needed someone to fill Robin’s role. Daniels put out a public call and finally settled on Jen Goma. Drummer Meakim switched to guitar, synthesizers and vocals, so Daniels had to recruit again — his friend Adam Herndon on drums; the useful Newmayer on bass.
So after three years and 13 different members, what once was Daniels recording songs alone in his bedroom is now a stable, six-piece touring band.
“I really want this to be it,” he said of ending the band’s ever-shifting lineup. “Everybody’s on board. I’ve played in bands in the past [and] you get sick of it — dealing with people’s egos. When I started this, it was just me and that was nice, but you get tired of that. It’s nice to have a lot of people to collaborate with and work with and have fun with.”
The sextet now have the task of taking ASDIG’s compositions and re-creating them live — something Daniels himself said would take eight people to get exactly right.
You see, most of the songs on “Ashes Grammar” aren’t quite songs at all — save for the brilliant “Close Chorus,” which sounds like Panda Bear with female vocals. Instead, it’s a 22-track collection of transitional and fragmented ambient pieces.
“It’s kind of just what comes out, it’s not really some high kind of concept,” Daniels said. “I guess when I’m going along, it’s like verse, chorus, verse, and then when it gets done it’s not really that [anymore]. It’s kind of like you get out your ideas and then you react to them and then try to follow them.”
At the core are the dreamy, choral-like vocals, making the group part a subgenre dubbed “dream pop.”
“I’m a huge fan of reverb, and I like to throw that on everything — things get all smeary,” Daniels said. “On ‘Scribble,’ I remember everybody was like, ‘There’s so many effects,’ and there was only reverb and distortion on that record. A lot of times I didn’t even put anything on the vocals, but when you get the whole it sounds like that. Josh and I talked about it and were saying no reverb — vocals out front on the next record — mix it up a bit.”
While the band has an EP for a remixed version of “Ashes Grammar’s” “Nitetime Rainbows” due out in March, another EP’s worth of unfinished songs Daniels said he may just give away for free, as well as a full slate of tour dates — he’s already thinking about the group’s next album.
“I feel like ‘Ashes Grammar’ sounds like the same band who did ‘Scribble Mural Comic Journal,’” he said.
“I would like the third one to sound like some other band entirely. I don’t know if that will happen, but it’s an ideal to have there.”
Philadelphia Weekly show preview
Philly outfit A Sunny Day in Glasgow may detest being called a “shoegazer” or “nü-gazer” or “dream-pop” band, but unfortunately that’s what happens when you run your guitars through tons of reverb and delay pedals, add some gauzy female vocals, and layer the hazy, woozy drones and noises on thick. But whatever labels stick to them, the good news is that the shit sounds fabulous. Their sound manipulations may remind you of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, or Cocteau Twins, but their songs don’t sound like anyone else, and ASDiG augments their atmospherics with all sorts of synths, electronics, percussion and the occasional bright melody or vocal harmony to create a brilliant psych-rock shimmer that’ll have you thinking more about how good you feel than what to call it. M.A.G.
Impose Best music of 2009
08: A Sunny Day in Glasgow
A few years ago, A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal was widely praised for the sometimes-dubby, othertimes space-ready “sonic environment.” Ben Daniels followed through in Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos) with a sophomore album that took his bedroom masterpieces and one-upped them a full band.
Abandoned Couches show review
One of the revelations I discovered musically this year was the release of Ashes Grammar from a Philadelphia band oddly named A Sunny Day in Glasgow. As I wrote in my review, the album is “an impossible dream of an album, laid out like a delicate meal.”
So it was with great interest and excitement I saw the band was coming to Athens for a December date at the Secret Squirrel, a musical venue which neither advertises nor cares if you know where it is or what goes on there. Hidden from plain view, the Squirrel is one of Athens special places, a subculture in a town of subcultures.
Dan Deacon played a famous show there earlier this year, with two sets, one at 10 p.m. with a band of 15, and a 4 a.m. show with just him, lots of electronics, absolute darkness, and 100 or so dancing people all about.
Not the typical spot, to be sure, and with no sense of when anything starts, a night at the Squirrel could be over by 9 p.m. or 5 a.m.
On this night, after a trio of fuzzed out noise bands (some better than others), Sunny Day hit the stage a little after midnight with a tidy set of sundry songs, danceable riffs, and dreamy lyrics supplied by Robin and Lauren. Starting out a little slow, the band wasn’t sure to make of the place it was playing in, but warmed up in the latter half of the set. Failure and The White Witch, two of the highlights off Ashes Grammar, lit up the audience and set several people dancing. The 50-minute set was perhaps a bit short (Grammer comes in a little over and hour), but was satisfying nonetheless.
Village Voice show preview
This Daniels family band of siblings (Ben, Robin, and Laura Daniels) are not to be confused with the Danielson Family, nor the Charlie Daniels Band. Nor are they Scottish, but are actually from Philadelphia, PA. However enigmatic these Pitchfork darlings may appear, their lush dream pop, with its electronica hybrids of Stereolab and Cocteau Twins, is crystalline. Their brand new Ashes Grammar, digs deep into the shoegaze cannon—lotsa blissful My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and the Mary Chain whiteouts. With Frances, the Jaguar Club, and Wooden Sky.
Pop Tarts Suck Toasted show preview
A Sunny Day In Glasgow @ (le) poisson rouge 10pm $10
It has been ages since we last saw A Sunny Day In Glasgow, but that’s due mostly to the realignment of the band with some new members and a slightly updated sound. Their latest release, Ashes Grammar, is one of the most underrated records of the year something that should be fixed before we all start making up our 2009 year end lists!
The Pioneer album review
A Sunny Day in Glasgow is not a particularly great name and especially not one for a band from Philadelphia; it screams twee pop and British indie, one which borders on the potentially infuriating and one of which is easily associated with boring guitars and misguided nostalgia. I’m also inclined to assume that people often make comparisons between their name and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” despite considerable differences between the television series and Ben Daniels’ music. The band’s first album, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, was a wash of sometimes incomprehensible, hyperambitious electronic noise-pop that hinted at good things to come more than it actually provided them. Through touring and between albums, the band’s lineup swelled from composer Ben Daniels and his sisters, Lauren and Robin, to a seven-piece, and this lineup, minus Lauren Daniels, assembled Ashes Grammar, a followup that takes everything compelling about Scribble Mural Comic Journal and makes it larger, prettier and infinitely more hypnotic.
Ashes Grammar is not a song-friendly album. There are songs, certainly, but rarely are there clear points of division between them, and at over 60 minutes and 22 tracks, picking moments out without meticulously watching track lengths can be difficult. The album’s first two tracks consist of 53 seconds of vocal harmonies, the first rhythm instruments come in not until the third, and the two don’t meet until a minute into that song, and only for a brief moment. “Failure,” the album’s fourth track and third minute, is where things start to get interesting; a tom-heavy drum part announces that something’s moving as several overlaid vocals come in, but the second half of the song is pushed by fleeting pianos and guitars with not a second of backtracking. When “Close Chorus” pushes past its introductory collage, it’s a haze of synthesizers, oohs, aahs and gentle acoustic guitars and likely the most immediate pop song here, but even it refuses easy listening, as the arrangement shifts several times throughout to compelling effect.
Given how big this record is, it’s prone to welcome sonic detours. Nearly halfway through is a haunted, beatless track consisting only of what are probably vocoder noises, which then sets up the “Be My Baby”-quoting “Evil, With Evil, Against Evil”’s warmth, and “Canalfish” sits somewhere between the two. It opens with a synthesizer loop that then carries into the next track, where the band actually sounds like a band for the first time. Whereas transitional tracks on records like these that so clearly don’t want to be taken merely as a whole lot of singles usually prove frivolous—M83’s “Before The Dawn Heals Us” and “Saturdays = Youth” both come to mind—Daniels’ attention to detail and his ability to imbue them with tunefulness turns many of them compelling.
Personally, I’m pretty sure that Ashes Grammar works because of pieces like “Nitetime Rainbows,” where I’ve started the record from several times now. It was one moment in the middle of that song that first drew me in, given that I wasn’t crazy about anything else this band has done in the past. It wasn’t until half an hour later, on several occasions, when I’d realized that I’d played the album through to its conclusion and found absolutely nothing I disliked, but also a whole lot I was quite fond of, that I was finally sold on Daniels as a composer, or on A Sunny Day in Glasgow as a band. And now I’m fairly certain that they’re responsible for one of the least generic dream pop records in some time, which is a rare feat.
Too Much Rock show review
When I learned that A Sunny Day in Glasgow was playing in Lawrence, I added the show to my calendar. I’m not sure why. This is a band whose name I had heard so many times (probably due to the efforts of its publicity company) that I just assumed that the show was a “must see.” I’m susceptible like that I guess. On the drive out to Lawrence I confessed to Kate that I wasn’t sure if I liked the band or not. Then I got to thinking, had I even heard the band?
A few weeks ago the person answering the phone at the Replay told me the first band would go on at 10pm. I foolishly believed him. When Kate and I walked through the front door just before 10:00, the bar was nearly as empty as the stage. Rather than slowly sip begrudged waters in the dark bar, or pour quarters into pinball machines that have never interested me, we opted to leave the club and return a bit closer to show time. When we returned at 11:00, the room was much livelier.
Opening the evening was Burger Kingdom, a local duo that drenched the small room in waves of rich shoegazing goodness. The band’s enveloping music is built on a layer of processed guitar from Erik Moore, punctuated by the raw and aggressive drumming of Stephen Howard. While Howard’s wild stick swinging may have no snap, he makes up for it in energy. Besides, being tight isn’t what this band is about. Unfortunately, there was more – Moore sings. Or more accurately, he caterwauls in a high, embarrassing falsetto.
Although Moore announced “This is our last song” before beginning every number in the band’s half hour set, he made sure to punctuate the actual conclusion by throwing his guitar into the drumkit. This sent the kit, and Howard with it, tumbling to the stage floor. Perhaps a grander finale than warranted?
As the Burger Kingdom jetsam was being removed from the stage, the six members of Philly’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow began the process in reverse. In years past, a six-piece would have hardly fit in the tiny Replay – thank goodness for the last remodel and the corner stage it created. Even still, band leader and guitarist Ben Daniels was partially hidden in a corner behind a column. Drummer Adam Herndon and bassist Ryan Nemyer didn’t fair much better, as both were obscured behind a wall of Annie Fredickson (vocals/keyboards), Jen Goma (vocals), and Josh Meakim (guitar/vocals). As always, stage monitors are a cumbersome luxury unavailable at the Replay, and this privation always has consequences – particularly for bands with multiple vocalists.
As this is a six-piece band lumped into the shoegaze genre, it wouldn’t take much of a logical leap to expect an overpowering wall of sound to come from the stage. However, A Sunny Day in Glasgow prefer to be on the delicate side of the shoegaze genre known as dream pop. The band’s songs are structured, short, up-tempo numbers highlighted by chiming guitars and the vocal interplay of Fredrickson and Goma. Fredrickson’s keyboards and Daniels sequencer play minor accent roles in most songs, though Herndon’s drums always seem to carry the material no matter how ethereal the voices and guitars become. As the evening progressed, the band presented one glistening pop song after another. It slowly became obvious that I had never heard this band before.
Daniel wrote and meticulously recorded the band’s debut album in his bedroom, so it’s not surprising that the songs are the band’s focal point, nor is it surprising that the stage show is its weakness. After all, this touring version of the band is merely an ad hoc assemblage of players with only Daniels and Meakim its only permanent members. This fact led to a series of minor issues: The first, Fredrickson occasionally had trouble finding her vocal line in the live club setting. The second, no member was willing to step up and assume the frontperson duties. Third, there was little interaction between the players on stage. And finally, with the exception of the adorable manic dancing of Fredrickson, there just wasn’t much of visual interest happening on the stage. Even though these are serious issues, I couldn’t have been happier when the band crammed one fantastic pop song after another into its too-short 30-minute set.
The band abruptly ended its set without an encore or hurled instruments. Although I should have stopped by the band’s merchandise table, I instead just packed up my cameras and quickly headed for the door, already mentally preparing myself for the late-night drive back to Kansas City. Kate’s and my effusive conversation on the way home was quite different than the cautious, hedging one we had a few hours early. We agreed that on our next drive to see the band, I will confidently tell Kate that A Sunny Day in Glasgow is great, and she will enthusiastically concur.
Atlanta: Creative Lofting show preview
As the heavenly chorus that opens A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s second full-length, Ashes Grammar, fades into focus, it’s clear that something has changed for the Philadelphia-based dream pop explorers. Every note and nuance is brighter than the shoe-gaze hues, electronic/acoustic drones and noisy melancholy of their debut, Scribble Mural Comic Journal. Founding member Ben Daniels explains that the differences are less a matter of artistic intent than they are the result of extenuating circumstance. “I did the first record by myself in my apartment with one microphone and by plugging my guitar into my computer with no amps because I couldn’t bother my neighbors,” Daniels explains. “This time we rented a giant dance studio warehouse sort of thing to record. It’s a totally different approach when you can play really loudly while working out a song.”
Daniels and his twin sisters Lauren and Robin were the group’s core line-up for Scribble Mural…. But ASDIG is the brainchild of brother Ben. “When I started writing songs with melodies and words, I asked my sisters to sing because I can’t sing,” he adds. “They agreed, but their hearts weren’t into it. I kind of forced them to do it.”
With Ashes Grammar a larger line-up has entered the fold, and only one sister – Robin – briefly appears on the record. “Failure,” “Close Chorus” and “The White Witch” trigger subconscious pop comparisons. But they don’t evoke the immediacy of typical pop hooks or melodies. Rather the droning sounds and textures propel the music on a skewed pop trajectory that somehow takes shape outside the realm of traditional pop.
After playing a show with ASDIG a few years back Farbod Kokabi and Farzod Moghaddam of local band Lyonnais launched the boutique record label Geographic North. They were so affected by ASDIG that they tapped them for the label’s debut 7-inch. “Their pop sensibilities are perfectly matched with their experimental tendencies,” offers Kokabi. “That’s something most bands have a difficulty balancing.”
Daniels is at a loss for words when asked to comment on his own musical intentions. “I’m not that purposeful,” he says. “Whatever comes out is what comes out and I try to keep up once I see where it’s going.” Sometimes the best records write themselves.
The Rathaus show review
Prior to A Sunny Day In Glasgow taking the stage at the Replay Lounge (Lawrence, KS) on November 24, the local opening act Burger Kingdom completed their set and demolished the remains – flipping over a drum set and chucking the lone guitar at the four foot amp. Personally I didn’t agree with the lead singer yelling, “More like off-core!” but who am I to judge? I thought they did pretty well…
While writing a review of ASDIG’s most recent album Ashes Grammar just a week before, I had the feeling it was a bit overwhelming and pretentious at first but with some special attention I came to adore the layered collection of dream pop. If I had to isolate myself with headphones, how was seeing the sound come to life going to turn out? Surprisingly, it went well.
ASDIG opened up with Ashes Grammar’s “Failure” and “Shy.” The lead brains behind ASDIG, Ben Daniels, preferred to stay off to the side behind his Roland S404 sampler while Jen Goma and Annie Frederickson gracefully flaunted their pop inspired dance skills and vocal abilities which possessed a surprisingly welcome sexiness – most prevalently during “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs),” the most entertaining performance of the night. Props must given to the drummer of Burger Kingdom for grabbing Josh Meakim’s microphone and drunkenly slurring, “They sound a lot better the closer you get to the stage” before the song began. And indeed they did. “White Witch” was also a standout performance for ASDIG that night, displaying their cohesiveness.
The crowd remained engaged for the rest of the show as ASDIG bounced from familiar numbers off Scribble Mural Comic Journal and Ashes Grammar. Overall, the small number of people inside the Replay didn’t reflect the scope of talent that ASDIG casually possess. They’re not for everyone; however, they came to please, and did please, those genuinely interested in what they have become.
Mission Freak show preview
Forgive us the early notice, but it’s just Monday morning and I’m already downright giddy about next Sunday’s show at Public Space ONE, which features A Sunny Day in Glasgow. A Sunny Day in Glasgow is a Philadelphia sextet (when touring, at least) creating atmospheric, dynamic pop with sample and electronic based techniques. And their new album, Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos), is undoubtedly one of the best of the year, having received high praise from the likes of Pitchfork (8.3), Coke Machine Glow (88%), and Drowned in Sound (8 of 10).
Ashes Grammar, the ever-changing band’s 2nd full-length, is quite simply a dreamy, hazy bit of expansive pop music. It’s also kind of long at one hour, with bits of sound experimentation (like the 00:22 of “Lights”) blending seamlessly between fully fleshed out bits of pop like “Shy” and “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs).” It’s an album that’s dreamy, but not surreal; transportative but not trippy. The songs effuse reverb, dousing their repetitive phrasings and samples with echo. They bounce with the whimsy of Animal Collective but also reverberate with the volume of My Bloody Valentine. Songs twist into and out of each other as guitars drone around you and wisps of vocals drift by. Pop music experiments with noise. Noise music experiments with pop. Each of these experiment with their own self. All the while this manages to be a decidedly unpretentious album. It retains a degree of accessibility despite its uniqueness and wholeness. I love it. I can’t wait for this show.
In keeping with the theme, two of Iowa City’s solo musicians who blur the lines of pop and experimental music open this show. Alex Body (of Twelve Canons) and Schuyler Peterson, aka GREY (coyote) of Bear Weather will both perform solo sets to get the night started.
Best of New Orleans show preview
One of the best albums of 2009 was close to not being made at all. Disaster struck A Sunny Day in Glasgow, the Philadelphia-by-way-of-U.K. fireball of fuzzy dance pop, as the band prepared to record Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos), a follow-up to the underrated 2007 electronic assemblage Scribble Mural Comic Journal. Band members endured broken bones, being scattered over great distances and a few lineup changes before locking themselves in the studio, where Ben Daniels and Josh Meakim orchestrated pop bliss. At first submerged under layers of washed out shoegaze, Ashes is pulled into cloud-surfing, dreamy ambience and given a backbone from prominent bass pulses and pocket symphonies locked to steady streams of colorful beats. Scribble’s mostly digital landscape painted a more detached, introverted dreamworld with every knob turned or button pressed, but Ashes bursts from all sides. Acoustic instruments mingle with waves of guitar and endless reverb, and though its layers of rhythm and melody imply density, Ashes has a lightness. The band’s doo-wop angel choirs also pair well with the Misfits’ Everly-esque sing-along “Hybrid Moments,” which the band covered just before embarking on the fall tour.
Mercury Prize track recommends / “Ashes grammar” & “Ashes maths”
A new generation of American musicians are discovering ambient music, using Shoegaze, Drone and early Indie as primary source material before incorporating more contemporary aspects to their expansive sound. Although musically more aloof than Pains of Being Pure At Heart and lighter in touch than No Age, native Philadelphians A Sunny Day In Glasgow are fine exponents of this trend, creating diaphanous dream Pop that’s as rare and unlikely as their moniker.
Colossal Youth show review
Austin Chronicle show preview
Philly dream weavers ASDIG have gone through quite a few lineup changes since 2007’s radiant Scribble Mural Comic Journal. What hasn’t changed with latest Ashes Grammar is the music: 1960s harmonies and 1980s electronica submerged under a warm blanket of reverb. It can be a large, unidentifiable mass of sounds at times, but close listening pays off. Locals MothFight! and Fach Idiot open.
