Taken one way, the quote by A Sunny Day In Glasgow that their latest release is “a bunch of songs written, recorded and mixed at light-speed (for this band)” sounds like the excuse you were cautioned against making before a performance in your youth. Don’t say you’re sick before singing; don’t say you hurt your finger before playing piano. Taken another way—the way that seems to fit better here—the band has just tried something different, and we should be pretty excited about the results. This is A Sunny Day In Glasgow we’re talking about, after all.
That excitement-inducing outcome is a nine-track double EP, as they call it, Planning Weed Like it’s Acid / Life is Loss, which does have a more relaxed and easy feeling than previous works. The six-piece A Sunny Day In Glasgow wrote and recorded in a basement at “the speed of satisfaction,” a process very unlike the painstaking one that brought them the stunning Sea When Absent (2014) and their four other critical darlings. But Planning Weed is no less impressive.
While perhaps a little looser, it lacks none of the saturated texture that has characterized the band’s hard-to-classify music throughout most of its nine years and various band member incarnations. If anything, it is freed up to be a little more joyous—a little more towards embracing dream pop than inward-facing shoegaze on a spectrum that they have frequently occupied (if they occupy any known spectrum at all). Jen Goma and Annie Frederickson’s voices come through the haze a little more, the drumbeats are a little more straightforwardly propulsive, and the synth lines are a little less bleary. And be warned: some of the hooks are extremely stubborn.
It’s hard to make generalizations about an album so varied, though. There’s the second song, “Hey, You’re Mine,” for example, with its anthemic dream pop and synth riffs that refuse to leave your mind under any circumstances—but then there’s also the fuzzed-out “Recognizing Patterns,” that subsumes the vocals in a wash of distorted noise. There’s the final song, “I Can’t Live Without Your Love,” that sounds like early-2000s Janet Jackson if the pop star had spent a lot of time brainstorming in basements—but there’s also “Days & More Nights,” that somehow resembles ambient rock despite having clear vocal lines. Even with the variation and the structural halving of the “double EP,” though, Planning Weed manages to hold together.
For a record made so quickly and with relative abandon (they apparently experimented with instruments not usually their own), it is amazingly cohesive and delightfully nuanced—the kind of music best listened to on headphones or on speakers at a high volume. What’s clear in A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s statement about their hasty record making is that they allowed the process to be a fun one. It is fitting that we should equally enjoy listening to it.