Cold Snap Preview: Sungaze

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Today I Went Sungaze-ing and Found the Light in All of It: the Corporeal and the Ethereal

Finding the right words to describe something is often the hardest part about writing, and being lost scrambling for a word to describe a particular sensation or circumstance can be the most frustrating thing in the world, leading to several disjointed Google searches or the classic leaning tower of crumpled paper by the trash can. Thankfully for the trees of this world, my writing for this article consisted of highlighting and deleting the first sentence over and over and over again. After taking several listens to Sungaze’s first album Light in All of It, I couldn’t find the correct words to describe the feeling it gave me because the sound doesn’t fall under those perfectly plain words like “happy” or “sad.” A subsequent read of Sungaze’s description on their bandcamp describes their style somewhere between “shoegaze, psych rock, and dream pop” which sounds nice but doesn’t quite shed any light on the matter, especially if your mental dictionary is like mine and the word “shoegaze” translates roughly to staring at someone’s shoes for an extended period unnecessarily.

In structure, Light in All of It seems to resemble Daughter’s third album Music from Before the Storm, where several of the tracks are straight instrumentals or include a more harmonic vocal presence produced with a very ambient atmosphere in mind. In fact, the atmosphere produced by each track so closely resembles the others that upon first listen, the album seemed less like a collection and more like 45 minutes of soft, lingering guitar riffs, airy vocalizations, and a steady, almost-nostalgic drum. Honestly, after the first listen, I wondered if there were lyrics to any of the songs at all because they certainly didn’t process.

For my second time through, I set the album on shuffle and read through each song’s respective profile on bandcamp. Thereupon, I found quite a few of the songs did have lyrics but not in the format the average listener would be used to. The lyrics of tracks “The Race,” “This River,” “Sparrow,” “Waning,” “New Familiar,” and “Washed Away” do not follow the typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/chorus format commonly employed in Western modern music. Instead, each song reads like poetry, ranging from two stanzas (“The Race”) to seven (“This River”) without any characteristic line repetitions. Beyond formatting, each lyrical set focuses on the pastoral, using the sun, the moon, mountains, rivers, and other natural features of the outside world to somehow grasp the feeling of the speaker and, perhaps, communicate it to a wider audience. At this point, I had to put the album on pause and digest it without the music echoing in my earbuds.

Two hours later, I ventured to give the album another listen. The ambience of each track seemed to separate itself from the others and make the lyrics both audible yet invisible, emerging from and fading into the backing. In this sense, the music was both something corporeal, something I could grasp onto and understand—much like the “colour of the tide” (“Washed Away”), a river “winding through the night” (“This River”), or how “the light hits your face” (“New Familiar”)—and something ethereal, beyond simple explanation, as being “caught in the wrong time” (“The Race”), wondering “what of us will become” (“Sparrow”), or “pray[ing] for new beginnings” (“Waning”).

It was at this point that I realized the brilliance in the name Sungaze. A Google search of the term (excluding the term “band”) brings up the act of sungazing, staring directly at the sun during dawn or dusk for spiritual or religious purposes. Regardless if this is a practical act to perform, it sums up the sound of Sungaze much better than any genre title. The ambient sound of each track embodies the ambiguity of morning’s nostalgia for the night and the night’s bitter longing for morning, all of which set in a tone recalling the setting of the western United States, and drawing the listener to find the Light in All of It.

You can see Sungaze perform at Cold Snap on Saturday, November 16.

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