Nashville Music show preview
“You can’t control people’s reactions to art. That’s a fool’s errand,” says Annie Fredrickson, one of the new additions to Ben Daniels’ ever-evolving dream-pop outfit A Sunny Day In Glasgow. Fredrickson, a classically trained cellist and pianist, makes only a handful of comments during an interview primarily handled by Daniels—the band’s axis and sole original member—and Josh Meakim, the group’s percussionist and recording engineer. Still, whenever she chimes in, Fredrickson seems to hit a nail on its head, a la Silent Bob dropping wisdom in the last five minutes of a Kevin Smith flick.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere that’s oversaturated, even if it’s oversaturated with really good things,” she says, referring to A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s decision to stay put in its native Philadelphia (Scotland is just a red herring), rather than following the hipster herds to nearby Brooklyn.
Daniels concurs, paraphrasing Woody Allen via Groucho Marx in noting, “I couldn’t be a part of any scene that would have me as a member.”
This may partially explain why ASDIG’s second album, Ashes Grammar, has side-stepped the blogospheric hype machine a bit, despite a decidedly positive critical response. The densely produced 22-track album– an almost about-face from the band’s bedroom-recorded 2007 debut Scribble Mural Comic Journal— introduces both Fredrickson and Meakim as prime contributors, with former key members Brice Hickey and Robin and Lauren Daniels (Ben’s twin sisters) having departed the band amicably before its completion.
“We’re super pleased that everyone seems happy with the record,” says Meakim, “because we were afraid of the whole sophomore slump thing to a degree. You know, we were thinking, ‘This is nothing like the last record. Nobody’s going to like this.’ But everyone I’ve talked to so far is pretty into it. So, we’re happy and proud.”
While Meakim and Fredrickson were initially recruited solely for their instrumental talents, the sudden departure of the Daniels sisters (one to grad school, the other to her injured boyfriend’s bedside) left A Sunny Day In Glasgow without the two vocalists that had helped make Scribble Mural so memorable. Fortunately, both Fredrickson and Meakim admirably filled that vacancy, giving Ben Daniels the ghostly voices he needed to tie together his latest batch of heavily layered, trippy, but surprisingly catchy tunes.
“I always feel like pop music is the only kind of music I really actually understand,” Daniels says. “But at the same time, my biggest fear is writing a boring song. So, they do tend to get a little weird. It’s kind of like photography. When you study photography, you learn to focus on every possible way to convey information— how you develop it, how you print it, how you frame it. Everything is conveying information. In that way, I don’t like to be lazy about anything when it comes to songwriting, either.”
The only thing Daniels and his new bandmates (ASDIG is now a sextet on the road) are intentionally lazy about is explaining the mysteries behind their cryptic lyrics and ethereal soundscapes.
For now, A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s time is far better spent looking forward, as the group seems to have finally solidified into a full, stable lineup for the first time in its four year existence.
“I definitely hope this is it,” Daniels says. “I think I always wanted it to be a solid lineup, but people were always just living their lives and not doing the band thing.”
“But now we’re not living our lives,” chimes Fredrickson, on cue.
Meakim chuckles. “Exactly! Now [the music] is what we’re doing.”
Best of New Orleans show preview
One of the best albums of 2009 was close to not being made at all. Disaster struck A Sunny Day in Glasgow, the Philadelphia-by-way-of-U.K. fireball of fuzzy dance pop, as the band prepared to record Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos), a follow-up to the underrated 2007 electronic assemblage Scribble Mural Comic Journal (Notenuf). Band members endured broken bones, being scattered over great distances and a few lineup changes before locking themselves in the studio, where Ben Daniels and Josh Meakim orchestrated pop bliss. At first submerged under layers of washed out shoegaze, Ashes is pulled into cloud-surfing, dreamy ambience and given a backbone from prominent bass pulses and pocket symphonies locked to steady streams of colorful beats. Scribble’s mostly digital landscape painted a more detached, introverted dreamworld with every knob turned or button pressed, but Ashes bursts from all sides. Acoustic instruments mingle with waves of guitar and endless reverb, and though its layers of rhythm and melody imply density, Ashes has a lightness. The band’s doo-wop angel choirs also pair well with the Misfits’ Everly-esque sing-along “Hybrid Moments,” which the band covered just before embarking on the fall tour.
A.V. Club show review
If anyone’s ever wondered what a shoegaze band would sound like if it didn’t hurl its vocals through a reverb tornado, the Rathskeller was the place to be Friday night. Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day In Glasgow repeatedly asked for more reverb on the vocal mics, but the sound guy couldn’t come close to reproducing the wash of echo that soaked this year’s Ashes Grammar. However, between founder Ben Daniels and five others from his revolving cast of bandmates (and a little help from a laptop), the band reinterpreted its lush recordings passably.
In the tradition of all great shoegaze, ASDIG’s set was loud—really, really loud. From the scraping synth of set-opener “Evil, With Evil, Against Evil,” frontwomen Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma threw their dense, lyrically indecipherable harmonies over a huge mess of abrasive sonics. Fredrickson danced wildly and shook a tambourine as Goma stood behind her mic stand in a daze. Crawling beneath the walls of fuzzy guitar provided by Josh Meakim and Daniels, bassist Ryan Newmyer helped make melodic sense of the swirling mess by steering it with simplistic basslines. Meanwhile, from the driving groove of “Things Only I Can See” to the bouncing pulse of “Shy,” the quirky drumming of Adam Herndon locked in and bent perfectly to the sensibility of each tune. When the band blasted into the spaced-out stomp of “Failure” (which sounds a little like Bow Wow Wow being thrown into a well), a few members of the sparse audience stopped being too cool for school and actually began to dance. Within minutes, most of the crowd was cutting a rug, and the spacey Goma let loose with a surprised grin.
During “Ashes Maths,” Daniels pulled out a mandolin shaped like James Hetfield’s Gibson Explorer and played the most un-metal layer of charming mandolin pop in the history of un-metal charming mandolin pop. After ASDIG closed its set with the trickling synth-pop of “Things Only I Can See,” the underwhelming crowd—much to the band’s surprise—screamed for an encore. A delighted Daniels came back on stage and restored some metal cred by asking the crowd if they “know who sings ‘Hybrid Moments.’” To The A.V. Club’s surprise, the band then ripped into a blistering rendition of the Misfits classic, sending the crowd into one final dance spasm.
Bybe show review
A friend and I went to see A Sunny Day in Glasgow at the Bottom Lounge a couple of nights ago. The Philadelphia noise/dream-pop band is touring in support of their second album, Ashes Grammar. On an unrelated note, there were two representatives from Glenfiddich distributing much-appreciated free samples of 15-year old whisky the same night.
My first introduction to the shoegaze/dream-pop genres (which also originated in Scotland) was through My Bloody Valentine’s classic Loveless, which I listened to almost nonstop during a month-long exam period in undergrad. I found the combination of textures, melody, rhythm, and noise fascinating, and a year ago I was fortunate to be able to see it recreated live.
Ashes Grammar is a meticulous album; Ben Daniels should be lauded for the technical detail contained in these 22 tracks. That said, it still contains plenty of melodic gems, but the LP as a whole doesn’t contain the emotion you may find in other albums of the same genre (e.g. Souvlaki). I think the sophomore work is better than the debut, Scribble Mural Comic Journal – it’s more focused and coherent. The short tracks, which seem at first unnecessary, contribute to the flow of the album by providing a bit of space and breathing room, allowing the listener to better appreciate the many sonic layers of the longer songs. The opening ten seconds are apparently a homage to Arvo Pärt; I suppose the bells and “cathedran” (to use a Wallace-ism) reverb in the vocals are a nod to the Estonian composer. Two particularly effective combinations of short/long are “Lights/Passionate introverts (Dinosaurs)” and “West Philly vocoder/Evil, with evil, against evil”. Ashes Grammar is full of aural apices: the minute mark into “Evil”, the vocoder sequence in “Ashes maths”, the vocal line “Staring softly into space” on “Starting at a disadvantage”, the “Canalfish/Loudly” transition.
The live show was short in length, but high in quality. Taking the stage at around 11:30, they ran through most of the songs longer than a minute on the new album, starting with highlight “Evil, with evil, against evil” and ending with “Things Only I Can See”, the penultimate track off the first album. The two female vocalists were excellent; the vocals were slightly clearer live, but retained the hazy ambiguity that integrates them well with the instrumentals on the album. I was impressed by the band’s ability to reproduce the complexity on stage. I know they played “Failure”, “Ashes Grammar/Maths”, “Shy”, and “Passionate introverts (Dinosaurs)”.
According to their site, the band has recorded another album’s worth of material and is looking to tour again next year; hopefully, they’ll have an easier time assembling musicians.
Aside: The above picture is from their touring blog, and has a humorous anecdote.
Culture Bully album review
A Sunny Day in Glasgow make pop music that is as mysterious as it is beautiful. Their blend of fractured, noisy pop that weaves through their sophomore album Ashes Grammar would be an ideal soundtrack to having a nervous breakdown on a beautiful sunny day. The bristling soundscapes created by the group’s leader Ben Daniels breeze by with the lightness of air, with only occasional jaunts into different genres of music breaking up the disc’s tranquility. The first song is 10 seconds long and is dedicated to Estonian composer Avro Part, and things don’t get much more conventional in the following tracks. This is a band that obviously plays by their own rules, and it works out wonderfully on the great sophomore album Ashes Grammar.
While most of the disc is the kind of music that easily glides you off into daydreams, there are a few moments where the band puts out some great curve balls on the 22 song album. One of the best moments is the Merriweather Post Pavilion-like track “Failure,” which is downright boisterous compared to the rest of the disc. Tribal drums pound out an incessant rhythms while echo laden vocals sweep in and out of the mix. The whimsical vocals sing “Fall forward, feel failure,” before the droning electronics give way to a buzzing interlude, which helps transition into the hazy fade out. The band, which has gone through some changes since their 2007 debut album Scribble Mural, comes back even stronger with the ambient and epic collages they put together on album number two. While there are not any songs that live up to the sheer magnitude of “Failure,” the rest of the disc is best taken in one, sweeping listen, preferably in headphones. The tracks meld together and buzz and click just enough to dirty up the pretty pop melodies hidden roughly underneath.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow succeed in making music that break boundaries but still have a firm grasp of the concepts that make pop music great. Ashes Grammar is something that can suck you in through its deep and hypnotic rhythms but also stir you from your restlessness with its jarring dream pop. The group succeeds not only because they deviate from the norm, but because they create something outside the normal parameters of noise pop genre that has seemingly saturated the market as of late. No matter whether you are looking for pop music that is noisy or noisy music with a hint of pop, A Sunny Day in Glasgow are a band that is taking chances that other bands are not taking. With Ashes Grammar, the group succeeds simply by writing strong and unique songs, something that works no matter what genre you are working in.
[A Sunny Day in Glasgow will be headlining a great show tonight at Eclipse Records with local groups BruteHeart, Whitesands/Badlands and the Bombay Sweet opening. The music for this all ages show starts at 7:00 P.M. and it costs $6.]
Tiny Mix Tapes album review
What kind of critical approach can one take toward an album like Ashes Grammar, one that refuses to respect structural boundaries, whose songs stretch across multiple tracks in a capricious, seemingly arbitrary manner? To consider songs as individualized structures is useless when it comes to A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s latest effort. The Philadelphian group — once a duo, now swelled to a full six-member band — have made an album that eschews pop conventions without appearing self-consciously labored or over-intellectualized. (I’m looking at you, Dirty Projectors.)
Ashes Grammar’s aesthetic is less an academic exercise in post-pop deconstruction than a submission to ecstatic urges. A religious pale looms over the early sections of the album, with echoic reverberation and hymnal-like melodies evoking memories of dank, incense-stained cathedrals. The album eventually morphs into something of a meditation on dance music, but before they employ more contemporary musical referents, these songs impress as very nearly baroque, if not outright Gregorian.
Bridging from religious ecstasies to those of the discotheque, A Sunny Day In Glasgow have stumbled into rich, virgin soil. While this description might bring to mind some dreadful mid-90s new age album — and Ashes Grammar is, at times, ‘smooth’ in the pejorative sense — the group has made something complex, something thick with idea and incidence out of this marriage of incongruent styles and influences. The messy, deliberate formlessness of Ashes Grammar makes a near-immediate impact, one that is ingenious in its simplicity; the abstract structure makes the album nearly impossible to consume in anything less than its entirety. Together these tracks cohere beautifully, like illogical, subconscious details crystallized into a dream narrative.
Fans of the ongoing Balearic wave will find much to like, but to lump A Sunny Day In Glasgow in with this trend would be a condescending, imperfect point of comparison. Easily the blissful equal of jj or Memory Tapes, A Sunny Day In Glasgow are diffuse enough to avoid easy classification, and Ashes Grammar is easier to enjoy than it is to write about. That in itself is an enviable achievement.
A.V. Club interview
If Ashes Grammar, the sophomore album from Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day In Glasgow, sounds more expansive than its bedroom-recorded debut, that’s only halfway accidental. After touring across the U.S. and Europe for Sunny Day’s critically lauded Scribble Mural Comic Journal, band leader/songwriter Ben Daniels returned to the States eager to record, only to find his band disintegrating. A bizarre incident involving a toolbox broke bassist Brice Hickey’s leg in four places, confining him to a bed for and his girlfriend, who is Daniels’ sister, left the band to take care of him. Daniels soldiered on, abandoning the claustrophobic home recording of the first record in favor of a vast dance studio in which he could experiment with unusual acoustics. The resulting Ashes Grammar is an immense record, full of breathy soundscapes and hypnotic pop. Before Sunny Day’s show Friday, Nov. 20 at the Rathskeller, The A.V. Club spoke with Daniels and the band’s new vocalist, Annie Fredrickson, about accidental noise and avant-garde composers.
The A.V. Club: Were you surprised when your recording project took off this way?
Ben Daniels: It’s really kind of sweet how things started. I was just recording these things and I went to my dad’s for dinner and Robin [Daniels, former vocalist] was there and I was like, “Why don’t you sing on these songs I have?” And she was like, “Okay.” So we finished a few songs and then I was like, “I’m just going to make this CD and mail it to PRB,” which is this radio station around Philly, and to NYU’s radio station. Then, all these people started e-mailing me and were like, “This is such a great record.” It snowballed. I never thought I would have a career—and we don’t have a career! [Laughs.] At least one that pays money.
Annie Fredrickson: Yeah, this is not a career yet.
AVC: How did Annie join the group?
BD: Annie has this friend who’s a fan of ours, who actually lived a block away from me in West Philly. We were recording the album this time last year. It was a particularly dark, horrible moment in the band where Josh [Meakim] was going to be the singer and I was getting ready to just quit. It was all going to end. Out of nowhere this guy wrote who I had known from shows to ask what kind of fuzz pedal I used, and so I told him and I was like, “Do you know anybody who sings?” And he wrote back and was like, “I actually know the perfect person for you. This is her name and I’ll tell her you’re going to write her.” That was Annie.
AVC: Annie, you’re a classically trained cellist. What was it like coming from that background to more experimental modern music?
AF: It certainly gives me a really solid technical background, to the point where I don’t even think about it. I automatically know things about theory and music that are just always there and I can draw from them. That’s really helpful in a way that I don’t even realize all the time.
AVC: What made you want to make the first song, “Magna For Annie, Josh, And Robin,” an homage to Estonian composer Arvo Part?
BD: When I finished the first album I had all these ideas, and by that point I’d really gotten to know my sisters’ voices and how to work with them. I wanted to make a very vocal album; incredibly sparse instrumental arrangements and lots of vocals. I went out and bought all these choral albums. Arvo Part was my favorite of that bunch. Once it became clear that my sisters weren’t going to be around, I had to abandon that idea, but he has this song called “Summa For Choir” which is beautiful, and I quickly ripped that off for ten seconds. I wanted to throw it on there since it had been such a big part of my life since the first album came out.
AVC: Ashes Grammar was recorded in a large dance studio. Do you have plans to continue experimenting with acoustics and unusual recording processes?
BD: I’d like to do something different next time. I’d actually just like to go to a professional studio with a producer who knows what he’s doing and make a really good album. I’ve never done that. With the first album, I never recorded anything in my life. One of the most exciting things about that record was I learned how to do it. For this new record, I purposefully switched the recording software I used, and it was a whole different thing. Josh has a background in recording and working in studios. I leaned on him heavily for a lot of mic-ing and things like that. It wasn’t as challenging as the first one but it was still just as exciting.
AVC: Was there still a lot of experimenting as you tried to get certain sounds?
BD: Definitely. It took six months to make the record so, yeah, a lot of that. The thing I thought we did that was the neatest to try was this thing that Alvin Lucier did in the sixties. He recorded himself speaking, and then he played the recording back into the room and recorded that, and then he played that recording back into the room, and eventually, whatever sound you start with is obliterated by the resonant frequencies of the room.
AVC: This album is full of short songs and fragments—are the songs built up from these sounds you discover through experimentation?
BD: You know… I guess they did. It’s all accident, really. You make some weird noise and then you’re like, “Oh that sounds kind of cool. Let me just play around with this for the next five hours.” That’s what comes out. “West Philly Vocoder” was me spending a day going in every room of this small mansion in West Philly I was house sitting, and doing weird stuff. They start all different ways. I play mandolin a lot, and sometimes there will just be noises on the computer that sound neat. “Canal Fish” and “Blood White” started from a song where I was playing a synth bass on my computer and I heard this weird little noise in the bass tone. I kept putting equalizers on it to kill the bass and bring up the treble where the noise was and then, I got this… it sounds like a little bell flickering. I don’t know how that stuff happens. You just have to get lucky.
20 Watts show review
After a brief setup and sound check, A Sunny Day in Glasgow took the carpet stage. As a brief aside, the band chose its name after studying in Glasgow, United Kingdom, where a sunny day was a rare experience. Building anticipation, the band opened with a removed, hypnotic trance. Audience members unfamiliar with A Sunny Day’s ambient sound looked at each other with perplexed glances. As the intro came to a peak, the band made a quick change of instruments and launched into shoegaze bliss. Easily layering the female vocal duo with lush, overdriven guitars, the dream pop band extends open arms to listeners and makes their sound very accessible for unfamiliar ears.
The band mixes dream pop with shoegaze as members interact with each other. Though not as sonically assaulting as My Bloody Valentine, A Sunny Day in Glasgow manages the same shoegaze dynamic in their live performance. Duos form as members signal to one another and watch carefully for changes, building a tight, unified sound. A Sunny Day in Glasgow left all egos at the door Sunday night, exhibiting utmost modesty. By mid-set, the mix was dialed in and the band had formed a strong relationship with the audience. Audience members began to dance and the Wildfire Lounge came alive. Vocalist Annie Fredrickson was even cracking puns between songs.
I love when a show is so good that it makes you forget everything else that is going on in your life. A Sunny Day in Glasgow effortlessly cemented me in the moment and played an absolutely fantastic set of dreamy, ambient pop. Transfixed with excitement as the band graciously thanked the audience, I ran up soon afterwards to chat with guitarist Ben Daniels. Inspired by the impeccable performance, I asked Daniels what was going through his head on stage. He grinned and exclaimed with enthusiasm and modesty, “I’m just trying to get through the song!”
