I can’t honestly claim more than a passing familiarity with Jeremy Enigk’s work. Granted, I spent my time listening to Sunny Day Real Estate in high school, a seminal alternative rock band Enigk fronted in the mid-’90s that helped lay the foundation of the genre exasperatingly referred to as emo in recent years. Nor can I say that I’ve listened to Sunny Day Real Estate beyond their 1994 debut “Diary,” although it was admittedly a masterpiece of an album that spawned hundreds of imitators.
The genre has never grabbed too tight a hold on me, and most of my exposure to Enigk has come from the lighter fare of his two orchestral solo albums which include 1996’s “Return of the Frog Queen” and now, 10 years later, the staggeringly beautiful “World Waits.”
“World Waits” does not by any stretch fall under the same alternative rock umbrella as his previous band or his current band, The Fire Theft.
Instead, Enigk exhibits a sort of maturity and sincerity of expression on “World Waits” that one would expect of an aging musician sorting out a chaotic past along with the influences that have guided his development.
A born-again Christian, Enigk carries his faith into the album with blaring instruments, but he never preaches to his audience and never assumes a pulpit. In fact, the entire album feels like a window into the inner workings of Enigk’s heart and soul, a guided tour of his mind during which the listener is left to merely sympathize.
In “Been Here Before,” the album’s strongest song, there’s a microcosm to be found for the entire structure of this album – it begins with meandering atmospheric synths and acoustic guitar matched with the gravel of Enigk’s voice – arguably the finest point of the entire album.
Slowly the rhythm continues to build until it reaches a midpoint culmination of power ballad organ chords and a heaving orchestral accompaniment to Enigk’s raw and pained delivery as he bellows, “it’s okay now that you’re gone.”
While the song fluctuates in intensity, the one constant throughout – which is also present in the entire album – is Enigk’s fear, sadness and uncertainty. These are constantly manifested in the broad soundscapes he creates, as if he’s looking to the music he’s creating for his own reassurance.
In some songs, the instrumental swell and power ballad structure surrenders to simpler forms, especially as found on “River To Sea,” in which Enigk sings of forgiveness of a more personal nature. Occasionally, Enigk loses the listener too deeply into himself – there are points where some songs cease clicking.
However, “World Waits” is a remarkable, poignant album that, in all actuality, the listener has nothing to do with – we’re merely silent witnesses on his journey of introspection into matters of faith and love.