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Record Reflections 3: "Diary" by Sunny Day Real Estate

A series of record "reviews" where the author shares their thoughts & memories about an album, instead of the technical aspects

In the first two editions of Record Reflections, we looked at a record by a band called Jimmy Eat World and their magnum opus, "Clarity". Next, while staying somewhat in the emo milieu, we move to the heavier side and look at a band from New Jersey that defined the genre of screamo. The album is "Full Collapse" and the band is Thursday. For the third edition, we are going to back solidly to the emo scene with a record that seemed to bridge the gap between the first and second waves of emo.

Sunny Day Real Estate "Diary"

Sunny Day Real Estate "Diary"

Buy "Diary" here

"Diary" by Sunny Day Real Estate

When I was a teenager in Portland, Oregon there was a half hour show that played every Saturday night called Bohemia Afterdark. This show was basically MTV for local and indie bands. I discovered many bands through this show, including Skiploader, Heatmiser, Pond, and Thirty Ought Six. But, perhaps the one that has stuck with me the most was Sunny Day Real Estate.

SDRE was based out of Seattle and they were playing something called “emo.” I had heard of emo before, but wasn’t really all that familiar with it. I would soon become obsessed with the sound: the obscure lyrics, the crunchy guitars, and, the well, well, emotion. I would soon discover that there two distinct waves of emo, the first wave, with bands like Mineral. Braid, Rites of Spring, and Boyslife, was much more mellow and jangly than later iterations, that took borrowed a lot of from punk and hard rock. Sunny Day Real Estate seemed to bridge that gap with “Diary.”

Released in 1994, the year that grunge icon Kurt Cobain was murdered by Courtney Love, I needed something new to cling to with the impending death of the grunge genre. Sunny Day Real Estate was it.

They combined the aggression of punk, with the sensitivity of 80’s jangle pop and the crunch of hard rock. And, with William Goldsmith on drums and Nate Mendel on bass—both of whom would later join Foo Fighters—they were a highly influential group.

But I didn’t care about any of that in 1994. When I was watching Bohemia and they played “In Circles”, I was transfixed. I’ve said this a lot in this space (and maybe that’s why I choose these albums) but I had never heard anything like it. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it… but I knew I was intrigued by it. I remember later talking to my friend Scott about the band and he had watched the same broadcast and felt an immediate affinity with the band. He would later play drums in a band called Pete the Guy for several years—and this band was highly derivative of SDRE. My high school band, Five Minutes Cooler, would often play shows with Pete the Guy at the grange hall in West Linn, Oregon, where we all grew up.

My band shared more of an affinity with Sonic Youth, but I loved emo and I loved what Pete the Guy was doing. Those shows were so much fun and they are days that I wish I could go back too—but it’s unlikely any of those shows would have happened without the “Diary” album (and let's not forget the amazing cover art!)

I received this record on vinyl for Christmas last year and it really brought out the intricacies of the record. Every note and nuance, clear as a bell. It’s never muddy, and, musically, has so much depth and intricacy. It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful albums ever recorded. And, of course, without it, some of the fondest memories of my youth would never have happened.


"In Circles" by Sunny Day Real Estate