Isthmus show preview
Don’t miss A Sunny Day in Glasgow who will bring to Der Rathskeller a night of free music on Friday, November 20, at 9:30 pm in Memorial Union.
Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow is the collaboration of Ben Daniels and his twin sisters, Robin and Laura. They self-released the Sunniest Day Ever EP in 2006 to acclaim from college radio stations and blogs. In 2007 their debut release, Scribble Mural Comic Journal earned them comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins.
Their most recent album, Ashes Grammar, was released on Mis Ojos Disco in September 2009 to wide critical acclaim receiving an 8.3 on Pitchfork and an 88% on Coke Machine Glow, receiving the praise that their music is “from a group of writers strong enough to keep you humming and courageous enough to make you guess.”
The Cornell Daily Sun show review
It’s Always Sunny in Glasgow
Indie pop stars A Sunny Day in Glasgow stop by Wildfire Lounge
Tucked away in a side street off the Ithaca Commons is the new Wildfire Lounge. The exposed brick walls and industrial piping that greet you after you walk up the steps to the bar seem out of place in a décor marked by mini-chandeliers and couches with oversized pillows. This was the perfect venue to see Why the Wires and A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who played the Lounge last Sunday night. Both bands took traditional genres of music and added their own style and flavor to it, although one group had more success than the other.
Opening the show was local Ithaca band Why the Wires, which featured the traditional rock instrumentation of guitars and drums set, plus added drums, xylophone, accordion, saxophone and electric violin. The band started off without an introduction, playing abstract music that could have been an extension of their sound check. As their set went on however, they seemed to fall more into a traditional sound, albeit one that seemed to contradict itself.
Perhaps because of the seemingly random instrument additions, the group seemed to be at odds with itself, with two different sounds battling it out onstage. In one corner was the instrumental rhythm and harmony section, which brought forth a strong sound that was fuzzy and layered, while remaining catchy. In the other corner was the vocalist/ guitarist, who seemed to be in his own world in which he led a trashing hardcore band where harsh vocals and high energy jumps reigned supreme. This bipolarity caused a split in the sound that seemed to drain the power from their music, leading to the conclusion that the group should have picked one sound and stuck to it.
In the midst of a tour taking them to college towns across the country were headliners A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Their name is exceptionally fitting for these Philadelphia experimentalists, who draw inspiration from the from the fuzzed-out noise of Glasgow bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, but add a distinctly sunshine pop twist to the music. From the start of their show, each sound seemed to be battling the others to take center stage. Instead of devolving into chaos though, the band confidently wrangled this tension, creating a fusion where the instruments complemented, rather than dominated, each other.
The group’s sound was built on the dichotomy between the soaring vocals from their two frontwomen, coupled with the experimentalist electronics, and the discordant melodies of the guitars and bass. The six-person act seemed to be in control of this throughout their entire set, creating a buzz that reverberated and filled up the entire packed space, with sound hitting the ears from all angles. As the night went on though, the band revealed that at their core they were a pop/rock act. As they stripped away the electronics, the sound became more focused on the interplay between the guitars, drums and vocals, shedding light on the straight-ahead pop core of the music. The power of the group’s scratchy pop sound, combined with a distorted guitar crunch and shouts of jubilation, paid homage to their name in a way that was respectful and respectable.
IDS News show preview
A Sunny Day in Glasgow are at the point in their career where they’ll swing by Bloomington, but the band’s exponentially-growing success indicates that next time, the show won’t be so cheap and in such an intimate location. Remember what Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste said this summer about previously playing at a church to a handful of audience members in Bloomington? You can laud all about seeing them before they open up for the Jesus and Mary Chain/My Bloody Valentine/Radiohead, or whatever “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment will come about for these guys.
ASDIG is fronted by identical twin sisters Lauren and Robin Daniels along with their brother Ben. ( Sidenote: I’m glad they don’t sound very eerie, because the whole twins thing might give me some “The Shining” type chills). The band’s beginnings were in the 2000s, but it wasn’t until the 2006 release of their EP, The Sunniest Day Ever that folks really started talking. Once the EP floated through the top of the blogosphere, they signed to Notenuf Records and released their first LP, Scribble Mural Cosmic Journal later that year.
In September, Ashes Grammar gave the group a strong foothold by not disappointing their critics(they hate to praise potential then find it’s all wasted). Most importantly, they hate to be wrong! Pitchfork continued to grant them the seal of approval, both in terms of the album and stage performance. Under The Radar magazine, Coke Machine Glow and BBC also applauded their sophomore effort.
Indeed, there is a shoegaz’d ethereal quality to their sound, but it doesn’t come off as an artificial attempt to emulate their musical heros. It’s easily accessible poppy, and trippy: the stuff that pasty white liberal arts college girls will listen to while smoking pot with pasty white liberal arts college boys. The swirling release can send you on a pulsating trance, a meditative state or a flashback to 80s lo-fi.
The low point of the album, as one would predict from any 22-tracked LP(ranging from a few seconds to nearly 7 minutes), is its tendency to drag. Pop Matters writes “While there are many indisputable highlights to be found on Ashes Grammar, it can be a chore to find them.” But All Music Guide suggests that anyone who powers through the album will be richly rewarded in the end. It might not jump at you on the first listen. My biggest problem is the passivity of the vocals, as if the Daniels sisters know they can turn things up a notch, but they’d just rather not.
Regardless of some defects on Ashes Grammar, I feel pretty confident in saying the best has yet to come for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and that they’ll be yet another band that strolls through Bloomington before blowing up beyond belief.
New Haven Advocate show preview
Tweefort is at it again, and this time they’ve put together a full day of indie rock to benefit Artspace. They organized the festival to compensate for Artspace’s dramatic budget cuts during the course of the past year. As usual, the Tweefort folk have split the bill between national touring acts and promising locals. They’ve also made the entire day’s worth of music extremely affordable ($8 gets you into everything) and open to any and every human who wishes to attend (all ages, but don’t worry drinkers; booze will be available for 21-plus courtesy of 116 Crown).
A Sunny Day in Glasgow
The evening show headliners play textured, dreamy (and sometimes ambient) pop music, which is strikingly current and fresh (some compare the new record to Animal Collective) — but there’s an undeniable classic Brit-pop edge to it that may be explained by songwriter/band leader Ben Daniels’ onetime UK residency.
“Music over there … is just everywhere,” Daniels explains. “It’s so pervasive in the culture. There are a bunch of TV shows with awesome bands playing on them, the radio is just so, so, so much better than it is in America, and people there seem to be into a lot more kinds of music than the average American, I think.”
Formed in 2006 and based in Philly, ASDiG have received plenty of press love during their three years as a band. Pitchfork has gushed over them, a fact Daniels admits has been a big help (Pitchfork’s Andrew Gaerig described the new record Ashes Grammar as “nostalgic, jigsaw pop music from a group of writers strong enough to keep you humming and courageous enough to make you guess”).
Ashes Grammar is a refinement of the ideas and attitudes presented in the band’s first LP, Scribble Mural Comic Journal.
“With Scribble Mural, I recorded everything in my apartment with a crappy microphone and I thought of it all as though I was recording demos I would some day go back to and record more professionally,” Daniels says. “But then you fall in love with the demos and can’t imagine re-recording them. This time around I just stopped writing when I got some bare skeleton of a song finished, and then we fleshed it out during recording.”
Daniels had a good scare last year when serious injuries to bassist Brice Hickey and Daniels’ sister Robin (one of two lead singers) kept them from playing. His other sister Lauren (the second singer) left for grad school in Colorado, and it looked like things were grinding to a halt. But Daniels and drummer Josh Meakim plodded on and along came a new singer, Annie, with a breath of new life.
“We miraculously met Annie and everything just fell into place. It’s a little scary, and if I were a fan of the band I’d be a little apprehensive, but I can promise that we’ve never before had such a dedicated and talented band.”
A.V. Club: Madison show preview
Congratulating a young pop twiddler for discovering “shoegaze” or “ambient” sounds these days would be like praising a kid for discovering farts. That makes it all the more pleasing when a new band actually uses the far end of the reverb dial to expand its possibilities instead of just clumsily diving into pretty static. Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day In Glasgow does feature charming female vocals bounding through moon-canyons of echo-blasted pop melody on this year’s Ashes Grammar, but the production takes at least a hint from the fractured pulses of Aphex Twin, leaving plenty open space and even a bit of mystery between the mounds of sugar.
Flavorpill: Chicago show preview
It seems like there are more shoegaze bands in 2009 than there were in 1987, but when a record like A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Ashes Grammar comes along you can’t help but root on the revival. With grad-school commitments and broken feet conspiring against them (not the most rock ‘n’ roll problems, but obstacles nonetheless), the Philly dream-poppers delivered a 22-track epic of fuzzy, synth-washed perfection. Traces of Factory, Creation, and 4AD float along blurred melodies and ambient atmospherics; and when ASDIG gets catchy on gems like “Failure,” they sound like Lush if, instead of forsaking gauzy shoegaze for hooky Britpop, they had grafted them together into a rapturous pop hybrid.
Time Out: Chicago show preview
For music fans of a certain age (say, 34), A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s 2007 debut, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, was a reminder of a time when DIY indie was evolving so rapidly that bands barely had time to perfect an idea before moving on to the next stage of evolution. In other words, the disc was a total hodgepodge: droning dreamy shoegazer one song, shambling C86 twee-pop the next. It was dense but oddly underdeveloped.
The new sophomore album, Ashes Grammar, is another matter. The songwriting’s still all over the place, but this time the scattershot approach works far more coherently, with Ben Daniels’s dreamscapes more head-in-the-sky than eyes-on-the-navel. From the fragmented interludes to more fully fleshed-out tracks such as “Shy” or “Close Chorus,” the disc is reminiscent of (and no less deceptively diverse as) Brian Eno’s ambient-pop masterpiece Another Green World. The collection comes off as cohesive though few traditional “songs” ever emerge out of the masses of shimmering guitars and cooing vocals (courtesy of Annie Fredrickson , who replaces Daniels’s twin sisters, Robin and Lauren). It’s a nifty trick whose various pleasures unfold little by little over repeat listens.
We can’t imagine the Philly group pulling off such a sleight-of-hand act live, minus the mystery of the studio, but at the same time, we imagine some of these half-tunes and fragments will congeal into something clearer before our eyes.
Ernest Gonzales, who also goes by the ridiculous stage name Mexicans With Guns, and who’s recently submitted an entry in the Major Lazer remix contest, takes on a track from A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Ashes Grammar, refashioning the krautrock drum-machine beat and guitar loops of the original “Shy” into a more sparse, dynamic mix, keeping the track afloat on wispy loops of vocals and synths– it’s halfway through before a sub-bass beat drops, but once it does the song begins to soar into a psychedelic climax.
Burlington Free Press show announcement
The Philadelphia trio A Sunny Day in Glasgow brings its lush, dreamy pop to The Monkey House in Winooski for a show that starts at 9 tonight. $6. 655-4563, www.monkeyhousevt.com.
Hartford Courant show preview
Taken as a whole, “Ashes Grammar,” the sophomore effort from the Philadelphia haze-pop troupe A Sunny Day in Glasgow, achieves a sort of cockeyed coherence.
Even as hymn-like a-cappella tracks and 20-second instrumental interludes bleed into the epic likes of “Close Chorus” — a six-minute swim through codeine synthesizers and soothing bathwater harmonies — the album holds together as a single hourlong piece of music.
According to group mastermind Ben Daniels, the collection works even better as four 15-minute fragments, which is how it originally was conceived.
“I was definitely thinking pieces,” the songwriter says by e-mail, days before a tour that stops Saturday at New Haven’s inaugural Elm City Popfest. “I was also thinking of vinyl, and how it doesn’t really matter where one song ends and another starts with that medium. I think it’s an album for iPods and record players.”
“You don’t have to listen to the whole thing in one go,” Daniels adds.
In recording the album, Daniels was forced to make do without his sisters, Lauren and Robin, who sang lead on A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s acclaimed 2008 debut, “Scribble Mural Comic Journal.”
Both vocalists left for personal reasons; Lauren moved to Colorado for graduate school, and Robin took time off to care for her boyfriend, group bassist Brice Hickey, who injured his leg moving musical equipment.
These circumstances left Daniels, drummer and engineer Josh Meakim, and newcomer Annie Fredrickson to work out an entirely new singing style.
“It was maybe a little harder, but not too much harder,” Daniels says. “The biggest challenge with this was Annie’s range, which is lower than my sisters, alto vs. soprano.”
The three succeeded in creating harmonies that float alongside, never above, the group’s lush backing. While Daniels hesitates to label A Sunny Day in Glasgow as “dream pop,” the indie-rock trend du jour, there’s no denying the pleasant, drowsy feeling he creates with his mix of words and music.
“For me, the music is just as important as the lyrics are,” Daniels says. “I am trying to write something that is meaningful to me and expresses something important to me or interesting to me, but the listener has to get their own meaning out of it. If they can hear the lyrics, great. If not, they will probably come up with their own ideas, and that is equally great.”
•A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW performs Saturday as part of the Elm City Popfest at Art Space, 50 Orange St., New Haven. The music begins at 3 p.m. with afternoon set of Metric Mile, The Dayzies, One Happy Island, FayRey, and the Cavemen Go. At 8 p.m. the Tyler Trudeau Attempt performs, followed by A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Tickets are $8 for the full day, $5 for afternoon or evening only.. Information: 203-772-2709 or www.artspacenh.org.
Seven Days show preview
Dream A LIttle Dream Pop
Name any tastemaking indie music media outlet and they will tell you one irrefutable truth: You are not as cool as they are. But they also will tell you that A Sunny Day in Glasgow are one of the more exciting bands to come down the pike in a long time. And they’re right. From Stereogum to Pitchfork to Brooklyn Vegan, nine out of 10 persnickity pundits agree that the Philly-based outfit trades in a hypnotizing, often challenging brand of breezy psychedelia that turns the “dream-pop” idiom on its ear. This Thursday, Burlington’s own Angioplasty Media presents the band in the cozy confines of Winooski’s the Monkey House.
Pitchfork (8) Best New Music “Close chorus” – Track Review
If you hadn’t noticed this was the standout on A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s triumphant-despite-adversity sophomore album, Ashes Grammar, you’re forgiven. When it’s working, the Philadelphia band’s diaphanous dream-pop washes over you like an “ambient slipstream,” to borrow a nicely evocative phrase from the BBC. With 22 tracks flowing by in a little more than an hour, Ashes Grammar makes picking favorites even more difficult. Some tracks pass in a matter of seconds, mere interludes; others glide toward an infinite horizon.
I hadn’t noticed “Close Chorus” was my most-played track from Ashes Grammar (well, tied with the 11-second intro) until my fellow staffers started saying how great it was. After the psychedelic clang of the Panda Bear-like “Failure”, “Close Chorus” is only the album’s second track that even resembles a conventional song. Make that songs: By around three minutes in, the bass line’s quasi-techno bounce could almost be coming from a different piece altogether from the Cocteau Twins-haunted female vocals, effects-drenched guitar strums, and indeterminately warped hum. “Close Chorus” undergoes plenty of other metamorphoses, too– drum machines trading off with live rock drumming, a few snippets of lyrics comprehensible here and there (“it’s hard to believe…” “I just want to be happy”)– until, before you know it, shoegaze guitars start dropping like dying seagulls. You definitely won’t notice that Ben Daniels recorded the song without founding singer Lauren Daniels (grad school) and mostly without bass player Brice Hickey (broken leg) and sibling singer Robin (looking after Brice).
I’m probably the only one who’ll notice how one of the melodies vaguely recalls the chorus from the Offspring’s “Gone Away”, but why not listen again?
Under the Radar Album Review
In 2007, when A Sunny Day in Glasgow (ASDIG) mastermind Ben Daniels unleashed the meticulously crafted debut Scribble Mural Comic Journal, it was an intoxicating melange of jangling guitars, dance music and ethereal atmospheres that seemed at odds with the rockist indie landscape of the time. But two years on, ASDIG’s combination of shoegaze bliss, buffed with thumping beats and textural samples, suddenly seems part of a larger stylistic trajectory. Kindred spirits Gang Gang Dance and Animal Collective are also cross-wiring the ecstatic release of dance music and the trippy synth sprawl of new age with a classic pop sensibility, reaching for something more infinite and spiritual than the next summer jam. That’s not to say that ASDIG’s sophomore effort is short on immediate gratification. Where its predecessor occasionally buried its charms under the cloak of radiant ambiance, Ashes Grammar tempers that impulse toward obfuscation – delivering record full of some of the year’s most sublime art pop.
“Failure,” for instance, erupts with a chorus of female vocals singing a cascading, nursery rhyme melody. But in the echoing production that backs them, live drums pound, distant piano tinkles, and glowing synthesizer tones surge and crest, creating something dense and throbbing. The more direct “Close Chorus” rides on lean programmed beats, bobbing bass, and a glassy female vocal, as a droning keyboard runs against the current to add dissonant complexity. The PiL-popping bass groove on “Shy” anchors an otherwise ethereal song, intensifying the catharsis of the guitar bursts and Fleetwood Mac-style harmonies that follow. For all of Daniel’s experimental tendencies, his weakness for pop has gotten the better of him on Ashes Grammar. Granted, ASDIG never traffics in straight-ahead pop music, but when those impulses shine through such gorgeously layered production, its all the more thrilling for it.
Phillin’ It: For years, Philadelphia has been shrugged off as New York’s little brother—a place where displaced Brooklynites went in search of cheaper rents, bigger spaces, and a touch less ‘tude. But what’s emerged over the years is far more than simply a sixth borough. So for this year’s special City Issue, we dug around the Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Chinatown, and every other little enclave we could find to bring you the best that Brotherly Love has to offer. Check back every few days for a new feature from the east coast’s newest hotbed.
For Ben Daniels, the frontman of noise-pop outfit A Sunny Day in Glasgow, “there’s no escaping Philadelphia.” Even after attending art school for a year in Glasgow, Scotland, and dropping out to stretch his legs in London for a while, he still gratefully returned home to Philly to record his shimmering sophomore album.
It’s clear that he’s happy to be back, but Daniels would still classify his relationship with the City of Brotherly Love as one of love and hate. While Philly has, in his words, the “worst transportation ever, possibly in the world,” it’s also home to his “favorite place, possibly in the world,” the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania, and a music scene that he describes as being “on the up and up.” (He and bandmate Josh Meakim regularly take in the many “punk rock-underground-basement-sort of shows” that are currently unfolding in old Victorian homes around Daniels’ West Philly stomping grounds whenever they aren’t checking out favorite bands like Kurt Vile and Cold Cave at The Trocadero.)
Three years ago, Daniels formed A Sunny Day in Glasgow as a bedroom project, and since then the band has featured an ever-changing lineup of musicians, including Daniels’ vocally talented younger twin sisters, Robin and Lauren. “It’s always in the family, always friends,” says Meakim, Daniels’ friend-of-a-friend since high school who later joined the band as a drummer.
