The name of Philadelphia psych-rocker Ben Daniels's studio project, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, is loaded with meaning. It name-checks the twee capitol of Europe, home to artists spanning the fairly narrow range from Orange Juice to Belle and Sebastian, and it implies a delightful, unexpected event -- literally, a reprieve in the gloom of Scots weather. But it may just refer to the fact that the band's self-released EP, The Sunniest Day Ever, achieves something just as rare: It makes the ever-familiar indie-pop genre sound alien and alluring.
The blog-fueled landscape of the modern underground is lousy with bands that think a new bass line, a French horn and a syrupy call-and-response is all it takes to freshen up the Smiths template, but A Sunny Day in Glasgow pushes the limits of what can constitute catchiness in the first place. Songs are crafted around multi-tracked naive vocals by Lauren Daniels and Robin Daniels and layered with washes of sun-warped guitar, booming drum loops, keys, and injections of white noise. The assembled elements are more aptly described as comfortably co-existing than fully integrating. Rather than coming across as a shapeless mass, memorable refrains come from unexpected components.: a chorus built from a plague of ahs overlapping and interrupting each other on "C'mon"; a cosmic Can keyboard tone taking a center path between domineering drum and mousy singing on "A Mundane Phone Call to Jack Parsons."
In spirit, Daniels's compositions call to mind post-punk cult figures such as the Raincoats in that they hang together surprisingly well while still maintaining loose (if not downright mismatched) edges. Instead of thriving despite amateurish playing, however, the songs reveal an adventurous craftsman trying new ways to hit the pop pleasure center. What it lacks in tightly focused polish or intelligible lyrical content it makes up for with a willingness to take chances in arrangement.
The five-song EP winds down with a cover of Guided by Voices' well-tread infidelity classic "Game of Pricks." Its representative of the band's skewed take, duplicating the original melody with dueling banjo samples and the sisters ethereally tackling only a handful of Bob Pollard's already surreal lyrics, making direct context impossible. You recognize the song being played, but you're disoriented and pleasantly surprised by the way it came together -- stunned by the sun in a place thought perennially gloomy.
"The Best Summer Ever" MP3
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