How It Feels to Be Something On
Sunny Day Real Estate
From the cover art alone, you get the sense that something was burning at Sunny Day Real Estate’s core when they released How It Feels to Be Something On in September 1998. The sun image on the album’s cover—rimmed with zig zags that resemble Keith Haring-like character limbs—emerges from the blackness, like the feedback introducing the opening song, “Pillars.” An arpeggiated guitar riff cuts through the squall, and the drums roll in with a propulsive groove. It’s only seconds into the album, and one thing is clear: Sunny Day Real Estate has created a work as cryptic as it is relatable, as moving as it is impressive. How It Feels to Be Something On also captures the crossroads where the band stood in 1998—indie-rock heroes, maturing songwriters, and ambitious technicians attempting to inject their sound with progressive ideas while remaining true to its original vision.
This, the band’s third album, marked its return from a breakup three years earlier. The way its members spent their time apart only helped their tale grow taller. Singer and primary songwriter Jeremy Enigk recorded a sweeping chamber-pop masterpiece, Return of the Frog Queen, and drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel became the rhythm section for Foo Fighters. But in the band’s first incarnation, Sunny Day spread its cathartic gospel at live shows by sharing its shimmering and raw beauty with sensitive audiences.
“Sunny Day had an overtly vulnerable element, but was raw and powerful at the same time,” Goldsmith told Modern Drummer. “It was honest. Authentic. Maybe people could subconsciously relate to that. There was an unfiltered channeling of my humanity, emotions, and anger through my playing.”