Daniels and Meakim initially intended to ditch their guitars for Ashes Grammar, the band’s follow-up to 2007’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal, and make an electronic album with a “big-room sound to it,” says Daniels of the pair’s pre-production discussions. Instead, they ended up keeping the guitars and renting an actual big room—a dance studio—in which to tinker around for hours every weekend with a mix of guitars, auxiliary percussion, a notably expensive collection of microphones, and newcomer Annie Fredrickson’s luminous vocals. As Robin and Lauren Daniels became increasingly busy with school and relationships, Fredrickson took on more of the vocal work. “She would just come hang out, and I would loop parts of songs for an hour and have her sing whatever she was hearing, whatever would come out,” Daniels says. “A lot of melodies got hammered out that way.”
After recording their individual samples, Daniels and Meakim sent their ideas for complete tracks back and forth across Philly, not via IM or FTP but rather a communal hard drive. “In a way, I think the city infiltrates our sound,” says Daniels, “because I went to Montreal to go to school, lived in Glasgow and London, and I didn’t make any music in any of those cities. There’s just some comfort zone I can’t really get into when I’m not in Philly. Philly is the only place where I get music done.” And, he notes, “the weather is definitely better here than in Glasgow.”
Ashes Grammar is out now on Mis Ojos Disco.
Brooklyn Vegan A Sunny Day in Glasgow (now with a new lineup with new singer) – 2009 Tour Dates (Union Hall & LPR)
So many people have been in ASDiG since the project started in 2006 – touring members especially have come and gone. But I am happy and excited to let you know that we now have what could really be called a stable line-up now. The sad news is that Robin & Lauren are no longer singing with ASDiG. For various reasons (out of state grad school; boyfriend’s broken limbs, work) neither were readily available while we were recording Ashes Grammar. These were dark times! But then all of this great stuff started to happen where Josh and I just said fuck it and kept working on the album. And then longtime fan and west philly neighbor Ryan Newmeyer wrote out of nowhere to ask what kind of fuzz pedal I use (<3<3<3 love you so much zvex fuzz factory <3<3<3) and I asked if he knew any singers. And he did! And her name was (is) Annie Fredrickson. Josh, Annie, and I would spend many many many late nights in Lambertville and West Philly and South Philly and anywhere we could make noise starting from scratch, ultimately finishing the album, and generally coming together as friends and as a band. Good times!
And then, when Ashes Grammar was done and we all got really drunk and got some normal sleep and listened to songs that weren't our songs etc... and the three of us decided we really liked the album and wanted to go on tour for as long as we possibly could to support it. But no one else wanted to go, so it was kind of dark times again. But then it turns out that Ryan plays bass! And then Josh's friend Adam Herndon joined to play drums (Josh now plays guitar/synths/whatever and sings)! And then we had this singer search where so many incredibly talented singers from all over the world sent us demos and tried out and it was crazy, we had no idea there were so many people who would want to join our little band. It was a really hard decision but in the end we are very happy to introduce you to Jen Goma when we go out on tour next week.
Anyway, things feel really good now. Everyone in this band really wants to be in this band and they are all talented people. It feels like we actually are a band and can give alot of ASDiG songs the live treatment (I think) they deserve.
Also, we've already recorded another album's worth of new songs and we are going to be touring so so so much next year in addition to this fall. Hope to see you out there! - A Sunny Day in Glasgow
A Sunny Day in Glasgow's new lineup will hit the road on November 12th and stay on it for a month until they eventually hit NYC for two shows: 12/12 @ Union Hall (tickets) & 12/13 @ Le Poisson Rouge (tickets). All dates below...
A Sunny Day in Glasgow - 2009 Tour Dates
11/12 - Winooski, VT The Monkey House
11/13 - Middletown, CT Ecclectic House @ Wesleyan University
11/14 - New Haven, CT ArtSpace
11/15 - Ithaca, NY Wildfire Lounge
11/16 - Gambier, OH Horn Gallery
11/17 - Pontiac, MI The Pike Room
11/18 - Bloomington, IN The Bishop
11/19 - Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
11/20 - Madison, WI University of Wisconsin
11/21 - St. Paul, MN Eclipse Records
11/22 - Iowa City, IA Public Space One
11/23 - Omaha, NE Waiting Room
11/24 - Lawrence, KS Replay Lounge
11/25 - Dallas, TX The Cavern
11/27 - Austin, TX Ghost Room
11/29 - New Orleans, LA AllWays Lounge
12/02 - Nashville, TN Basement
12/03 - Atlanta, GA 529
12/04 - Athens, GA Secret Squirrel
12/06 - Savannah, GA Sentient Bean
12/07 - Asheville, NC Bobo Gallery
12/08 - Chapel Hill, NC The Cave
12/09 - Charlottesville, VA Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
12/10 - Washington, DC The Red & the Black
12/11 - Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery
12/12 - Brooklyn, NY Union Hall
12/13 - New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge
12/15 - Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda's
Tiny Mix Tapes Tour Announcement
A Sunny Day In Glasgow Swirl Across the U.S. on Fall Tour
If everything is feeling a little more hazy, like you stepped into some endless flashback sequence, it’s probably A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s fault. The ghostly Philadelphia dream-pop outfit is looking to bring a little more haze, a little more swirl to the United States on their Fall tour. Starting mid-November in Vermont, the tour heads through much of the Midwest and East Coast before touching down for a hometown show in mid-December. The trek is in support of the group’s recently released sophomore album, Ashes Grammar. Since TMT has not yet reviewed ASDIG’s new one, I’ll treat you to my own quick mini-review: it is really great. I give it about 18 little blue circles out of five little blue circles.
Also, just in time for Halloween, the band has recorded this cover of The Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments.” Somehow, I expected it to sound a little bit different.
Delusions of Adequacy Album Review
A Sunny Day in Glasgow seemingly came out of nowhere a few years back with a delightfully klangy and blissed-out EP, The Sunniest Day Ever, an even klangier and more blissed-out full-length, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, and a loosely gorgeous and lengthy tour EP, Tout New Age. All of this music was both arty and accessible in the best ways, basically by sounding unique on one hand but instantly pleasurable on the other. Yet, as they release their sophomore full-length album, Ashes Grammar, the band is still flying pretty far under the radar. That’s a shame, because they make great dream pop music which never checks the dream or the pop at the door for too long, making their indulgences the listener’s adventures. Ashes Grammar takes what they accomplished on SMCJ and attenuates it, stretching it into new shapes and sizes, avoiding a retread of their debut album by avoiding the traditions of the album form altogether.
At 22 tracks and over an hour long, there’s a lot to get tangled up in if you’re looking for a product subdivided into discrete, intelligible parts. And let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you be expecting that? But the first proper song comes at track four after a few minutes worth of gauzy vocalizations and instrumental bubbling that feels a bit like the greeting music for a worship service or wedding. Looking at it that way, it’s fitting, as “Failure” announces itself as the main event with some twinkling synths leading to some bouncy and bombastic music, the angelic female voice, distorted drums, and klangy guitar all jumping out into relief, and it feels like old times again. Just when it feels like this track might pummel you for 4 or 5 straight minutes, it changes to a second half Arthur Russell would approve of, with a crystalline piano melody, clear guitar, sunny synths, and soft male vocals bringing the song to a thoughtful and surprising conclusion. Sonically, this album is less guitar-driven and much more spacious. The change of vocal duties from his twin sisters to Annie Fredrickson and only one of his sisters is imperceptible, and the detached feminine vocals still overlap in robotic cascades and sleepwalking declarations.
The rest of the album plays out in similar fashion to the first four tracks, alternating between atmospheric interludes and more gripping and crafty sonic territory, and results in a long player which can feel a bit slippery and samey, even interminable. Ben Daniels, the driving force behind ASDIG, has become better at shifting gears, slowing songs down for sweetly pensive breaks, or simply taking right turns which go in a different direction without seeming completely unrelated. On initial listens, it can be really difficult to know when one songs ends and the next begins without watching the display interface of your listening device for track changes. But whose problem is that?
There’s something to be said for the brave move to structure the album in such a fashion. It took me many listens to get a grip on it, as I attempted to carve it up into pieces I considered either proper songs or interludes, imposing a bit of the order I’ve come to rely on as a starting point for understanding popular music. Now that I can separate the pieces and focus my attention in a fashion I’m more accustomed to, it is an open question as to whether I prefer it as the long form, dream-logic piece it seems intended to be, or whether it’s better viewed as a bunch of proper songs stitched together with inconsequential interludes.
In the end, this preference likely matters not. Just the fact that it’s accomplished this duality makes it an achievement in its own right. It enters the realm of multi-purposefulness: Throw it on when you want some pleasant, multi-textured driftiness, or throw it on when you want to feel some charming tracks emerge from and then fall back into the ether. Why is it so important to make beginning and ending distinctions as a listener? Ashes Grammar can’t answer that question, but that it has provoked the question in such an enjoyable and engrossing manner is cause for celebration.
The New Music
Who: A Sunny Day In Glasgow
What: Heavily layered, fluttering dream pop shaped by nebulous soundscapes and heavenly harmonies. Far too complex and erratic to be shoegaze.
Sounds like: The Misfits getting covered by a band that would rather hang out at sound collage exhibitions featuring wine & cheese than their local Hot Topic.
RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Brian Eno’s Another Green World, late period Stereolab, Cocteau Twins, Deerhunter, a nice amalgam of the entire 4AD catalogue
Need to know: They’re actually from Philly, not Scotland. Co-founder/leader Ben Daniels invited his sisters Robin and Lauren to sing in the band and on the first two ASDIG releases: the Scribble Mural Comic Journal LP and the Tout New Age EP. Cellist Annie Fredrickson also sings, but in September they were looking for one more singer. Ben used to study at McGill University in Montreal during ASDIG’s formative years.
Track: “Hybrid Moments” is undoubtedly the most undemanding piece of music ASDIG have ever released. Eschewing their usual ethereal sound, the band thrash their way through Danzig and co’s raucous anthem with as straight a cover as they could deliver. It’s undeniably Misfits, but the female lead vocal, ghostly back-ups, cavernous echo and buzz-saw guitars allow them to call this stunning work their own.
Buy: You can buy their latest and best album Ashes Grammar over at the mis ojos website.
A little dream-pop-punk treat this morning: A Sunny Day in Glasgow covers the Misfits to perfection (this cloudy rendition of “Hybrid Moments” is nearly too good to be true) and posts a “Failure” of their own— rich, bright and melodic. Buy the most-excellent Ashes Grammar out now and hit up all the new tour dates on MySpace.
Under the Radar Tour Announcement
A Sunny Day in Glasgow take a break from their dream-pop M.O. to record a one-off cover of Misfits pummeling Static Age cut “Hybrid Moments”.
Prefix Album Review
Although this Philadelphia band does have loose ties to Scotland, its name seems more metaphorical description of its sound than a geographical placement: dim, misty, and elusive, with moments of light breaking through the clouds. On the band’s second LP, Ashes Grammar, the group maintains its experimental layering of noise, beats, and reverb but pops it up a bit with some nearly discernible lyrics and livelier rhythms, at least in comparison to 2007′s Scribble Mural Comic Journal.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow seems to be striving for something abstract, almost elemental in its sound — something that permeates the subconscious to be felt rather than heard. The album does hit some recognizable high points, but those points result from spending an equal (or greater) amount of music-time being lost in a fog of echoing doldrums. In those moments that the sun does come out, it is like peeling away the layers of raincoats and itchy sweaters to find the warm body underneath. It becomes comforting and delightful, but then slips away again into mystery. It is a wonderful effect to achieve, but to travel the ups and downs of this musical sine wave for over an hour is exhausting, irritating, and almost unbearable.
The 22 tracks on this album range freely in length from 11 seconds to six and a half minutes and a rare few would stand on their own, as the musical shifts between them can be so slight. Highlights include “Failure,” the closest thing to a single on the album; “Close Chorus,” the longest song; “Passionate Introverts,” a pulsing, nearly danceable track; “Evil, with Evil, Against Evil,” which is instrumentally complex; “Blood White,” as a mellow capsule of the album; and “Starting at a Disadvantage,” which in fact seems more of a sprint to the finish. But listen to it back to front and it will feel like it’s burrowing a hole in your head and filling it up with tangled yarn and sparkles and muddy bones and light.
Coke Machine Glow Album Review
At what moment did Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion first announce itself as some next-level candidate for album of the year? If you said somewhere between the ecstatic outburst of drumming in opener “In the Flowers” and the first chorus of “My Girls”—which is to say, somewhere in the album’s opening minutes—then you’re not alone. There’s something about those segments that’s almost biological, something that makes attentions and skins prick alike. Shit’s fundamental. And despite Animal Collective’s tendency towards whooshing abstractions their particular kind of melodic and percussive perfection has appeal that’s pretty much immediate if most’s nigh hyperbolic reactions are any indication. When “My Girls” leaked there seemed to be an almost universal acknowledgment that MPP would be an album that was impossible to ignore, an album that would be, as a foregone conclusion, simply great. It turned out to be more complicated than that of course, with the album’s success a confluence of the band’s gradual development towards accessibility, that it followed Panda Bear’s much-lauded Person Pitch (2007), the demographic penetration of those early leaks, the unintentional and still strategically perfect endorsements by certain other popular bands, etc. Nonetheless: the rest is history. MPP seems destined for most media outlets’ AOTY list, in a spot right at the top.
There’s some bittersweet notion then that an album as good as A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Ashes Grammar is going to get slept on even in a year when a band like Animal Collective will top year end lists. Should this not instead be the year of cosmic justice, of bedfellows and demographic emergence? Why can’t one lead to the other? What better year than a year when Animal Collective becomes the mainstream for everyone to get turned on to exciting sounds of this Philadelphia band?
Which brings us to “Failure,” the second fully formed song from the band’s second album, which also serves as unintentional announcement and biological catalyst of the greater beast that is Ashes Grammar and 2009’s other best album. Consider this review preemptive: the album is more likely to be remembered for being released in the same year as MPP as it is for its own merits and I’m yelling from the rooftops here. This band may not have the same confluence of events or context on their side with which to launch the record to exciting places, but “Failure,” whether listened to loudly or intimately in headphones, somehow stirs those same reserves as “My Girls”; it’s stratospheric keys and tumbling drums appeal on a similarly genetic level; it implies that the music to follow—every gorgeous lick of it—should be impossible to ignore. Ashes Grammar should launch a career.
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Scribble Mural Comic Journal (2006) was a pretty good album too. But the undeniable quality of this follow up (again, like MPP) hits like bricks. The formula the band established with Scribble—that of textural ambience and the Daniels sisters’ dense vocal melodies over conventional rhythm—is here exploded with perfect production to match depth to breadth. The songs hum like electricity and thump like groundswells, surprising and shifting with innovative pacing and dynamics. But they also sound natural and unhurried, seamlessly patched. The sisters’ unidentifiable lyrics are no less engrossing for their incomprehensibility; the preempted mini-pastiche of each short song no less committed to the album’s overall aesthetic. That “Ashes Grammer” is divided from “Ashes Math” makes as much sense as their sum when combined. “Close Chorus” continues Scribble‘s tendency to not only approximate but maybe even improve upon Stereolab’s electro-lounge before to evolves—again, so naturally that it’s almost unnoticeable—into some of the best shoegazing pop to come out this year; and then “Shy” picks it up where “Close Chorus” ends. “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)” shimmies and shivers with trembling ambient noise and melodic techno. And together it’s ineluctable truth: A Sunny Day in Glasgow are writing years ahead of where they should be for such a young band, forming gargantuan records of consistently enjoyable and inventive melodic rock.
It’s a direct line I’m drawing here between this group and Animal Collective, and that’s intentional. What I’m grasping at is that there are things that both bands have done—Animal Collective as 2009 opened and A Sunny Day in Glasgow as it’s drawing to a close—that might serve as indication of what bands, any bands, can do to trigger that universal reptilian brain, that reflexive motion up one’s own spine, that tap into something inexplicable when a melody becomes unforgettable. There’s a sugary core of melody, rhythm and impeccable production that renders near any record universal. Animal Collective earned their accolades, not just with MPP but with Sung Tongs (2004) through Strawberry Jam (2007); Ashes is A Sunny Day’s stripes, their first truly great album of scope. If it’s any indication the group’s potential scales enormous.
The Music Fix Album Review
Despite their name, this bunch are actually from Philly in the good ol’ US of A. However, like the wealth of other American acts currently making a big splash in the indie scene, they’re clearly in thrall to British bands like The Chameleons and Cocteau Twins who steamrollered musical boundaries by adding layers of ambient drone and distortion to their melodies. The term dream pop was coined to describe the output of these groups and that tag fits here, given the obvious influence on the music – as well as the fact that submerging yourself in this record is like taking in a pop concert (or at points a superclub) from a particularly comfortable spot under your duvet. The fact there are 22 tracks on offer here seems daunting at first, but a fair portion of these are less than two minutes long, functioning either as short ambient interludes or, more often, extended intros to the tracks proper (bringing to mind Cut Copy’s brilliant In Ghost Colours, never a bad thing).
For such an idiosyncratic album (see the partially lower-cased song titles and the repeated themes therein – not to mention 11-second homages to Estonian composers) this proves to be a surprisingly accessible work. Male and female voices weave though chimes, soothing synths and plonking piano loops to create an incredibly three-dimensional sound as simple melodies are built upon with layers and layers of rich, heavenly sound. Seven people contributed to this album, helping to create a rich, vibrant fullness of sound that really seizes the imagination, and an excellent job has been done in balancing the as with a little less restraint its easy to imagine a too-many-cooks scenario leaving this album feeling seriously over-egged. As hinted at earlier there’s a real dance music sensibility underpinning some of these tracks too, the shuffling but insistent drum patterns on the likes of Close chorus would work brilliantly on the dancefloor if stripped of the sweeping choral chants and shuffling guitars. Likewise, Life’s great would happily sit as an interlude on a techno compilation. You get the feeling the bubbling-under sense of joy is building to a huge release, and the riotous denouement of Headphone space doesn’t disappoint, the perfect end to a spectacular record.
The band made a big step-up from the DIY bedroom production of their debut Scribble Mural Comic Journal and the move to working in, as the liner notes describe it, ‘a big room’ has paid off. The album is full of huge sounds and the reverb-heavy production lends the album a cavernous feel at times, but the sensation of being once removed from the music, which at points can actually feel like you’re hearing it from the next room, creates a wonderfully paradoxical mesh of bombast and intimacy. A honeycomb structure weaved with candyfloss, the wealth of ideas encased in this fuzzy gem will take an age to discover, and the contagious joy will keep you in raptures for just as long.
Under The Radar Feature
A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s second album ‘Ashes Grammar’, released this week by Mis Ojos Discos, is a shift away from their debut ‘Scribble Mural Comic Journal’. Partly because of the move to a more sophisticated recording environment than the one-mic, bedroom set-up used on the first album. And partly because, after a series of events left them a bassist and not one but two vocalists down, songwriter Ben Daniels and drummer Josh Meakim had to find some new bandmates. But with some new blood and that better studio they created a lush and beautiful album of dream-pop, which is slowly creeping into the consciousness of old and new fans. We spoke to Ben to find out more.
Q1 How did you start out making music?
My mom was a musician and music teacher and she plays every instrument there is pretty much. I grew up with piano lessons and violin lessons and trumpet lessons, but when I turned twelve, I think, I quit everything because I always hated it. A couple of years later though, I was really into Led Zepplin and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ came on the radio when I was driving somewhere with my mom. I just started talking about how much I loved the song, and the guitar part in the beginning, and she asked me if I wanted to start playing guitar. I said yes, so she got me a cheap guitar for Christmas and I started from there.
