The loose production and indie jangle of Sunny Day Real Estate's 1995 debut, Diary, was all but erased with the band's lush 1998 album How It Feels To Be Something On. The Rising Tide continues their transformation. In fact, on this latest offering there's hardly any indication that the band was ever the product of post-grunge Seattle.
The Rising Tide sees Sunny Day (now reduced to a trio) making a sudden turn for the dramatic. Lead singer Jeremy Enigk's wailing yelp is smoother here, as is his band's penchant for sharp guitar and thumping backbeats. The opening track, "Killed by an Angel" (RealAudio excerpt) is triumphant and grand, with Enigk's voice pitched to a grinding whine against a Rush-like barrage of guitar. That's the exception, though, as The Rising Tide is essentially a tranquil set of string-heavy lullabies. "The Rain Song" is the best of these orchestral maneuvers, with guitarist Dan Hoerner strumming along to Enigk's acrobatic, high-end vocals. "Tearing in My Heart" and the album's title track (RealAudio excerpt) follow suit; each one is gentle and driven by Enigk's placid, breathy voice.
But this refined sound is also where The Rising Tide starts to sink. By the end of the disc's 11 tracks, Enigk's high vocal timbre wears thin. On lead single "One," his yelp treks so high that comparisons to Rush singer Geddy Lee are unavoidable. Fans shouldn't fret, though. While this new album is big, experimental and sonically adventurous, the passion that touched off the emo subspecies is alive and well, in spirit if not sound.