Diary is one of the most beautifully composed pieces of music in the world. It’s emo music’s most perfect and enduring symphony of sound and feeling.
I’m not going to fake anything. Diary is my favorite album ever recorded. I have my reasons. They range from the most deeply personal ruminations to an intense love of its astounding sonic grammar. It’s Jeremy Enigk’s voice, his screams, and the tender brokenness of it all.
Sew it on
Face the fool
December’s tragic drive
When time is poetry
And stolen the world outside
The waiting could crush my heart
Sunny Day Real Estate are the kind of band you know really well even if you’ve never heard them before. Your favorite bands wouldn’t exist without them. You’ve heard Jeremy Enigk’s unique style many times, only you’ve heard it through the bell jar of imitation. Just listen to the way Enigk and Hoerner’s guitars speak to each other on a track like 47 and you’ll understand how often that special sonic conversation has been replicated since but never with the same uniquely emotive results.
I first heard Diary when I was very, very young. The memory of the CD cover is like one of those super cloudy, early ones that bring to mind fondness and warmth. It was that long ago. I remember buying it with the money I had earned from doing chores for my parents. I remember Seven and I remember being confused by it. It wasn’t like the kind of music I was familiar with. It required patience. It required devotion. I would listen to the album constantly, chipping away at its impenetrability bit by bit until I found myself absorbed in its sonic colors. I remember the day I understood Diary and I remember the day it saved my life. I remember the times I needed it more than ever.
The night I needed Diary the most was probably when I was sixteen. I really hadn’t listened to it in years at that point, apart from the occasional spin of Seven or In Circles, and it was the farthest thing from my mind musically. I was thinking awful thoughts. I was thinking about hurting myself badly. I was thinking about means and ends. Typical adolescent depression reshaped itself into a nascent curiosity when I accidentally knocked over a shelf, letting a stack of CDs fall on my bedroom floor. Oddly/Magically enough, Diary was the first disc I picked up off the ground. I gave it a listen. It wasn’t just the comfort and familiarity of an album I knew inside and out that got to me, it was the fact that it was speaking to me vibrantly and with a brand new and reinvigorated sonic tongue. I believe it saved me. I would never be so melodramatic as to credit it with ‘saving’ me from something like suicide, I almost certainly wouldn’t have done that. But I definitely would have done something harmful to myself and accidents do happen. To be honest, I was entirely fatalistic at that age and I needed to hear something beautiful.
Diary is the beautiful thing that changed everything for me.
Diary‘s beautiful losers saved me from myself. Thanks, guys.
The other time I my life depended on Diary was… well, it’s right now. An era in my life is ending. A seven year engagement is reaching its ultimately anticlimactic and tragic resolution. My life is changing in a monumental way. I need a sonic pill. I need sonic medicine. I need to feel cared for and understood. I need to listen to Diary. I need to make it the air I breathe. I need Diary for my mental health and for my future. I need these songs.
Seven is one of the greatest ones ever written. It’s a flawless emo anthem. With Enigk waxing poetic over gorgeous guitar noise. The moment of complete euphoria comes when Enigk shifts from the verse’s anxiety-riddled melody to the acrobatic, heart-rending chorus of, “You’ll taste it. You’ll taste it in time.” I swear to God. Every time Enigk kicks in with those particularly abstract-enough-to-break-my-heart lyrics and the tempo makes that vertical leap into sonic bliss territory, my beautiful life swoons. Seven causes something tender inside of me to faint from beauty and something else to rise with power.
Jeremy Enigk is emo music’s Mozart. He fused the energy of punk with the slow-burn methodology of Seattle grunge, all while deconstructing the quietLOUDquietLOUD practice of college radio indie rock to its ultimately fragile and hyper-emotive ends and forged a uniquely postmodern balladry in the process. Jeremy Enigk is more than emo prodigy. He’s a musical deity. His work with Sunny Day Real Estate–particularly Diary, The Pink Album, and How it Feels to Be Something On–are life-changing symphonies of sound and feeling. Enigk, along with guitarist Dan Hoerner, not only perfected pre-existing soundscapes but painstakingly and remarkably created one of their own. An even more gorgeous one at that.