Q2 What inspired your latest album?
Musically, our tour last year in Europe inspired it. For some reason we took trains all over the place, and we were carrying around guitars and cases of pedals and stuff like that, it was horrible. Josh and I wanted to make an album with no guitars on it, so touring wouldn’t be so difficult. That didn’t exactly happen, but it was in the back of our minds while we were making it. Also, Alvin Lucier’s works were a bit of an inspiration. And, conceptually, the works of Erving Goffman (particularly ‘The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life”) and Emile Durkheim too.
Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
This record was more disciplined that the last one, and everything generally began with the rhythm tracks. Then we spent months putting noises and instruments on top of that, and eventually melodies came out. We recorded vocals at the very end.
Q4 Which artists influence your work?
I think other people are better at answering this question for you. But I was listening to ‘Station To Station’ by David Bowie a lot at the beginning of the recording sessions, and then, while we were recording, we listened to a lot of The Misfits, The Knife, Michael Jackson, Faun Fables, and Desmond Dekker. By the end, when I was kind of going crazy trying to finish the record, I was listening almost exclusively to Ween’s ‘The Pod’.
Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
It’s just songs, you don’t have to try to ‘get it’. There isn’t necessarily anything to ‘get’.
Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Well, the latest album is done, so it is out of my hands at this point! Obviously I’d love for as many people as possible to hear it. In the immediate future I’d just like for us to tour as much as possible. But hopefully next year we can get more records done. I really love making records and songs.
Tiny Mix Tapes Interview
“People are like unicorns: they’re not born, they just appear…”
Some things are absolute. People believe whatever they hear on television. There’s always smog over Los Angeles. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia – and music journos will always be hung up on genre labels. Take Philly trio/septet A Sunny Day In Glasgow, who likely have to field the shoegaze question in just about every interview because their swirly, fuzzy atmospheric presentation sounds close to the trebly daze and melodious fizzle of bands like Cocteau Twins and the crunchy psychedelic, reverb-soaked My Bloody Valentine.
It’s ludicrous to ask musicians about music. This band is happy to have each listener find their own definition, their own meaning, and, hopefully, their own feeling.
There’s a touching moment in their TMT conversation, where drummer/engineer Josh Meakim, a longtime friend of ASDIG’s originator Ben Daniels, remarks that Caribou’s Dan Snaith is an inspiration for the bedroom musician. Indeed, that’s just how ASDIG got its start: sitting cross-legged by the bed, head between headphones, amidst the four walls and ceiling of Daniel’s apartment – later growing to a trio, with his twin sisters, Robin and Lauren on vocals (and Meakim acting as technological advisor) for the production of their debut, 07’s well-received Scribble Music Comic Journal. When the group got a larger recording space for the more expansively scoped and intricate material for recently released Ashes Grammar, Daniels all but lost his original band, recruiting Meakim and singer Annie Fredrickson to become the core.
Daniels, Meakim and Fredrickson gathered together on a sofa in the study of a “large house” in Philly to speak with TMT via speaker phone.
(From speaker phone device, on coffee table in front of sofa) So, where are you three (Ben, Josh, Annie) right now?
Ben Daniels: I’m house-sitting this giant house in west Philly, and we’re in the study of this giant house.
How do you like Philadelphia, if I could just ask, to pick your brains and get a picture of other cities/scenes?
Annie Fredrickson: I like it… Ben: I like Philly as much as I hate it… Josh Meakim: That’s a pretty good statement Annie: I like it more than I hate it… Ben: If you come here thinking it’s gonna be something like New York, you’re just gonna be disappointed. Annie: That’s why I like it. Ben: That’s the enormous positive side to it.
How is everyone’s summer? Ben: Great. I haven’t had a job all summer, so it’s been wonderful. Annie: I… do… have a job and it sucks. Ever since it’s stopped raining, it’s been really great. It rained for, basically the entire month of June and it was awful.
Obviously a highlight for the year has to be the release of (2nd full length) Ashes Grammar. Can you describe the creation process: songwriting, recording, and wherever your mind goes when you look back on it?
Ben: Yeah, we found this dance studio, in like a giant warehouse that was sectioned-off with really thin walls for different spaces. We rented it, and got in there on the weekends, and pretty much could do whatever we wanted. Annie: It was a big room, it was nice to get that big-room-sound out of it. That was our main purpose.
“Well… do you know any female soprano singers who want to go on tour? I’m dead serious…”
Any kind of meticulous work put into soundproofing?
Ben: There was a hairdresser next door to our room that was open in the afternoon on Saturday. Josh: We’d do quiet things until they left… Ben: The funniest thing was, on “Close Chorus”, the first day we started recording, a hurricane came up to Philadelphia, which doesn’t happen often. The roof of this place was a tin roof so the rain was just torrential, it was so loud, that you can hear it in the part where the song breaks away. You can hear this static sound, that’s the rain. I think rain was our biggest sound problem.
What other kinds of experimentation did you do? Any re-amping or manipulations or what-have-you?
Josh: We didn’t actually use a re-amp device, but I had the idea. A lot of the time, you get synths or you work inside of a computer which, this kind of was, and you lose the space that you get when you actually have a live performance. So, before we did anything, we sent all the synths out through a PA into the room, and then record them, so it sounds like everything is together. It makes things sound more cohesive.
Ben: And you get natural harmonics. But, did you ever hear this guy, Alvin Lucier? He’s a professor at some school in Connecticut. This guy’s most famous work is called I Am Sitting in a Room and, he talks on this recording, “I am sitting in a room… different from the one you’re in now,” and he describes the room, and “I am recording the sound of my voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again,” so, if you record a sound, in a room, and play that recorded sound back and keep recording it and playing it back and recording it and playing it back, eventually the original sound is obliterated and all you get is the room… the room starts to ring, the harmonics of the room come out. “West Philly Vocoder” was just me doing that…
(In a follow-up email, Annie would later add her interpretation: “It’s like making a xerox copy of a picture, and then copying the copy, and then copying that copy, etc… eventually the picture is all gone and you just get something that is kind of like the pure image of the copier.”)
“We had grand plans to kidnap a pony… ”
What was it like for you Ben, to get a bigger room to record? And for you, Annie and Josh, to become collaborators?
Ben: That last record I did, just in my apartment and I couldn’t be loud ‘cuz there were people living above and below me. There’s no live drums on that, every drum is a sample. The guitars are pretty much, just plugged directly into my audio interface. It was exciting to go somewhere I could crank the amps and be loud and have all real drums for the most part. It was definitely fun to go there every week. It was like an hour-and-a-half from Philadelphia, I initially thought it was gonna be a pain, but it was really nice, ‘cuz it’s in this sorta bucolic, rural, cute little town.
Josh: It definitely had this Normal Rockwell painting (quality) about it, it was super beautiful and we were all enthusiastic to get started. Then, we realized that we’re spending every weekend out in the middle of nowhere, just with each other, so by the winter time it started to get a little more somber and reflective.
Ben: (helps in questioning) How did you guys feel, coming onto it?
Josh: It was cool. I’ve known Ben since high school. I think his first band made me want to start my own band, so it’s been cool to work with him. We’ve always been doing stuff separately, but stayed in contact. Ben would talk to me about stuff on the last record…
Ben: You were my technical partner.
Josh: Yeah. ‘What should I buy?’ ‘Oh, you have to get this pedal, it’s awesome!’ All over that first record. It just felt like the natural thing to do.
Annie: For me, because I didn’t know Josh or Ben when we started, I was kind of a little more nervous than they were about it. Maybe also because I have never really sung on an album before. I’m a cellist by training, so once I got used to doing (singing) it was really fun, I really enjoyed milking that side of my sound and figuring out how to get into the sound the band has already developed in previous years.
How does it feel, just from line up changes, recording changes, or beyond that… how has the band developed from the shifts of the last year-and-a-half?
Ben: It changed dramatically for a lot of reasons. We did a short tour of Europe in August of last year and we came back and then Josh and I were just super-psyched to bang this thing out. Our bass player, Brice (Hickey), on the day he was gonna come out and start fooling around with bass stuff, while he was loading his car up, he slipped and somehow broke 2 bones in his leg, in four places. So, literally, doctor’s orders, he was confined to a bed for two months. And he’s my sister Robin’s boyfriend so she wasn’t around for a lot of the recording of this album. For me, on the first record I did everything on it. I didn’t want that to be the case with this second one, just out of necessity, there was just no way I was going to get it done. So it was very good that Josh was there to do the ton of stuff that he did. Without Robin there, we got Annie to come along and, I… I didn’t know you were that nervous. Annie just jumped right in and it was great. Robin’s still on the album a ton. Then, my sister Lauren, from the last album, about a week after we got back from the Euro tour, in 2007, she moved to Colorado for Grad School. Brice, Robin, Josh and I were pretty tight at the end (of that tour) but then that band wasn’t there when it came time to record an album. We just rolled with the punches. But it’s been great.
Josh: I’ve been in bands where everybody still plays, but when it comes to recording… to find three people who are enthusiastic about getting things done, is pretty rare.
“Watching Ben’s lyric writing process is sort of like watching the evolution of sublanguage itself… ”
What are your philosophies on, music as an experience, or as a communication — if people often get charged by that visceral effect of singing along to memorized lyrics… lyrics as a message, etc etc… how do you negotiate your own experience, when some of your vocals are swirled by feedback to the point of being somewhat indecipherable?
Ben: I think the melody is also more important to the lyrics, even more than the lyric. People who want to hear what the song is saying, it’s the melody more often than not, that probably moves you. The emotional aspect of the whole… A band like the Cocteau Twins, who knows what they’re saying in their songs? It’s so beautiful, it’s so moving. All of our songs are definitely about something and there’s lyrics there, but it’s never too important to hear what the lyrics are singing about. It’s usually more interesting if you have your own ideas about what they’re singing.
Josh: I grew up listening to Nirvana… so, that whole vague, obscure lyric thing, like, “What is he saying?” Sometimes there’s nothing behind it and there’s something to be said about a really good pop song with a good vocal hook, but that’s not really what we’re trying to do. A bad lyric can totally take you out of the song. I wrote a song before, I was in this band that had the same feel with the vocals, and someone said, “Oh, I love the lyric… ‘People are like unicorns: they’re not born, they just appear…’ ” And…that…was the furthest thing from what I’d written but, it was great!! Everyone gathers their own take on things.
Ben: I’m happy for people to think whatever they want to think.
Annie: Watching Ben’s lyric writing process is sort of like watching the evolution of sublanguage itself… not to make it sound too grand, but he thinks about words first. The meaning is not always primary, it’s more about the phonetic qualities of what he’s doing and how that fits in…
Josh: We definitely recorded a ton of vocals. The more vocals you put on something, the more obscure it gets. With people just singing things slightly different, that makes things more obscure, makes it sound like there’s something going on that’s actually not.
What draws you to sound, as a more atmospheric experience? Here, I’m tip-toeing around using all the tubular adjectives writers often tag you with, or often just citing shoegaze…
Ben: I appreciate that. I guess, it’s what comes out. With Ashes Grammar, I wanted to try that Alvin Lucier thing, he can be very atmospheric. I like the Field’s stuff, and Kompact records, I do like that a lot, My Bloody Valentine stuff… but, I feel like a lot of the bands that are usually “shoegaze” or “dream pop” are just very, probably a criticism people we’ll give us, (laughs) but, very derivative… and not very interesting. Whereas stuff like Fields, Boards of Canada, that stuff, we’d be in the same vein as that. They’re trying something new. With Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, you had something that really needed to get out… and it came out in that aesthetic that was really compelling and people loved it and so a lot of people rushed to do it, maybe… but maybe just without as much behind it, I don’t know.
“I… I didn’t know you were that nervous.”
I always thought of shoegaze being inherently more psychedelic, or maybe it just fits well with psyche, more droney stuff… where as some of your songs have an insuppressible pop sensibility (like “Spy”). What other bands do you dig? Is Dan Snaith (Caribou) on your radar?
Ben: Definitely. Up In Flames, that record is phenomenal.
Josh: He’s a huge inspiration on the bedroom musician, to do something grand like that, I can relate to it.
Ben: Does he have anything new coming out?
Not Sure. But what else for you guys?
Ben: Josh and I are really into that new Fever Ray album, we talk about that a lot.
Josh: That’s a nice recording, very good. Very minimal, electronic, I like that.
Ben: I just downloaded, legally, from iTunes, this band called Palm. Really cool, minimally, and pretty.
Josh: New High Places is good too, and the new EP, I’m really into their side of the new 12”, it’s pretty amazing.
Annie: I was just thinking, High Places, too. And early Magnetic Fields stuff. Usually, it’s one album, and I’ll just listen to it, I’ll feast on it until… like, our album, I can’t listen to it anymore!
What are you working on lately?
Ben: We’ve pretty much finished all the songs and a few other demos that we’ve done and we have enough stuff for another album, but it’s not 100 percent done yet. Hopefully next year…
Leftover ruminations regarding the album? The recording of it?
Josh: I don’t know. We had grand plans to kidnap a pony…
Josh: We would drive by this pony farm, everyday on the way to the studio. There was this one pony that we named “Pancakes”… he/she was, well, all the other ponies would be playing together and, ponies are really small, but, Pancakes was really fat and he would always eat by himself. And he was adorable. It would have been nice to kidnap him, but we never got a chance to…
And the line up is set for now?
Ben: The three of us are kind of the brain trust, but we’re a six-person live band at this point. But, we do need another singer to fill things out. Well… do you know any female soprano singers who want to go on tour? I’m dead serious.
Sun on the Sand Album Review
Ashes Grammar might just be one of the strangest albums to come out this year. Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day In Glasgow have produced a scattered, schizophrenic work of art-school indie that will at times let your mind drift along in wonder while having you question what exactly it is you are listening to at others. The record consists of 22 songs, although calling each track a song is not quite the right description. These are really pieces of music put together in a way similar to that of a DJ mixtape. Some of these tracks are little more than a minute long but altogether, there is over an hour of sound to get your head around. The mood switches frequently between background ambiance and engaging listening. The vocals of twin sisters Lauren and Robin Daniels are mostly indecipherable but sound quite beautiful when backed with right dreamy sounds that comprise the musical vision of chief musical architect Ben Daniels (the girls’ brother). It takes a couple of tracks for things to get going but the low-key beginnings soon come to life as A Sunny Day In Glasgow build the sounds to (at times) euphoric levels. There are some hints of instant pop leanings on heavily shoegaze-influenced ‘Failure’ and ‘The White Witch’ but the air of whimsy keeps the songs in a dream-like state. The vastness to the music is quite astounding as the music goes from Gregorian-like chants to Leftfield and Orbital early Danny Boyle movie soundtrack sounds to The Go! Team on tranquillizers. The 6-minute opus ‘Close Chorus’ adds some Avalanches inspiration into the mix and is the standout track but really, Ashes Grammar needs to be heard as a whole. The influences really are all over the place and the end result is an album that sounds like the past, the present, and the future. It might take a bit of work on your part to find the magic moments but there are plenty to be found and new ones to be discovered with each listen.
The Quietus Album Review
A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s 2007 début, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, was a charming piece of psych-pop, drawing plaudits from all the usual suspects who like that sort of thing. Much of this was due to the expansiveness of the album’s sound, which belied its humble genesis: it was recorded into a single microphone in the bedroom of A Sunny Day…’s lynchpin, Ben Daniels.
Two years on, and success has given Daniels a budget to match his ambition, allowing him to assemble an expanded corps of musicians in a larger studio. Initial impressions are of business as usual, particularly by the time time ‘Failure’ pounds its way into view, the crisply tribal percussion a counterpoint to the washes of synth and reverb. By focussing on this reverb, A Sunny Day… set themselves apart from the current pack of Animal Collectivists: much has been made of the studio technique of playing back the recordings into the room and repeatedly capturing progressive layers of echo until they form a dense, shimmering whole. It’s as if Daniels is so glad to get out of his bedroom that he feels compelled to demonstrate his new-found freedom on as large a scale as possible.
Attempting to use the room as an instrument has its inherent drawbacks, not least of which is the way in which what should be a comforting sheen instead feels homogeneous. The lack of variegation makes for a consistent album, to be sure, but leaves an after-impression of blandness, exacerbated by tracks which segue into each other, repeating former themes until they are indistinguishable.
Yet despite these limitations, and some frankly pointless (if mercifully brief) ambient interludes, Ashes Grammar should not be completely dismissed. Throughout, Daniels’ loping bass both underpins and cuts through the wall of sound, its bouncing melodies drawing notice to tunes that might otherwise remain buried in the mire. Strangely, assuming that by this point the listener hasn’t simply glazed over, the album does actually improve as it goes on, with stand-out tracks ‘Blood White’ and ‘Headphone Space’ consigned to the final third, and intelligible lyrics emerging by the mid-point.
Ultimately, in trying to expand on his vision — an admirable aim — Daniels has put aside what made earlier efforts so intriguing. One of the pleasures of Scribble Mural . . . was the way in which it overcame its limitations, with numerous ideas itching to make themselves heard above the tape hiss. In Ashes Grammar, one instead finds a single idea — to sound a bit like the Cocteau Twins — teased out and lacquered with echo, until it collapses under its own weight. Once Daniels realises that the greatest creativity can come from constraint, he might be on to a winner.
The Yellow Stereo
Keeping with this ongoing theme of new albums I’ve failed to mention over the past month or so continues with A Sunny Day In Glasgow and their recently released second album titled Ashes Grammar. As their name may lead you to believe, they are not actually from Glasgow or anywhere remotely nearby, but are actually a Philadelphia-based group.
I remember hearing them on the radio a few years ago while driving through Atlanta on the interstate. I was instantly hooked, and not knowing for months what the exact song I heard was incredibly agonizing. Of course, I figured out the song (”Wake Up Pretty”); but to this day, I still have not listened to Scribble Mural Comic Journal in its entirety. There’s no real reason to attribute to it; I guess I was just content with listening to bits and pieces of it.
That being said, it kind of made the release of Ashes Grammar a bit anticlimactic for me. I kind of gave it one of those “Oh hey, I know those guys!” sort of reactions. After listening to “Failure” for the first time, I was instantly reminded why I liked these guys. I’ve always had a rough time with people tossing the Shoegaze tag on them, as it just seems so lazy to label them with that.
I’m not even sure if I could think of a genre to describe them outside of just a very dense, ambient-laden kind of dream pop. It’s music that’s completely lost within itself, which may not sound like much of a compliment, but it just makes as I listen to these songs (all 22 of them).
Gigwise Album Review
Philadelphia collective A Sunny Day In Glasgow may have set themselves high standards with 2007’s immaculate debut ‘Scribble Mural Comic Journal’, yet simply just existing ranks as something of an achievement. Indeed, many a lesser outfit would have called it a day had they been forced to cope with the traumas surrounding ASDIG’s previous twelve months, with serious injury, departing band members and fraught recording schedules threatening to halt ‘Ashes Grammar’ in its progress at regular intervals.
While their first record may have been something of a groundbreaking landmark for this kind of ethereal pop, its fair to say that since then the likes of Sian Alice Group and School Of Seven Bells have usurped them with similarly transcendental voyages into effects-laden ambience. Nevertheless despite being taken to their hearts by the shoegaze fraternity, there is something more subversive about A Sunny Day In Glasgow and ‘Ashes Grammar’ in particular that raises them above the genre’s parapet – ambition.
