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The Sundays


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Ethereal altpop

Status:

After a six-year silence, released Static and Silence in 1998. Then immediately lapsed back into silence and haven't been heard from since.

See also:

Wikipedia's entry on The Sundays

Comparisons:

Cranberries, Psychowelders, Cocteau Twins. (7/93, jbr@casetech.dk)

Innocence Mission, Jane Siberry. (4/99, blcox@usa.net)

Covers/own material:

Own material, cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" on Blind

General comments:

Light, very pleasant music with Harriet Wheeler's voice alternating between weaving ethereal soundscapes and pouncing. (7/93, jbr@casetech.dk)

For me, the Sundays are like musical cotton candy. They play light pop songs with strummy guitars that seem quite appealing when I listen to them, but I can't remember anything once the album ends. I'm perfectly happy while eating, but I don't seem to take anything away from the meal. I can't figure out why, since I like the guitar sound (a la The Smiths or Trashcan Sinatras) and I love Harriet's voice. There doesn't seem to be a strong enough melody for the songs to stay with me, with the exception of the brilliant single "Here's Where The Story Ends" on the first album and the cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" on Blind. (3/00, neal)

The Sundays are beautiful. David Gavurin's echoing, chiming guitar cascades like a waterfall around Harriet Wheeler's gorgeous, utterly pure and powerful soprano. They operate in a realm completely outside of the mainstream music world, totally unhindered by passing fads and trends (the English market where they come from is really bad about this). They are totally unique and it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on their shimmering, sweet and wistful indie pop.
     Since The Sundays' formation in 1988, only three full-length albums have emerged so far. The first is reading, writing and arithmetic, which appeared on Rough Trade a year after their formation following the single "Can't Be Sure" and was released in the states in 1990. It's a youthful, energetic collection of downtown London lullabies driven by tights rhythms, loose melodies and a distraught, but never despairing, self-reflective lyrical outlook. Harriet's young, nectareous voice calls out angelicly amidst the mournful, echoing chorus of David's gleaming guitar.
     The next album, Blind (1992), revealed a more grown-up Sundays, with Wheeler's vocals and Gavurin's guitar more free and soaring than ever. The guitar sound is slightly more intense and Harriet's voice is more mature and fluent. The moods were darker and just as ethereal, certainly Blind is just as essential as its predecessor.
     Finally, in 1997, The Sundays broke in with their third full length album, Static and Silence and the single "Summertime". Although the record retained the band's trademark jangling guitar and utterly beautiful vocals, it revealed a more traditional folk rock feel (apparently Gavurin and Wheeler had taken a liking to Van Morrison). The melodies were more concise, less free-spirited than in the past which reflected in both Wheeler's vocals and Gavurin's guitar playing, both of which now operated within a more planned, orderly fashion. Mournful crooning gives way to straightforward pop melody, tight guitar/bass/drums approach gives way to string and horn arrangements, ethereal gives way to folk. (RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Comments about live performance:

The Sundays were great—Harriet Wheeler is incredibly charming, though I had a hard time understanding anything she said between songs. She does have quite a strong accent, plus she tends to speak quite softly. I found the best moments in the show to be the ones that most reminded me of the Cocteau Twins—the higher Harriet's voice gets, the more it sends chills down my spine. The only fault in the evening was that her vocals were a little lower in the mix than I would have liked—but that may have been because I was standing right at the stage. A great show. (jjhanson@att.net)

Recommended first album:

They seem to be pretty consistent. If you like their sound, you'll like any of their albums. (neal)

Recordings:


reading, writing and arithmetic

Release info:

1989—DGC—9-24277-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

High for fans of ethereal pop.

