02 February 2007

Jeremy Enigk / World Waits / Lewis Hollow Records [2006]

In the days before Jon Stewart provided the country’s youth with (fake) news, he provided some edgy rock and roll. When Sunny Day Real Estate took the stage on The Jon Stewart Show to perform their song “Seven”, the world got its first glimpse of Jeremy Enigk in all of his Billy Corgan-bald-headed glory as he effortlessly pumped out the alt-rock anthem that would spawn innumerable emo copycats. Even then, Enigk possessed a smooth swagger that exuded poise and self-control, but a certain moment in which Enigk’s eyes, which had remained closed with a deadly focus, darted toward the sky, gave the impression of restlessness and striking ambition. Unable to be repressed, the singer followed his longing for more ornate projects, veering away from the unrefined crunch of his previous band in favor of textured rock symphonies.

Too often new music takes the back seat to prior accomplishments, and in this case former Sunny Day Real Estate front man Jeremy Enigk lives in the shadow of his seminal group. Here, he creates a swirling dreamland of sugary harmonies and grand soundscapes that soar and surround you, and which despite their anthemic, arena-ready qualities remain one of independent music’s best-kept secrets. Released on Enigk's own label, no one batted at an eye at this late-year release, but the optimism conveyed in the singer's howl is too gripping to be ignored. The orchestral flourishes that pepper the ten tracks create a sweeping flow of hope and build a rich ambiance that carries through the duration of the record.

While the depth of World Waits may at times falter due to the singular tone maintained throughout, it is the earnest croon of Enigk that not only baits the listener, but ultimately reels you in as the contrast between grand, booming instrumentation and the affected emoting that Enigk has mastered as a veteran of independent music. While Sunny Day Real Estate was venerated for its raw and unassuming presence, World Waits takes a different route, favoring slick production, occasionally bordering on extravagant. However, whenever the guitars too closely resemble something out of the Edge’s playbook, or the drums collect too much reverb, things collapse in elegant chaos amid Enigk’s promise of a better tomorrow. This constant tip-toe on the sincere side of the proverbial line speaks to Enigk’s knack for balance and temperance.

There comes a monumental point in a musician’s career in which ardent followers place their trust completely in the hands of their revered. One gets the feeling that Enigk has become aware of this responsibility and on the album’s title track, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan who didn’t feel as if Enigk was singing directly to them. An elaborate affair, nothing about World Waits, from its layered vocal harmonies to the assorted array of instruments, gives the impression of an intimate solo effort, but the directness of Enigk’s message retains the empathy that has cemented his place as an emotional purveyor for over a decade. Whether it comes from his journey as a born-again or just familiarity and experience, there is something both alluring and compelling in Jeremy Enigk, sustaining his relevance indefinitely.

No comments: