Sub Pop (2009) US
A passion to create uncommonly expressive rock and roll fueled Jeremy Enigk (guitar/vocals), Dan Hoerner (guitar/vocals), William Goldsmith (drums), and Nate Mendel (bass) from the earliest incarnations of Sunny Day Real Estate. It was quickly clear they’d all stumbled upon something new and exciting. Enigk’s yearning, high-register voice was a direct contrast to Hoerner’s primal delivery, imbuing the music with a previously unrealized level of emotion, and when Mendel returned from tour, it was decided Sunny Day would henceforth be a quartet, with Enigk on lead vocals.
At the time, grunge had turned Seattle into the epicenter of the music industry, making worldwide superstars out of hometown heroes Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. But Sunny Day forged its own path, deriving a unique sound from its members’ collective talents. “It was guys that played hardcore experimenting with actually writing songs,” Goldsmith recalls of the band’s early days. “Hardcore is really fast and out of control. There was still songwriting and arranging, but this was a whole new thing, learning how to leave space. We had these melodies that were kind of triumphant; they matched what we were feeling.”
In May 1993, Sunny Day played just its second show ever at Seattle’s Crocodile Café, before a sparse crowd that just happened to include Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. He left blown away and determined to sign the band to his label, which he did within a matter of weeks. “The thing that was so emotionally engaging about the music was that the songs were so beautiful and evocative,” he says. “It was a riveting experience.”
Poneman enlisted producer Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins) to produce Sunny Day’s Sub Pop debut, which the band recorded at his Idful Studios in Chicago at the end of its maiden North American tour. Diary was released on May 10, 1994 and, despite substantial rock radio airplay for “Seven” and “In Circles,” failed to appear on any Billboard chart. The band wrapped itself in mystery, granting only one interview (to British journalist Everett True) and distributing a single publicity photo. The critical reception was generally positive (“poignant and painfully revealing,” said CMJ; “a stark, blinding ray of sunshine,” offered Kerrang!). But it proved a remarkably consistent seller, eventually exceeding 230,000 units to make it Sub Pop’s seventh-biggest release of all time.
Sub Pop Records has reissued both Diary and the band’s second full-length album, commonly known as LP2 (or “The Pink Album” for its entirely pink cover). Both re-mastered albums include rare bonus tracks as well as newly written liner notes.