Rykodisc - 2003 - 54 minutes

Ask people to name the genius band with Nate Mendel on bass and you'll get two responses, not one. Most will say the Foo Fighters, but others will offer Sunny Day Real Estate.

Emo forefathers, whose debut 'Diary' is Sub Pop's second best-selling record (Nirvana's 'Bleach is first - that's the level of devotion), Sunny Day... also featured vocalist Jeremy Enigk, guitarist Dan Horner and Mendel's future partner in the Foo Fighters, drummer William Goldsmith.

The band's history between 'Diary' and now deserves its own book, but minus Horner they've reconvened as The Fire Theft and now there are three answers to that question about Nate Mendel.

Over 12 tracks Enigk puts his soaring voice and deeply spiritual lyrics to strings and classic rock inspirations (The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are all around) and never lets you go. It's a startling collection of songs, as he returns again and again to love, seeking answers but saying that "it's the simple things that are so hard to grasp". The joy here is you'll understand in an instant.

No other record you take a chance on this year will pay off as big as this one - the type of album you'll be buying for friends' birthdays for ages. And the only thing you and they will find fault with is that it's not a double album.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Untitled - Uncle Mountain - Oceans Apart - Chain - Backwards Blues - Summertime - Houses - Waste Time - Heaven - Rubber Bands - It's Over - Carry You - Sinatra