Group members:

Paul Brindley—bass
David Gavurin—guitar
Patrick Hannan—drums
Harriet Wheeler—vocals

Produced by:

Gail Lambourne, Alan Moulder, Ray Shulma and The Sundays

Comments:

I *love* reading, writing and arithmetic. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

I've had a tape of this since it came out. At the time, the big buzz was how The Sundays were the next pop sensation from England after The Smiths. They don't seem to have had the same impact, but this was a lovely pop album. For me, "Here's Where The Story Ends" is one of those perfect pop songs. I don't think The Sundays managed to reach those levels frequently, but doing it once in a while is still a notable achievement. (neal)


Blind

Release info:

1992—Parlophone/EMI—0777 7804032 3 [CD] (UK: CDPCSD 121)

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

High. (7/93, jbr@casetech.dk)

Group members:

Paul Brindley—bass
David Gavurin—guitar
Patrick Hannan—drums
Harriet Wheeler—vocals

Guest artists:

Lindsay Jamieson—tambourine

Produced by:

David Anderson, David Gavurin, and Harriet Wheeler

Comments:

I've spent the last 2 months attempting to finish this page for The Guide. In that time, I've listened to Blind at least 30 times in an effort to find something useful to say so the album has a comment. After all those listens, the album still sounds remarkably fresh to me, since almost none of it stays with me after listening to it. At least it sounds more familiar when I put it on! I can conjure up a handful of strikingly lovely phrases where Harriet's voice twists in a notable way, and I always enjoy listening to it. For fairly straightforward pop, it seems remarkably ethereal to me. (3/00, neal)

"Goodbye" from Blind is one of my Top Whatever Songs. Harriet's voice, not unlike Emmylou Harris' in this regard, while not powerful, is nonetheless, pellucid. I was captivated by her voice in "Goodbye" the first time I heard it and have been a fan ever since. One thing this song has going for it, in particular, is a good job of engineering/mixing, as rock and roll goes. A mediocre sound system will render this song as mush, but a good one will afford the listener not only the benefit of Harriet but also some very good guitar work that seems to improve with turning it up. (This from a guy who almost always prefers acoustic....) This is a "sleeper" system killer, sure to make enemies and impress the peasants at the same time. "Summertime" from Static and Silence is also very arresting for the same reasons. (phclark@uswest.net)

It's funny how, to me, they made "Wild Horses" their own! I love this song, and when I hear it I never think of it as a Rolling Stones cover anymore, in fact the original version jars and grates compared to Sundays' masterpiece! I'd vote for it as one of the most successful covers, ever. (afries@zip.com.au)


Static and Silence

Release info:

1997—Geffen Records—DGCD-25131

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Paul Brindley—bass
David Gavurin—guitar, organ (Hammond), percussion, piano
Patrick Hannan—drums
Harriet Wheeler—vocals

Guest artists:

"Famous Dave" Anderson—organ (Hammond), piano
Martin Ditcham—percussion
Kev Jamieson—organ (Hammond), piano
Dave Pulfreman—percussion
Audrey Riley—orchestra

Produced by:

David Gavurin and Harriet Wheeler

Comments:

Harriet Wheeler's voice has aged *remarkably* well. The Sundays' songs still have a little bit of an unsettling quality to them in that they have extremely loose structures and the melody wanders a lot, but the sounds are great. "Summertime" is breezy without being 'too cute', "Cry" is beautiful, "Folk Song" is vintage Wheeler-Gavurin. Not the masterpiece that Blind was, but a very worthy release—I don't get why the critics didn't like it. (1/98, afries@zip.com.au)

It sounds very pleasant on first listen, but no tracks really stand out except for "Summertime," which is definitely one of their finer moments. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I had a hard time picking out any favorites on this one, it's all so good. but so far "when I'm thinking about you" and "cry" both really caught my ear. highly recommended.. Listening to Lisa Loeb and this together I hear a lot of similarities I never noticed before. (sspan)

I always liked The Sundays but never loved them and was hoping this album would make the difference. Sadly, no. They're always compared to Innocence Mission, but somehow they've never grabbed me like Innocence Mission have. A very pleasant, enjoyable listen but this isn't the album that's going to make me a big fan of theirs. (Neile)

Is there a more heavenly voice than that of Harriet Wheeler? Or a more perfectly matched duo? Flawless—and that's a compliment. (beckwith@ime.net)


Thanks to neal Copperman for work on this entry.

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