In 2005 I was twenty years old and just starting my love affair with shoegaze and dream pop. While swapping CDs and mp3s with my dormitory friends I’d found bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, all legends of the scene who had long since broken up and reunions only seemed like a fantasy. A friend gave me a copy of the Hide Your Eyes EP from The Daysleepers and showed me that despite what I might’ve read in the music press, this scene wasn’t killed off by Britpop a decade earlier and bands like The Daysleepers were carrying the torch for a new generation. The Buffalo natives released another solid EP and 2008’s excellent Drowned In a Sea of Sound before seemingly disappearing from the radar. Just as many of the big names of the 1990s were reuniting and the world was starting to pay more attention to shoegaze bands, The Daysleepers went dormant.
I had assumed they had quietly broken up when in 2014 out of nowhere came the single “Dream Within a Dreamworld” and the first hint of a new future for the group. Jeff Kandefer and company would keep us waiting another three years for its follow up Creation, but it’s an album that gratefully rewards the patience of its listeners and those that have been anticipating its long gestation.
Creation opener “This Dark Universe” starts off sounding like you’ve just dove into a sea of reverb. It’s cavernous chords ebb and flow like like the tides and Kandefer‘s vocals sounding like a mantra. If it’s relaxing enough to lull you to sleep then the explosive introduction to title track “Creation” will wake you back up. One of the album’s heavier moments, “Creation” is a dense web of echoing vocals, synths and guitar and it’s sometimes hard to tell where one instrument ends and another begins. If the point was to mirror the chaos and cacophony of the universe’s creation then The Daysleepers succeeded. But underneath all the distortion and delay at the heart of The Daysleepers are great songs and “Creation” is carried by a great melody and varied arrangement. Bonus points awarded for using a pick slide without sounding cheesey. The following song “Arclights” takes the classic Cure sound and updates it for 21st century dream pop. Post-punk drums, indie pop vocals and a soaring chorus combine to brilliant effect, all of it dripping with a heavy glaze of reverb.
“Foreverpeople” is another one of the album’s highlights. Sparkling guitars cascade over gently strummed chords and Elizabeth‘s heavenly backing vocals beautifully compliment Jeff’s echoing melodies. The boy/girl vocals are used to even greater effect on the hypnotic “Memorymaker” where Elizabeth and Jeff trade vocal leads as echoing guitars dance around them. The surging “Sundiver” kicks the album into high gear again. The atmospheric textures, soothing vocals and spacious guitar tones are juxtaposed with a tight rhythm section propelling the song along its three and half minutes.
In an album loaded with memorable riffs, “Tropics” is The Daysleepers at their melodic best. While other bands of this genre might have gotten bogged down with mood and texture on a song like this, “Tropics” is another example of how The Daysleepers are fundamentally great songwriters first and use effects as the dressing. The penultimate track “Flood in Heaven” is heavy on ambience with even the vocals seemingly more concerned with mood and texture and articulating the lyrics which dwell on destruction and renewal. The song is anchored by Mario‘s drum groove and a blend of synth and guitar descending into the abyss. We’re eased into the final song by the faint sounds of a distant drum machine and sparse fluttering guitar notes. The song is given plenty of space to breathe and lets its soothing waves wash over the listener. With the space imagery on the album cover I can’t help but think the title “The Monolith” is a reference to Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that film the Monolith frequently appears before a new stage in human evolution or transcendence to a new stage of enlightenment.
It could be analogy for the The Daysleepers themselves returning after a decade as a more evolved and enlightened version of themselves. While many of the familiar touchstones that made them fan favorites in the 2000s are still intact, their ten year absence has only served to improved their songcraft, production and musicianship. All of this makes Creation The Daysleepers most accomplished and rewarding album to date and one that warrants repeated listens to fully appreciate it’s many intricacies. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another decade before The Daysleepers awaken again.