Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary
Ground zero for the emo wave of the '90s
This 1994 debut album is ground zero for the emo wave of the '90s — if its arpeggiated riffs and Jeremy Enigk's introverted wail sound almost overfamiliar now, that's because other bands have been lifting its mood and tone for the past decade and a half. The lyrics, co-written by Enigk and guitarist Daniel Hoener, are very much a portrait of personal consciousness from the inside — think of the album's title! — but the band's assured, gracefully muscular playing opens the barriers between private thoughts and air-punching fists. Enigk's voice is most comfortable at a low murmur, which that means it's doubly effective when he opens up and cries out on songs like "Sometimes" and "In Circles." Within a year after Diary appeared, SDRE had splintered (drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel joined the Foo Fighters, Enigk embraced Christianity). They've reformed intermittently and completed a few more albums; still, this one — and particularly its opening triple-strike — remains the moment where they made their mark.