By fashioning a staggering twenty-two pieces of sound collages here – to simply call this music would no doubt be seen by its creators as doing them an almighty disservice – ASDIG have conceived a monolithic concoction of dreamy, dub heavy, kraut-inspired melodies and interludes subtly woven together by the vocal harmonies of long-standing member Robin Daniels and an assortment of cohorts drafted in to replace higher education bound twin sister Lauren.
Most of the time they gel together surprisingly well considering the short amount of time they’ve spent on the project, not to mention that for some – cellist-cum-pianist Annie Fredricksson being one that springs to mind – its their first excursion behind the mic stand. ‘Close Chorus’ floats along charismatically, its coda giving way to a similar haze that augments My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’ on its homeward strait. Likewise ‘Nitetime Rainbows’ and ‘The White Witch’, where jangly guitars reverberate over a distorted bassline that actually feels like it was recorded in Lee Perry’s Black Ark.
Of course there is the danger that ‘Ashes Grammar’ is maybe a tad too long, and that maybe some of the nine interlude-type tracks here could either have been omitted or merged for the sake of succinctness. However, with a no holds barred approach to creating such a timeless, consummate piece as this, one should perhaps be applauding A Sunny Day In Glasgow for overcoming adversity and ignoring the word “compromise”, even though this maybe just lacks a little of the instantaneity and fluency of its predecessor.
Theme Album Review
When you see song titles with words like slaughter, carnage, evil, white witch, blood and ashes in the mix, your first thought may be; “Did we really need another Marilyn Manson record?” Not the case here. These tracks are all part of the new A Sunny Day In Glasgow album titled Ashes Grammar. Dreamy arrangements with disparate sounds colliding together to make beautiful noise is the intent here and sleepy intro’s leading to crushing crescendos ensure success.
Treble Album Review
Philadelphia dream pop outfit A Sunny Day In Glasgow is as prone to creating beautiful music as they are to making something nebulous and disorienting. And believe me, I mean that in a good way. The group of three siblings and two friends carry on a longtime but low-key tradition of Philadelphia shoegazer pop, a legacy carried on by the likes of The Lilys and Mazarin, but with broader and more experimental tendencies. The group is just as likely to cite composers like Arvo Part or Steve Reich as influences as they are pop groups. And they put as much gorgeous detail in minor instrumental pieces as they do in their big, lushly arranged pop songs.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s second album, Ashes Grammar, is a prime example of how fluid and meticulous a piece of art the band is capable of constructing. It’s an album composed of 22 tracks, some of them pop songs, some of them brief interludes, but it flows seamlessly almost as one sole piece of music. It begins with a ten second abstract piece that flows into another brief a cappella track, but it’s not until the third track, “Slaughter Killing Carnage (The Meaning of Words)” that the listener is really treated to a fully-formed song. And it’s not until track four, “Failure” that the listener is treated to a song with a hook. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s such a gorgeous and sensuous journey through the group’s layers of electronic effects and vocal harmonies that structure seems almost secondary.
When the group does opt for a more structured song, however, the results are absolutely sublime. The aforementioned “Failure” bubbles with electronic precipitation before shuffling into a reverb-heavy stomp. Immediately thereafter, A Sunny Day In Glasgow unleashes a woozy shoegazer disco, filtering My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins-style dream pop through a danceable lens, making for something both high on energy and heavy on sonic ecstasy. Stretching past six minutes in length, it’s the albums longest track, but it builds gradually into a stunning piece of work, reaching soaring climaxes during its choruses, in which the Daniels sisters’ vocals become an ethereal but haunting element that completely makes the song. Meanwhile, “Shy” pulses along a motorik rhythm before flowering into a sunny, surreal slow-dazzle. And “The White Witch” loops for a bit before unleashing a graceful and innocent verse.
As one sets his ear to the sweet tones of Ashes Grammar, the listener can just as easily take close notice of each song and each movement or just lay back and let the ongoing rush of music wash over him. Either option is a winning one, as it’s just so lovely an album that, like a peanut butter cup perhaps, there’s no wrong way to appreciate it.
Drowned in Sound
Album Review 8/10
‘Surreal’ is one of those adjectives that is bandied about much too carelessly. Tossing a word around this nonchalantly does its meaning a great disservice. Synonym sibling ‘fantastic’ has had its implications similarly skewed as narrow overuse of both has resulted in their being associated with all things positive and good. So we turn to Messrs. Merriam and Webster in search of clarity and they tell us:
Surreal: “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” Fantastic: “based on fantasy: not real”
That sounds about right. There is no better way to describe A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Ashes Grammar, in fact. Its songs suspend themselves in mid-air and possess a persistent eerie other-worldliness that is intense enough to raise a doubt in your mind as to whether they exist at all.
The first three tracks canonically layer themselves over each other in successive ripples; the minuscule ‘Magna for Annie, Josh and Robin’ laying itself down as a metallic carpet for the elegantly enrobed ‘Secrets at the Prom’. Sibling vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniels’ voices twist and braid themselves into each other, and this harmonic bundle then bumps into the looming figure of ‘Slaughter Killing Carnage.’ Suddenly aware of its egregious error, ‘Secrets…’ nervously regains its composure by backing away slowly and giving this longer, stronger, more ominous track the right of way.
‘Failure’ is the first clearly defined track. Significantly (and surprisingly, given its name) jauntier than its more languid predecessors, this cheery, jangly little melody has been carefully crafted so as to get the most out of the vocal/instrumental dynamics. Thoughtfully peppered percussion through the track acts like a series of semicolons more so than a constant underline.
Brother/founder Ben Daniels has admitted in interview that, barring the likes of the Cocteau Twins, Stereolab and the Magnetic Fields, he finds the majority of shoegaze era bands ‘horrible.’ I am saddened by such a harsh choice of words. I am also a little befuddled because does the blissful ‘Close Chorus’ not bear an uncannily apparent resemblance to these very bands? As it majestically crashes free of its ‘Curse Words’ cocoon, flirtatious distortion tickles the sisters’ brilliantly blended voices, indecipherable lyrics meshed with warbling coos. ‘Horrible’? Not really.
‘Shy’ is the album’s acme of surrealism – so genuinely dreamlike and ethereal, as to be nearly twilit. All thanks to the broken, disembodied, poorly enunciated sigh that is its centrepiece. Meanwhile, ‘Evil, with Evil, Against Evil’ is unsettlingly chirpy as optimistic handclaps interrupt a predominantly spooky undercurrent. Appropriately titled ‘Nitetime Rainbows’ is a gracefully faltering narcoleptic which drifts in and out of the perpetually hazy realm of reality. On an album of insecure track durations, I am glad that this one got to be among the longest.
The watery ‘Starting at a Disadvantage’ builds a marionette out of what appears to be a mandolin by making it dance over a pulsating rhythm. Finally ‘Life’s Great’ lowers you smoothly into the sparkling ‘Headphone Space’ which bubbles away happily till it ultimately morphs into a slinky and slithers away into silence.
Then you have ‘schizophrenic.’ It’s not a song on the album, it’s a word. Frequently misconstrued as synonymous with completely unrelated mental illness Dissociative Identity Disorder (erstwhile Multiple Personality Disorder), schizophrenia is in fact characterised by a disturbance in an individual’s perception of reality. The brain of a person so unfortunately afflicted finds it difficult to tell apart what is real and what is not. … see what I’m getting at? Schizophrenic, surreal and fantastic – that’s Ashes Grammar.
It takes a very specific mindset to submerge yourself in A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s albums. Scribble Music Comic Journal, their debut release, was both refreshing and daunting. Led by the versatility of ringleader Ben Daniels, they had established themselves as ambient pop maestros. It seemed to reflect the two sides of the same coin theory – under layers of synthesized, sugary pop, there was also very dense and textural guitar work beneath washes of noise. One thing was for certain – by the time it was over, you were intrigued and mesmerized by the raggedness of their acoustic meets multilayered pop. Indeed, there was still hope in the bygone, but constantly revived, noise pop genre.
Even if A Sunny Day in Glasgow evoked comparisons to Loveless, they certainly weren’t pitching a Kevin Shields meets the Reids musical belief. For one thing, they’re certainly one of the more attention-grabbing acts in their genre. Ashes Grammar, the second album by the Philadelphia cooperative, certainly fits an “out of harm’s way” follow-up aesthetic – there aren’t any huge risks here.
Reminiscent to many cassette-era albums, Ashes Grammar passes the 60-minute barrier, totaling an astounding 22 songs. There’s enough evidence to prove that with this much artistic freedom – they now own their own record label – an editor in the studio isn’t really a necessity.
Ashes Grammar has a noticeable potency for drifting into the listener’s ears from start to finish. It is mainly composed of short compositions, but not in a punk inspired, Pink Flag sort of way. Instead of being afterthoughts, they serve more as prologues to the more extensive tracks. Again, such ambivalence is credited to Daniels, for thinking that we’re convoluted and undecided individuals. This sort of odd sequencing is present right from the start. Secrets at the Prom, a freakish, dual a cappella that lasts a little more than half a minute, gives way to Slaughter Killing Carnage, featuring some vague strumming beneath starry synth sounds, increasingly vague vocal work, and tambourines. But wait, the Daniels sisters advise us to fall forward and feel failure with Failure, a prominent celebration that recalls some African percussion with psychedelic flourishes and lustrous choruses. Up to this point, has there ever been such a charming and optimistic statement from a genre known for its dreariness.
As Ashes Grammar moves along, the familiarity of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s past work becomes more palpable. They also create some of their most beautiful work. The White Witch is classic dream pop, with more unintelligible lyricism and guitar progressions, whilst embracing some warped percussion. It becomes apparent that percussion has a big role in Ashes Grammar. Nitetime Rainbows and Ashes maths, which sees the band turning the tremolo up to eleven, become more straightforward when played with what could be described as the sound of a cheap drum set. This gives way to a more raw, garage-y approach. Parts of Ashes Grammar seem as if they were recorded in an empty, spacious warehouse. There’s even some vocoder in, well yes, West Philly Vocoder, serving a similar approach to the simplicity of SCMJ’s The Horn Song. The two-minute ambient piece is actually an introduction to Evil, With Evil, Against Evil, another synth lullaby with handclaps and keyboard effects that evoke a new awakening. Starting at a Disadvantage, probably an album highlight, is sonically rich and bass driven, featuring some haunting violin plucking and more reverb drench tuning.
Is there a concept behind Ashes Grammar? Probably not, although, maybe the band members have kept things deliberately cryptic. With all it’s sparse lyricism and curiously peculiar song titling, it becomes a little hard to pin down. There definitely wasn’t any restraint in the making of Ashes Grammar, since it sounds more like a full blown, atmospheric collage of intangible sounds than a defined, conceptual piece. The little mood pieces that set the longer tracks are amusing at best, but that’s about as much cohesiveness as you’ll find. At times I found myself nostalgic for the clear-cut and impeccably arranged sequencing in Scribble Music Comic Journal. Even if Ashes Grammar drifts quite nicely as a whole – best listened to it with eyes closed in a meditative position – it seems most appropriate for the short attention span generation. In their short yet complex career, A Sunny Day in Glasgow have found enough leverage to embrace their individuality.
Yes, they’ve got the shoegaze guitar sound down perfectly, but what makes this band interesting is the magnitude of their ambition (this is a 22-track opus) and how much more than guitar they occasionally throw into the mix: electronic loops, ukulele, skirling keyboards, Krautrockish beats. But it’s the ethereal vocals of the twin sisters up front who give this band its greatest identity, and for sheer beauty of sound it’s hard to beat their second full-length.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow looking for new singer, new album out now (MP3), 2009 Tour Dates
As you may know we [had] a new album come out this month. We are planning to go on tour for a short while later this Autumn and then for a LONG while next year, all over the world. But before we do, we need another singer to fill things out and make us sound awesome. Specifically, we are looking for a female soprano who is up for an adventure (if you are not sure what a soprano is, just listen to our songs– these are predominantly within a soprano range). -A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Details on how to contact/join the band are below.
Their new album, Ashes Grammar, just came out on September 15th on Mis Ojos Discos. Two tracks (combined into one) are posted above.
Limited tour dates (the short tour alluded to above) are posted below (no NYC yet). The album art, tracklist and the rest of their note are also below…
A Sunny Day in Glasgow need a new singer (cont)
There are no geographic limits to this search– you could live anywhere in the world (seriously)– but special preference may be given to folks living in or around Philadelphia, USA or Sydney, Australia, cuz these are the cities where members of this band currently live. But really, don’t let geography stop you or your friends from getting in touch if interested.
And if you are interested, please write us asap at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can fill you in on more specifics and answer questions and whatnot.
Wears the Trousers Album Review
The folks down at the Duodecimal Society may have one thing right – baker’s dozens are surely a standard measure, musically speaking (although, in this case, Toklas brownies are probably the goods served in this album’s domain). Ashes Grammar, the second full-length album from Philadelphia-based collective A Sunny Day In Glasgow, docks in at an impressive 22 tracks but can be easily compressed. Even Ben Daniels, a co-founding member, admits that originally the tracklist contained 13 songs; longer songs that some intense editing broke up further. The band itself accommodates all this output with eight members – Daniels, his two twin sisters Robin and Lauren, Josh Meakim, Annie Frederickson, Bryce Hickey, Mich White and the fantastically named Beverly Science – and some electronic software that splices, polishes, trims and cross-links their music together.
Ashes Grammar sounds like techno on tranquilisers and moshpits on morphine. But small dosages, please. In a dozen songs and then some, the band introduces electronic sounds that lie on top of another, pulsating with a developing beat. Much of these digitally remastered noises echo off one’s headphones – many tracks here give the impression of being recorded in a Gothic cathedral, where the acoustics would have caused the ribbed vaults to vibrate and the stained glass to mist up slightly with the stuff of dreams. This isn’t, after all, sticky pop; Ashes Grammar is theme music for a summer nap in a poppy field, releasing itself from any limits, brackets or musical definitions. Indeed, ‘Curse Words’ defies its title in silken whispering, and even if the ladies are crooning damnation, it comes in the form of tranquil lullabies. This song folds seamlessly over into ‘Close Chorus’, which rebels aginst notions of set song structure, choosing instead to pursue a chorus for an intoxicating six and a half minutes. Another beautiful piece, thrillingly short at just 42 seconds, ‘Secrets At The Prom’ contains ghostly mutterings, lovely in a delicate, haunting way, before melting into ‘Slaughter Killing Carnage (Meaning Of Words)’. Among the other more ear-catching moments are ‘Canalfish’, which enters and exits in a spiky-finned manner, ‘West Philly Vocoder’ with its stainless steel chiming, and ‘Shy’, for its not-so-timid layering of sounds.
While each song has a unique, identifying quality to it – not perceivable at first, but a realisation that strikes after two or three replays – the overall impression Ashes Grammar creates is washed out and fleeting. There’s bubblegum pop and then there’s cotton-candy pop, spun sugar that gets carried by the wind like errant pastel-coloured thoughts. Ashes Grammar is valuable because it questions conventions about the content of music; perhaps we should all tune into another frequency of loss of conscious thought and welcome instead a stream of slippered, foggy tones. These songs are good for attempting to hum in empty tunnels, but the problem with shoegazing is that the material risks becoming uniform, if only because its ideals seek such abstraction that followers produce identically bleached music. Once lyrics are half-heartedly erased and electronic pulsation is put in its place, it takes genuine skill to keep the category going. But Ashes Grammar teases with filmy vocals, tickles lightly with words, sheds song structure and chooses to give the listener free rein, providing a title as framework and an album of distinction within a genre that may once more be losing its lustre.
It’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and it seems the only thing to throw the whole weather prediction chart off is punctuation powder floating after the explosion of words – Ashes Grammar rising and falling in the ether.
I watched a movie last night called The Mist, a Stephen King adaptation about a town besieged by a thick, blinding fog (and later monsters from another dimension). The score was gorgeous, but this might have worked better. A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s hazy foundation is impenetrable and imbued with such depth that sometimes their songs can be as scary and heart-pounding as anything King could scribble. That’s perhaps not the point of this Philly group’s sound, but it always chills me. Ashes Grammar is no exception.
Limewire Album Review
When A Sunny Day in Glasgow releases an album, they don’t play around. Hence the 22 tracks that make up the hour-long Ashes Grammar, the band’s third f…ull-length. The Daniels siblings (not to be confused with the Danielson Family) — twin sister vocalists Lauren and Robin and their songwriter brother Ben — are back with more irresistible dream pop. Songs range from the pounding, hypnotic “Canalfish” to the slow, shivering chant of “Blood White.” What defines this music is its faraway quality, the sense that the musicians are floating somewhere above us: We can feel it in the echoing percussion and the Daniels ladies’ reedy, ethereal voices. But like dreams, memories and other intangible things, Ashes Grammar is also something we can dive into and revel in, if only mentally. “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)” sucks us in slowly, first with a building disco beat, then with a catchy, half-buried chorus that demands, “Do you believe in dinosaurs?” This is an album full of brief song sketches and long, luxurious atmospheric tracks — and one that is all the better for refusing to choose a mood and stick to it.
Plastic Milk Album Review
Despite a name that would suggest British ties, experimental indie-pop band A Sunny Day in Glasgow is proudly Philadelphian (the band members like the weather better there, too). In a rented dance studio near their West Philly stomping grounds, leadsman Ben Daniels and cohort Josh Meakim tinker with second-hand drums and synthesizers, eventually throwing in a sweet veil of delicately muddled vocals courtesy of newcomer Annie Frederickson and Daniels’ angelic twin sisters, Lauren and Robin. The result of this studio wizardry is Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Disco), a sophisticated sophomore album that wanders a cave of moody experimentation without ever getting completely lost in the dark.
In some places, A Sunny Day in Glasgow pairs reverent, Edwardian-inspired hymnals with chimes, skittery bells, crickets, and dense reverberation; in other places, the Daniels twins’ wide-eyed innocence comes across like school children singing nursery rhymes you’ve never heard through a sprinkler system at the base of a cathedral.
The album’s single –a two-fer track– “Ashes Grammar/ Ashes Maths” shimmers vibrationally with warm guitar, pretty oscillating synths, subtle clave-studded percussion, and haunting vocals that linger in the head hours after hearing them. These vocals take the backseat on quirky “Canalfish,” which momentarily switches the album’s focus to a twisting organic machine constructed out of accordion. “Nitetime Rainbows” runs an even greater gamut of texture, moving from clicking drum machine and distilled, roomy synths through handclaps and plucky guitar to decidedly atonal tinny accents and a final uncorking of blissfully layered pop vocals.
Spinner Full album streaming
The Philadelphia-based band plays dreamy, ethereal pop on their second album.
