Emo granddaddy Jeremy Enigk revisits his orchestral-pop solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Emo granddaddy Jeremy Enigk revisits his orchestral-pop solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen


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Seattle emo superheroes Sunny Day Real Estate were falling apart at the end of 1994, when they recorded LP2, an album that still feels like a comet entering earth’s atmosphere. Listening to it, I get a sense of the band’s behind-the-scenes tension, especially from Jeremy Enigk’s otherworldly howl, which seems to scoop up all the complex feelings of being in the precarious position of being young and on the precipice of stardom; many had touted them as the next big thing, especially given their backing by Sub Pop, at the time was the biggest indie label in the world. Though Enigk’s lyrics, largely thrown together at the last minute, were sometimes gibberish (specificity can only get you so far), the tone and emotion in his vocals expressed far more than any words could on their own. Enigk became a born-again Christian as Sunny Day came to an end, but has wisely kept Jesus in the background of the bulk of his solo material, including his debut album, Return of the Frog Queen, released in 1996 and just reissued by Sub Pop, which Enigk will perform in full tonight. After fronting a band that could summon typhoons, Enigk decided to go acoustic as a solo artist, but he always kept a sense of drama intact; on Return he pulls in a 21-person orchestra to add flesh to his brittle guitar melodies. All these years later I still can’t make sense of some of these songs, but on the baroque, disarming “Shade and the Black Hat” Enigk’s sustained yowl tells you everything you need to know.   v

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