Diary is a faultless piece of music. Every infinitesimal aspect of every gigantically intoxicating song is utterly and achingly precious. Sunny Day Real Estate as an orchestra divine. They conjure and shape beatific soundscapes from dreadful feelings. Diary is serenity from calamity and triumph from terror. These are songs about upsetting things and they sound very, very sad the way Sunny Day Real Estate plays them. This does not negate the sense of control Enigk wields over the trauma of each song though. Sunny Day Real Estate do not heal you completely, because to be healed of sadness is to become numb to it. Numbness is not beneficial to anyone and it’s an anti-romantic mindset. Sunny Day Real Estate are not anti-romantic. In fact, they’re head over heels with their depression. They rebel against emotional paralysis and devote themselves to embracing unbearable and unidentifiable feelings. Sunny Day Estate teaches you how to control your sadness, how to contain it in a healthy space, and how to derive helpful meanings from even the most isolating emotional cataclysms.
You can leave your unhappiness in Diary like an actual diary. You can use it as a place to store your bad feelings and return to them later. Treat the songs like individual pages and scrawl your emotional dissatisfaction on them. Make Diary a private journal where you scribble your embarrassing poetry in secret, explore unrealistic possibilities, lament lost loves, and experiment with abstract ruminations. Make it a safe place for you to be completely broken inside of. Let Diary be your diary.
Curl your toes in the Sub Pop sand. Swim in Sunny Day Real Estate’s ocean. Get lost in the gorgeously vague coral reef.
In Circles and Song About An Angel explore intricate songwriting dynamics, whereas others like Shadows and Round devote themselves to more radical methods. All of the songs sound completely breakable though, as if they’d shatter on the floor if you dropped them. They sound delicate and they sound pure. They are terse and they are generous.
Vocal deliveries like the ones on Sometimes and The Blankets Were the Stairs are enough to snap your spine in two. Enigk’s voice is beyond powerful, he sings with an impact not unlike emotional atomic bombs. He’s able to express so much with subtle inflections. The tonal, totally concise cadence of Enigk’s singing when juxtaposed by his rhythmically problematic, gorgeously sad and poignant shouting over crunching and beaming guitar arrangements make the songs on Diary eternal. His voice is not an extra addition to the musical composition of the songs, it’s an integral part of their sonic structure. His voice expresses the same pathos as the musical make-up of the tracks, ensuring them a legacy.
Enigk’s incredible vocals do not distract from the beautiful composition of the songs. Enigk’s incredible vocals provide integrity to the intricate sonic framework.
Something like Diary only comes once in a lifetime. Sunny Day Real Estate were music’s most beautiful and saintly losers. Jeremy Enigk in 1994 was something to behold and to someone to treasure. Sunny Day Real Estate were golden.
Diary is sonic tragedy on tape. It’s the pure feeling of melancholy fully realized as an orchestrated sound. It’s gloom not as some sort of emotional concept, but as a musical quality. These are arrangements that move the same way emotions do. These songs are alive and they have feelings too. Sunny Day Real State captured the total spectrum of human emotions and carefully painted them with music and lyrics. Diary‘s sound was captivating because it was absolutely authentic. The feelings on it were absolutely real. Sunny Day Estate were positively honest. Diary is such a moving record because of how intimately composed it was.
Songcraft is the most important thing about Diary. It’s about how deliberate and thought-out every note of every song is. It’s about applying a harmonious method to emo madness. It’s about painting very beautiful pictures from very unattractive aesthetics. It’s about taking modern conventions, popular problems, and internalized sorrow to invent unheard sonic lands of emotional authenticity and a sense of healing through guitar acrobatics. It’s about taking self-defeat and exposing it as a lie. It’s about revealing beauty in every awful feeling.