Exclaim! Album Review & Interview
Philadelphia, PA’s A Sunny Day In Glasgow made their introduction as prolific sound sculptors back in 2007 with the Scribble Music Journal LP and Tout New Age EP. With celestial sounds that had people reaching for genre tags like “shoegaze” and “dream pop,” ASDIG demonstrated that their music was more deserving of the “unclassifiable” tag on iTunes downloads. Ashes Grammar, their second full-length, reinforces this ambiguity, as the six-piece continue to push their amorphous music into a sound collage built from resounding guitars, drum loops, samples and heaving layers of sound. With as much love for din as melody, there are heavy nuances of the two synergizing, best heard on “Blood White,” which injects dissonant frequencies into bubbling ambient textures. But more than anything, soaring melodies and leftfield rhythms dominate Ashes Grammar’s core. “Close Chorus” extends the club rhythms of My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon,” pushing the ethereal vocals into chorale tones, and “Shy” ignites a motorik beat that descends into some mesmerizing, sunken harmonies. There’s a faint motif at work, with transitory interludes peppered throughout, most effectively on the ebb-and-flow alliance of “Ashes Grammar” and “Ashes Maths.” Ashes Grammar is a dizzying, divine burst of innovative studio magic that sounds unlike anything else of the moment.
Scribble Music Journal was recorded in a bedroom. How did working in a dance studio change how this album was made?
Multi-instrumentalist Ben Daniels: It was really wonderful to have a big space you could go to and make lots of noise and move microphones around and generally do whatever you wanted to. It was really nice not to have to worry about neighbours complaining or the police coming or stuff like that.
How are the songs composed? Is there any set process, because it’s such an avalanche of textures?
Vocalist Annie Fredrickson: I would think of the process as more of a controlled avalanche, like a controlled burn. It builds up but never gets out of control.
The album has 22 tracks. What made you make it so lengthy?
Daniels: We actually cut another 11 songs from the record! But it’s this long because this is what made sense. It seems complete to me this way. A few of the 22 songs could be thought of as one song, in that they flow into each other. But to me, this is how the songs needed to be broken up. It honestly didn’t hit me how anachronistic and cumbersome the record kind of is in these digital times until it was done. (Mis Ojos Discos)
The L Magazine Interview
Sacrificing five months of weekends at an empty dance studio in the New Jersey wilderness, Philadelphia’s A Sunny Day in Glasgow cobbled together Ashes Grammar, one of the years’ most beautiful, baffling records. The band’s chief songwriter and founding member Ben Daniels took time to chat with The L about how nobody thinks he rocks, how busy siblings and freak tool box accidents can complicate the recording process, and how the band plans to weather his imminent move to Australia.
The L Magazine: How do feel about Ashes Grammar as compared to other things you’ve previously recorded?
Ben Daniels: It was a lot harder to make this record than anything else we’ve made in the past. It’s weird. I guess I kind of have ways of thinking about it, and then seeing what other people think of it is kind of funny. I guess I kind of thought it was a lot darker than our other stuff, but no one else seems to think that.
The L: On the first record it seemed like there were more “rock moments,” with big drum fills, or dramatic bits of guitar, and that this one might be oriented more towards dance or electronic music. Is that something you’d agree with, or were trying for?
BD: That’s one of the things that was sort of different from how I thought about it and how other people have responded. And most of the people I’ve played it for said what you just said. I thought this album was more rocking out. I guess I understand why other people are saying that now. I mean there are real drums on every song on this album, pretty much. It just felt like being in a rock band recording it. But I guess that’s where it sort of went. When we started it came on the heels of a European tour thing, and I always thought that live, we are more of a loud rock band rather than we are on record, which is a sort of ambient thing. We thought we were capturing a little of that, but maybe it didn’t turn out that way.
The L: It rocks out, you know, in the way that Stereolab might rock out, elaborating on a groove, and the vocals will be blown out and swirling around. Was Stereolab a touchpoint for you, actually?
BD: I don’t think it was something we were actually going for, but Stereolab is definitely one of my top three bands of all times, and I have every one of their records and have listened to them ten million times. I’ve seen them live, I don’t know, 15 times? I actually go to meet them too, which was crazy. I really love Stereolab.
The L: Have you been a fan of ambient music for a long time?
BD: Yeah, I guess so. I can’t even remember when…I used to have a roommate back in college who was super into Brian Eno and all that. So, yeah, a while.
The L: The new record is a combination of ambient pieces and more structured songs, do you see it as a sort of dialogue between the two?
BD: I think they work together, maybe sort of complement each other. We set up the album so that things sort of flow into each other, but it wasn’t a grand plan for it. Just as we went along, we’d have these more ambient ideas that we’d be excited about, and decided to put them on there. Sometimes bigger songs grew out of those, and sometimes they didn’t. But it made sense to align them next to the more structured songs, to stitch them together that way.
The L: With all these different bits, Ashes Grammar is a very long album by modern standards. Do you anticipate people listening to it front to back, or cut up into playlist fodder?
BD: It’s kind of up to them. We certainly broke it up a lot so it’s easy to jump around. And, obviously, if you buy the vinyl it makes sense to let it play. But at the same time the vinyl is two LPs, so I’ve been telling people to treat it like 4 EPs, where each side is its own different thing.
The L: At the most basic level, when you’re writing an ASDIG song, where do you start? With a little instrumental piece that then gets layer upon layer added? What’s the writing process like?
BD: I don’t even know that there is necessarily there is a “process.” It varies depending on the song. With some I’ll be fooling around, playing the guitar, and something will come out, and you’ll think, “oh that’s sort of neat,” and then you’ll record it, think about it for a while. Or using a different instrument, I’ll hear something that kind of interests me, and I’ll just keep going on that, letting it build and build.
For the first album all the songs were kind of recorded in my mind, I thought these are just demos I’m recording and at some point I’ll go back and record them for real, make them sound better. And then, when I started to rerecord the songs, it sounded awful, because maybe I didn’t really even know how to record something in the first place. And you kind of fall in love with the demos anyway.
So this time, I didn’t let myself record or really write anything all the way through, so I had really skeletal sort of idea-ish demos. When Josh [Meakim] and I started recording them is when they got really worked out. At that was good too, because we had a big space and we could be loud, as opposed to an apartment building where everything was on the headphones, and you plugged direct into it. I think that’s a lot of the reason this album was a lot harder to do, it really took like five months to record it, because we were writing as we went along. But lyrics and melodies and words always come last, that’s the hard part for me.
The L: About lyrics: Listening to the record, I’d say the vocals are probably clearer, clearer recorded, but they still sound really far away. You get the sound, the melody of the singing, more than the actual lyrics. Are you interested more in singing and the sound of singing than you are in conveying actual lyrical information?
BD: That seem to be what’s happening. I just like the whole of it all, nothing standing out more than the others. But yeah, I agree. I think this record is a lot clearer. It’s funny though, Josh would mix a lot of the stuff, and then I would go in and remix what he did on some songs, and he would always mix the vocals a lot louder, and I would usually turn them down. I guess that’s just what I like.
The L: When you write lyrics do you write them as something you imagine a listener eventually deciphering?
BD: I kind of think they’ll decipher it or even just come up with their own understanding of what it is. I kind of like that. I kind of hate, almost, to tell someone what the lyrics are. They’ll probably be disappointed. You have an idea of what you think they are, and then to find out it something else can almost ruin it for someone. So I’m happy for the listener to think whatever they want to think they are, I guess.
The L: I was a bit confused, the press materials made it sound like your sisters weren’t on the record much at all. Did they end up on some of the songs?
BD: Well, Lauren’s been in Colorado for about 2 years now, and wasn’t around, so she’s not on it at all. Robin is on it at times. With this album, Josh and I were working really hard on it all the time. Always. On weekends we were out at the space recording for the whole weekend, and during the week we were mixing stuff. Doing little things from home to work on it. Then when Annie [Fredrickson] joined the band, she was always coming out to the studio as well, working just as hard as we were.Robin was kind of always busy. Her job got kind of busy. In November, her boyfriend, who’s our bass player, he broke his leg really, really badly. He broke two bones in four different places. Literally, on the day he was coming out to the studio to start doing basslines. He was pulling a tool box out of the trunk of his car to put his bass in it, and somehow slipped on leaves? I dunno, it was a freak thing. After that happened, Bryce was literally confined to a bed for six weeks. He wasn’t supposed to walk around or do anything so the bone could set. But she was already busy, and then she wasn’t around at all.
And so much of what we were doing, was being improvised as we were recording it, we didn’t have set demos or anything. I had to go to her house with a definite plan of what she was going to sing. We had an hour here or there. But she did end up on a bunch of the songs.
The L: It seems like, in talking to you, especially when you’ve been getting ready to play live shows, that the lineup of the band has always been in flux, as long as it’s existed.
BD: Oh yeah.
The L: So it made me curious about how you approached the idea of what constitutes a Sunny Day in Glasgow song, since it’s constantly in turnover, who is A Sunny day in Glasgow?
BD: Going into this record I thought I knew what the band was more or less, and I was planning to write things for Robin, I didn’t think it would be any different. On tour Josh and I were constantly talking about how excited we were to get back and start recording. It was something we were constantly talking about. Then when got back it took me a few weeks, but I found the space.I remember I sent an e-mail to everybody saying, “OK I got this space, we can use it on weekends, and it’s gonna be great.” Robin sent an e-mail back, saying, “Oh gosh, I can’t really do anything on any weekend between now and December, I’m so busy.” And it was kind of like a punch in the stomach. We spent the whole summer together talking about this nonstop! I guess we didn’t think about it too much at that point, we just sort of dove into it. And then Annie came along which was great.
It’s just kind of like, at some point during recording, it seemed like everything was sort of falling apart or going wrong, and you were just trying to get something done, and from that it felt like Josh, Annie, and I very much came together as a band to get it done. That’s sort of how I remember it.
The L: You’ve been finished with Ashes Grammar for a long time, yeah?
BD: Well, we basically finished it in February, then the release date got pushed back, and that was kind of good actually. It let us remix and rerecord a few parts I wasn’t happy with. I think that was May when we sent it out to pressing plants. But the songs have been around for a long time.
The L: So have you done any recording since?
BD: Yes. We pretty much have, some songs are done, but basically enough songs for another album. Probably about 90% finished, I’d say. I think it’s about 12 or 13 songs. A lot of those, we started recording for this album, but then by like the end of October it became apparent that we were going to finish all of them, so we stopped working on a bunch of them.
The L: How many songs did you have originally?
BD: Well, the 22 songs on the album, we got mastered as 13 tracks and then we split them up further in Wave Runner, so there’s probably another ten that we cut, and a couple new ones we’ve done this summer. I think those are going to get released next year, but broken up into EPs. Probably not an album, but we don’t really know at this point.
The L: You’re moving to Australia soon, right?
BD: Yeah, in about a week.
The L: So do you have a plan for how the band is going to work now?
BD: Kind of. We’re going to go on tour in November and December, and uh, it’s kind of crazy actually we need to find another singer to come along with us. So that’s a little nerve wracking. When I’m gone every one else is going to practice, all the between now and mid-November, and then we’re also sort of planning to spend a lot of the first 6 months of next year on tour as well. We haven’t really thought ahead beyond that, I don’t think.
Annie might try to move to Australia at least for a little while next year at some point, and Josh I think is going to come as well. But that’s pretty far off.
The L: So, do you anticipate working on stuff on your own there that’ll end up being ASDIG songs?
BD: Oh sure, I mean everything that we’ve put out so far has originated with me doing stuff on my own, more or less. So that’ll still go on. I sort of hope that we’ll find a new singer actually in Australia, because that’d be great to have some one to keep working with down there. Immediately we just want to tour a lot in the next year. We have enough songs that we can at least put out at least two new releases next year, so, hopefully that will keep us busy for a while and then we can sort out what the Hell else to do.
The L: Are you a person who is really influenced in the stuff you write by your surroundings? Do you notice different sounds and ideas coming from your time in different locations?
BD: I mean everything I’ve written has pretty much just generated from my apartment. It’s weird, when I was living in England and Scotland, I never did anything musical at all in those places. Then I went to grad school in Montreal, and I didn’t do anything musically there. It’s like I only work on music stuff in Philadelphia. It’s kind of strange. Hopefully though, if I’m in Sydney for many years, I’ll get comfortable there, and hopefully start writing music there as well.
The L: Didgeridoos? Sampled didgeridoos, maybe?
BD: [laughs] Yeah, seems like an easy instrument to learn.
Stereo Subversion Album Review
When their first album dropped in early 2007, A Sunny Day in Glasgow barely registered at all on the new music radar. This is a huge shame as Scribble Mural Comic Journal was one of the most original and exciting debuts since TV on the Radio’s Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. For their sophomore album, Ashes Grammar, they have thankfully retained their unconventionality and crafted a record worthy of inclusion among this year’s best.
Despite their name, A Sunny Day In Glasgow are not part of the crop of anthemic Scot-rockers currently making the rounds on blogs and hipster iPods across the country. This Philly-based quartet, though, certainly has its share of similarities with some of the older bands that call its namesake their home. From My Bloody Valentine they take the shoegazer sound and the ethereal high-pitched vocals, in this case courtesy of twins Robin and Lauren Daniels. From Jesus & Mary Chain they borrow the dreamy guitar shimmer and reverb-drenched drums on tracks like “The White Witch” and there’s even some hints of twee a la Belle and Sebastian on the more straightforward songs like “Failure.”
As far as contemporaries go, however, A Sunny Day In Glasgow move away from the Twilight Sads and Frightened Rabbits of Scotland and instead strangely find aural kinship with many of the Icelandic bands that have emerged over the last decade or so. The slightly dark, almost sinister tone that weaved itself in and out of Scribble Mural Comic Journal has been replaced on Ashes Grammar by a more angelic feel not unlike that of Sigur Ros and the numerous electronica soundscapes sound similar to Múm.
It’s refreshing to see that real “albums” are still being made in this millennium of the three-minute mp3. Ashes Grammar really needs to be listened to in its entirety to be fully enjoyed. Through its 22 tracks, ranging from the 11 second opener to “Close-Chorus,” a six-and-a-half minute slow burner that has a slightly Massive Attack feel to it.
The only problem with Ashes Grammar is that, unlike Scribble Mural Comic Journal, which included a wide variety of music and distinctly different songs, the sounds here are very homogenized and tend to occasionally bleed into each other on extended listens. Also, while “Shy” and “Ashes Maths” are great songs and would be top notch for a lesser band, nothing on this album can beat the highlight of their debut, “5:15 Train,” a beautiful gem that floats somewhere between waves of soft noise and bursts of pop brilliance. That doesn’t mean, however, that the band can’t still pack an album full of memorable songs and, most importantly, maintain a unique voice that refuses to compromise.
All Music Guide Album Review
“Failure,” the heady, glimmering fourth track on A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s second full-length, 2009′s Ashes Grammar, might just sum up the anxiety that led to the release of this album: “Fall forward, feel failure.” In the two years since their 2007 debut came out, ASDIG have endured some serious (and largely involuntary) changes: bassist Brice Hickey was out of commission soon after recording was underway thanks to a broken leg; founding vocalist Lauren Daniels, busy with grad school, couldn’t appear on the album; and her sister, vocalist Robin, was too busy tending to Hickey to spend much time in the studio. In spite of these setbacks, Ashes Grammar is a far more confident and cohesive album than its predecessor. Scribble Mural’s ambitious multi-layered approach tended to weigh the album down; Ashes Grammar’s artsy audio explorations, on the other hand, are generally fashioned around solid skeletons of pop-oriented hooks, lightening the listening experience considerably. This album features some of ASDIG’s most pop-oriented work to date; tissuey, ghostly tracks like “Shy” and “Ashes Maths” and the comparatively angular, My Bloody Valentine-esque “The White Witch” stand up well next to Scribble Mural’s very best moments. Really, the only complaint to be had with Ashes Grammar is its size. This disc is huge, almost self-indulgently so; clocking in at 22 tracks, Ashes Grammar demands quite a bit more patience than the average long-player, especially when it comes to cerebral, atmospheric material like this. The album’s standout tracks suffer a little as a result — by the time track 14 rolls around, it’s a little difficult to hang on to the pounding exhilaration of “Failure.” Those who power through this album, though, will be richly rewarded by ASDIG’s diaphanous, highly intelligent take on noise pop.
The Donnybrook Writing Academy Album Review
In many ways, the Philadelphia sibling act A Sunny Day in Glasgow is the apotheosis of dream-pop. They come as close as anyone to combining all the different roots of the dream-pop family tree into a cohesive whole, incorporating the Cocteau Twins, the mellower brand of shoegazing practiced by Slowdive, ornate psyechedlia, darkwave Goth ala Love Spirals Downward or Lycia, trance music, Eno-ish ambient soundscapes, and even a touch of blissed out dance music. For the most part, it’s an enchanting stew of gorgeous vocals from twin sisters Robin and Lauren Daniels and soaring instrumental textures from the band led by their brother Ben. However, there are definitely moments when the band might benefit from popping a little more than dreaming.
On Ashes Grammar, the Danielses and associates string together a number of brief ambient snippets and more lengthy tracks to create a single unified piece, to fairly excellent effect. The album works best when listened to in its entirety, as the careful pacing of the music’s ebbs and flows is allowed to create the dreamlike state it was obviously intended to. The twins’ vocals are generally low in the mix and treated as another instrumental texture, conjuring up a drifting feeling of distant longing and desire. It’s lovely stuff.
However, it can be vaguely frustrating stuff, also. Treating the vocals as another instrument worked great for My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteaus, but it doesn’t always work to A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s advantage. Several tracks on Ashes Grammar could be standout pop numbers if the female vocals were treated more traditionally, rather than just coming across as more texture. The pulsating “Passionate Introverts” could be a dancefloor hit with a slightly different mix, while the shimmering guitars of “Shy” and “The White Witch” are just screaming out to back up strong vocal performances. And those performances are there, just de-emphasized. “Close Chorus,” “Starting at a Disadvantage,” and “Headphone Space” likewise have the potential to be some of the most memorable dream-pop recorded since the dissolution of the Cocteaus. Much of Ashes Grammar feels like an exercise in missed opportunities.
Still, it’s pointless to review the album you wish a band had made instead of the one it did make. The structure and mix of Ashes Grammar make it obvious that A Sunny Day in Glasgow is not interested in creating individual pop tunes so much as they are creating cohesive long-form works of sustained mood and atmosphere. In that, they are unquestionably successful and Ashes Grammar is a truly impressive and beautiful achievement. And if they should decide in the future to explore more standard song craft, they’ve proven they have all the necessary skills to excel at it. They already have, but this time out, they’ve decided to bury the songs in the service of the greater whole. At a time when the pundits are loudly proclaiming the death of the album as an art form, that’s a brave and admirable choice.
In Your Speakers Album Review
A Sunny Day In Glasgow slipped off of the radar over the last couple years. Scribble Mural Comic Journal was one of the better albums of 2007, being an intense and dreamy pop album that was so very irresistible. But time passes, and so much music is released, that some albums just get pushed to the back of the mind. As sad as that sounds, there are only so many hours in a day that can be spent listening to music, and no matter how excellent a group might be, such mental slippage is inevitable. When I got my digital hands on Ashes Grammar, I decided to listen to both Sunny Day in Glasgow albums in a row in an effort to recollect my initial good feelings towards the band. Two hours on a plane later, I’ve been reminded of the wonderful dream pop that the group is capable of producing; Ashes Grammar is a superb sophomore release. The twenty-two songs on this album mix together well, and the relaxed noise that accompanies the melodic guitar work of Ben Daniels is even cleaner than on the band’s first release. Although its release has been a bit delayed, I’m pleased to say that Ashes Grammar has been well worth the wait.
The first three songs on the album mesh tightly with one another. The first two total at a mere fifty-four seconds. Each track adds a few layers, until “Slaughter Killing Carnage (The Meaning of Words)” concludes the trio of songs. A catchy cymbal and gorgeous vocals make these first three minutes of music a lovely introduction to Ashes Grammar. “Shy” is another song that showcases the group’s dreamy vocals, though the guitar is more relevant and quite soothing here. “Nitetime Rainbows” is one of the best songs on the album, though not for the reasons that make the other songs so good. When one thinks of dance music, A Sunny Day in Glasgow do not usually come to mind; and yet about three minutes into this song, the bass kicks in and toe tapping becomes irresistible. By the time the hand claps start, a bedroom dance-party is all but inevitable.
The lush tone of “Blood White” makes it another beautiful track on an album that is so full of them. Here the music is reminiscent of Animal Collective (which I’ll never think is a bad thing), and the happy and relaxed tone of the music works wonderfully with the singing of the Daniels sisters. If you’re looking for songs with a more organic feel, the next two songs, “Ashes Grammar” and “Ashes Maths”, mix a fast drum beat with music that changes tone perfectly. The vocals are spot on as usual, but here the music is absolutely full, and the two tracks mark a clear highpoint on the album. The last truly impressive song on the record is “Starting at A Disadvantage. The group’s talented guitar work is particularly evident here. Though not every song is as strong as the ones mentioned, the album would not work as well as a whole had any of them been excluded.
Aside from the tracks I made special mention of, there are plenty of other catchy and pretty songs on the album. Dream-pop bands often struggle to stand out from the masses, so finding one with originality and talent isn’t always easy. Fortunately, A Sunny Day in Glasgow represent some of that rare talent, and they have not disappointed with their second LP. In a relaxed but wonderful atmosphere, it might be one of the best choices of the year for keeping the mood laid back and beautiful. I may have forgotten about them once, but Ashes Grammar has made sure that I won’t be letting A Sunny Day in Glasgow slip my mind any time soon.
AW Music Album Review
I’ve had a chance to listen to Ashes Grammar sporadically over the past month or so. To say I’ve heard what I liked is a huge understatement. Some reviews have been lukewarm and I guess I’ll disagree vehemently that this album is a “miss”. A Sunny Day In Glasgow is a seven piece from Philadelphia and I can’t really peg them into a specific genre, I’ll just use the “experimental” tag.
A lot of experimental music is tough to judge, because it generally polarizes people and where Animal Collective is a huge exception to the rule most people will tell you that they just don’t “get” AnCo. It’s really not their fault though, I remember the first time I listened to Strawberry Jam and I couldn’t handle it.
I guess that their music isn’t necessarily Pop but alas I keep finding that most songs at their core are pop songs. A song at its basis needs to have some sort of structure and while there certainly are releases that have no structure at all, most music could be put into the pop section. A Sunny Day In Glasgow sort of make pop songs but in the abstract sort of sense. I’d compare them to Panda Bear or Animal Collective but just not as forward in their style. They have good vocals which are sung wonderfully over and behind a wide variety effects.
At a slower brooding place, A Sunny Day In Glasgow has music that is geared towards myself. It gives me time to enjoy their music with what it feels like 50 interludes. At 22 tracks it features a lot of short sub 2 minute “tracks”. While I do find myself struggling at times I couldn’t help go back to it constantly. The interludes make the lengthy tracks just that much rewarding. Sometimes bands use 1 minute interludes as teasers and ASDIG use it to setup the main tracks perfectly.
This year has been a tough one for me musically. I haven’t really found many things I’ve liked A LOT. This album however I’ll stand by and say it probably ends up in my top 20 5 of the year list.
There really is too much to cover to definitely say what this album really is. It features good singing and a lot of vast ideas owing up to what the beauty of experimental music is. When it works, it gives your mind that feeling a total euphoria that sets you free. How will you like this album? I don’t have the slightest idea but I LOVE IT. It’s an album that might not get you on it’s first go round but while the 22 tracks are exhausting to go through, it’ll pay off with time.
Rating: 5 out of 5
I hate the review by Popmatters (simply, it sucks as it the reviewer hates the interludes and how each song doesn’t stand out – it’s an album!). It hardly captures what’s important and definitely loses sight of what an album is. (The reviewer looks like he just covers the beginning).
This album is great and it shouldn’t be overlooked. (I’m glad Pitchfork gave it an 8.3 but why not a best new music tag?).
Aquarius Records Album Review
Not many bands have a sound that fits their moniker as perfectly as A Sunny Day In Glasgow. Though they hail from Pennsylvania, their lush swirling day dream shoegaze pop really evoke not only so many great Glasgow bands but also exactly how we imagine a crisp bright sunny day over there to feel like. The band’s debut Scribble Mural was an out of nowhere sleeper hit of 2007, in fact it was one of our favorite records of that year. Ashes Grammar finds them upping the ante, adding even more complex elements to their already dense mix of sounds. There is definitely a really nice 4AD influence in their sound as we’re always reminded a bit of the Cocteau Twins, and there are BIG nods to Loveless era My Bloody Valentine. This time out you can also hear hints of 21st century composition in their saturated colorful approach to dense avant pop. Imagine if The Swirlies and Seefeel collaborated to create some seriously shimmering blissed out pop perfection!
Boomkat Album Review
Launching into a peculiar opening minute or so, this sophomore long-player by Philadelphian rockers A Sunny Day In Glasgow begins with what’s billed as a ten-second homage to Arvo Part: the echo-laden chorals of ‘Magna For Annie, Josh & Robin’ segue into the more poppy acappella of ‘Secrets At The Prom’, before eventually arriving at ‘Slaughter Killing Carnage (The Meaning Of Words)’, at which point the band kick into their first fully formed song. From here on in, blurry dream-pop aesthetics merge into smudged samples and electronically polished guitar, resulting in the strobing euphoria of ‘Failure’, and the hiccuping ‘Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)’, which sounds pleasingly like peaktime Saint Etienne overhauled by Animal Collective. Although the tracklist suggests a half-formed bittiness – many of the tracks clock in at under two minutes – the songs all tend to flow into one another in a gloriously gauzy continuous stream. Though by no means unrelated to recent C86 revivalist fads, A Sunny Day In Glasgow actually manage to refurbish those time-tested sounds with a dollop of modernity and contemporary technology. Consequently they’re one of the relatively few bands operating within the resuscitated dream-gaze/shoe-pop genre that stand out. Recommended.
Faronheit Album Review
I’ll go on record as being a huge fan of the shoegaze/dream pop genre of music. There’s just something about those washed out guitars and hazy vocals that just suck me in and put me into an almost trance-like state that just feels powerful. That’s the sort of mental headspace I like to be in from time to time, and shoegaze/dream pop compliments it perfectly. Naturally then, when I hear about an interesting or notable shoegaze/dream pop album, it generally behooves me to check it out. A Sunny Day in Glasgow are now on their second album, which is out this week and is titled “Ashes Grammar”. Given that I was a fan of their debut “Scribble Mural Comic Journal,” of course I was eager to check in and see what they were going to do with their sophmore effort.
Oddly enough, “Ashes Grammar” is a little bit of a different affair for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, both compared to their first record, and within the shoegaze/dream pop genre as a whole. The album has a total of 22 tracks, with a fair number of them being very short songs ranging from 2 minutes to 10 seconds in length. Call them interludes or stopgap tracks or sketches or just plain filler, but you normally don’t get such short slices of music with this type of music, thanks in large part to the idea of establishing a set mood and developing that through longer form songs. I’m not saying that all shoegaze songs need to be 4-5 minutes long, but I’d argue that the majority of them are at least that length. So to hear SDIG sort of parse these little nuggets of music out that way, with about 10 tracks actually reaching something close to a normal length, it’s a little strange. I wouldn’t exactly call those short songs beneficial on their own, but when listened to within the context of the full album, they tweak the mood and overall groove just enough to add extra meaning to the longer songs. That, plus many of the longer songs often transform themselves so the beginnings and ends sound like they’re coming from different places, so even they can sound like shorter snippets if you weren’t looking at the little counter listing the seconds in a song. I actually listened to the album 2 different ways – keeping a close eye from track to track one time and also completely ignoring all that another, and by far the better listening experience was when I wasn’t concerned with when songs were going to start and end. It turns the entire record into a fluid experience, and proves that sometimes even the shortest of songs can blend right in with the longest.
But enough about the sequencing and track lengths, let me talk for a minute about the overall sound. You don’t get a traditional washed out guitar noise that’s been filtered through pedals and whammy boards here. Well, you don’t get it as much as you’d think with your average shoegaze release. Instead, there’s just a lot going on in these sonic compositions, with synths, bass and electro beats often driving the song from one place to another, in an almost dance-like groove. If you’re a fan of sing-along vocals, shoegaze is typically not for you, but on “Ashes Grammar” especially there’s not many words you can discern from the vocals. The issue there is that the vocals are either buried far back in the mix, or have been doubled and tripled over, turning them into echoey messes that function best as beautiful additional instrumental parts rather than something within which deeper meaning can be found. Think of it like listening to a band that sings in a foreign language you can’t understand – the vocals can’t really do anything for you besides add to the overall compositional sound. Sisters Robin and Lauren Daniels are responsible for these ethereal vocals and harmonies, and though it didn’t occur to me earlier, what they’re doing is largely reminiscent to what Alejandra and Claudia Deheza do for School of Seven Bells (though technically SDIG did it first on their debut). It’s a good comparison, even though the Deheza sisters’ vocals are front and center with Benjamin Curtis’ washed out guitar work in School of Seven Bells. I’d also like to think that if you’re a fan of either of these bands then you’ll also be a fan of the other one.
So “Ashes Grammar” marks a second solid outing from A Sunny Day in Glasgow. In many ways, this album improves on their much darker and heavier debut record, with lighter and more driving melodies despite the serious tone that shoegaze/dream pop often takes. If you ask me, there’s been a lack of great shoegaze/dream pop albums so far this year, which I suppose is what makes “Ashes Grammar” feel like a (somewhat unconventional) relief in so many ways. As fall continues to creep in slowly over the next couple months, I’m very much looking forward to giving this album a lot more spins. If this sort of music is your thing, and I hope that it is, you need a copy of this album. I don’t want to speak too soon here, but this one’s definitely up for re-evaluation come year’s end listmaking time.
The Fire Note Album Review
At first listen, you may not know where one song begins and the other ends, but that is the real majestic quality of A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s sophomore record Ashes Grammar. It is an album that is a bit of an undertaking, considering it has 22 tracks, which clock in just over an hour but never feels that long, as it slowly drifts song to song and relies on a multitude of washed vocals, amplified samples, undertone bass, soft electronics and guitar. Twin sisters Robin and Lauren Daniels also are in the spotlight, as their vocals guide each song but never pour outside the boundaries of the tracks. This is an important piece of ASDIG success because Ashes Grammar is really one long artistic mix. All the parts work together to benefit the whole and the intricate ins and outs give Ashes Grammar instant replay value. “Close Chorus” is a prime example, as the six minute song and longest on the record, moves along at a solid pace but comes to an absolute catchy ending with a back n forth chorus that makes you take notice instantly. And then there are tracks like “Nitetime Rainbows”, which sounds like it has three tracks within itself, that all catch your ear for different reasons. Ashes Grammar contains so many hidden hooks that ASDIG force you to spin the record again only to discover more. It also has a perfect balance for every five minute track there is an equally short two minute track, which is just as infectious. A Sunny Day In Glasgow may not be for everyone but once you let them in your head – you won’t be able to let them out!
A Sunny Day In Glasgow released their second album ‘Ashes Grammer’ stateside yesterday (the 28th in Europe but quite what that means in an internet savvy world is open to question) and fans of their rampant eclectic montages rejoiced. The Philadelphia act push the experimental envelope to breaking point and have already produced a debut in ‘Scribble Mural Comic Journal’ that slowly unveiled a box of exotic treats that 2 years on still flabbergast. Indications are that its follow up is just as dark and mysterious so can you please get back to me at the backend of the year cause I’ll likely have its 22 tracks cracked by then. For the moment ‘Failure’ is delivering a duffle bag of off-kilterness freckled with moments of quite wonderful indie pop.
L Magazine Album review
A Sunny Day in Glasgow sound sort of like the echo of a great pop band, disembodied from its primary source. Or perhaps like the murmurs of an amazing party wafting over from two backyards down. The protean Philadelphia group’s second album, Ashes Grammar, is so beautiful and disorienting that a dodgy simile is the default reaction. Working with much more limited scope, ringleader Ben Daniels fashioned ASDIG’s 2007 debut as a hazy memory of college radio, with chiming guitars bursting through pretty vocal fog and obtuse IDM detours. Its follow-up drifts further away from rock music, with an organically schizo emphasis on dance rhythms and blissed-out room tones. Both utilize countless layers of upbeat, ghostly and achingly lovely vocals, which can be tough to make out, but not because they were run through the sludge of late-00s lo-fi. Faded melodies are swirled together with painstaking design to achieve a sound that’s immaculately inscrutable. The distance in even the most pop moments recalls the pristine chill of vintage Stereolab at their least kraut-sinister.
Ashes Grammar carries an intimidating bulk: 22 tracks of songs, fragments, preludes and digressions reside within its almost willfully unfashionable 63-minute running time. It’s atypically structured, buffering longer pop compositions with throbbing ambient ebbs. Rather than filler, these embedded reflecting ponds of tone and melody often reveal themselves as pertinent to the more developed songs—it’s a wonder, for example, when “Lights” suddenly blinks into the blurred neon Gui Boratto techno of “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs).” But the saturating stillness can’t match up to the sublimity of fully realized stunners like the haunted, haunting “Close Chorus” (laid to tape as the last bits of a hurricane pelted the empty New Jersey dance studio where the band recorded). The nearly subliminal nature of the LP’s intricate countermelodies might be better studied on separate sides of its double vinyl version, rather than attempted in one exhaustive piece. A modern listener’s attention span might eventually wane, but Ashes Grammar ’s quality never really does. It’s an epic antidote to the creeping half-assedness of independent music at the decade’s end.
BBC Album review
Back in 2007, oddly-named Philadelphia quartet A Sunny Day in Glasgow stepped out of nowhere and into the light with Scribble Mural Comic Journal, an almost freakishly fully-formed collection of celestial dream-pop. Two years later and they return as low-key players in a crowded field, with the likes of Beach House, School of Seven Bells, Deerhunter and the latest incarnation of Animal Collective mining similar sounds to wider notice.
Yet if being unweighted by either scorching guitar hooks or intelligible vocals perhaps leaves ASDIG too unearthly for mainstream crossover, the band are hardly un-ambitious. Second album Ashes Grammar is a raising of their game; a seamless, symphonic 22 tracks that twist and glitter like a lake of pristine morning mist. In effect one continuous movement of music, it has definition nonetheless, the swirl of floaty electronics, warm psychedelia and Robin and Lauren Daniels’ seraphic vocals every so often crystallising into something approaching a pop song.
Panda Bear would drool with envy at the rich, tropical miasma of Failure, while the ghostly glamour of Close Chorus would fit nicely onto Atlas Sound’s superb forthcoming Logos. Yet these focal points are far from the real story – the song that connects the two, Curse Words, is two barely there minutes of quiet, echoey vocals that grounds the bubbling energies of Failure while almost imperceptibly introducing the vocal refrain of Close Chorus. The artisan level of songcraft poured into such a subtle, humble piece is quite staggering, when you think about it. But the point is that you don’t think about it: much of Ashes Grammar flows past in an ambient slipstream: intangible, but leaving the lingering impression of a pleasant dream.
If all this has a downside it’s that, like a dream, Ashes Grammar evaporates unexpectedly rather than reaching a satisfying climax, while after an hour listening to the thing, it’s undeniable that’s it’s pretty hard to remember much of what’s just happened. But is that such a drawback when you can just immerse yourself again?
Pop Matters Album review
Pitchfork Album review
The predominance of digital-editing software and increased use of sampling have made piecing together an album a much easier task than it once was. Ashes Grammar, the sophomore album from Philadelphia septet A Sunny Day in Glasgow, doesn’t sound composed with modern tools– overdubs ad infinitum– but like pop music masterfully puzzled together. Featuring bushels of tracks that blur the line between interlude and song, many listeners will associate the two-dozen-strong tracklist with either unfinished business or lazy editing, but Ashes Grammar is a surprisingly disciplined affair. Watch the band tunnel a small groove during “Evil, With Evil, Against Evil”, drop it, and pick it back up again before moving quickly on. They mine the ringing, orbital electronics of “Canalfish” for 90 gorgeous seconds before letting it slip into “Loudly”‘s more concrete whoosh. “Passionate Introverts”, however, needs its four-plus minutes of glowing pulse to deliver its serpentine melodies and abstracted nostalgia (“Do you believe in dinosaurs at all?”, asks the chorus), and SDIG provide it the necessary breathing room. Summed, the shifting tracks pull Ashes Grammar through its hour-long runtime smoothly and patiently.
Ashes Grammar is more propulsive than SDIG’s debut, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, whose effects-heavy compositions sometimes felt leaden or overconsidered. “Blood White” and “Loudly” thrum along with Krautrock-y beats. Those rhythms, when mixed with SDIG’s lite-psych jams, recall Caribou’s The Milk of Human Kindness or Múm’s whipped electro-folk. The band plays with contrast, often layering their catchiest and most concrete vocals (“Passionate Introverts [Dinosaurs]“, “Failure”) over their least tidy, far-flung compositions, while their most traditionally orchestrated moments (“The White Witch”, “Close Chorus”) receive affected cooing and wordless harmonizing.
Twin sisters Robin and Lauren Daniels don’t have remarkable voices, but they blend well with both each other and Ashes Grammar’s unhurried pop. If there’s a real complaint to be lobbed at Ashes Grammar it’s that the sisters’ voices are too often buried, and their mushmouth-y Liz Fraser-timbres too willingly blended into the pooled sonics. If SDIG didn’t imbue so much of Ashes Grammar with a terse rhythmic presence, many of these songs would easily be swept into the ether.
Ashes Grammar is not for those who need their pop music spit-shined and robust. Instead, SDIG form their hooks stealthily, letting acoustic guitars and a steady patter rise from the ambient beginnings of “Starting at a Disadvantage” or repeating phrases amidst the disparate stretches of “Nitetime Rainbows”. “Close Chorus” offers big, breaking hooks only after four minutes of morning chatter.
Ashes Grammar draws you in by offering outstanding moments in strange contexts; you’ll re-listen to hear specific pieces even though you’re unable to remember exactly when and how they occur. Ashes Grammar often feels like the result of a band who took Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ “Come and Get These Memories” in the most abstract, art-damaged way possible: nostalgic, jigsaw pop music from a group of writers strong enough to keep you humming and courageous enough to make you guess.
Stereogum Track premiere
Last year Ben Daniels and his Philly dream pop brethren in A Sunny Day In Glasgow decamped to a dance studio in rural New Jersey to record Ashes Grammar, the follow up to Scribble Mural Comic Journal. Before he could lay down his parts, a leg injury sidelined bassist Brice Hickey along with his girlfriend, vocalist Robin Daniels, who helped him recover. Meanwhile ASDIG’s other key vocalist, Ben and Robin’s sister Lauren, was attending grad school in Colorado. No problem: this was just an opportunity to expand the recording crew with singers Annie Fredrickson and Beverly Science. The results can be heard on their gorgeous, dense then bright LP standout “Failure.”
Pitchfork album announcement