One half of the excellent Skygreen Leopards, Glenn Donaldson’s The Reds, Pink & Purples return in 2022 with Summer At Land’s End.
Donaldson’s music has provided the necessary comfort blanket during lockdown; last year’s Uncommon Weather the pick of the bunch, featuring in our Top 50 Albums of 2021.
While Sarah Records and Flying Nun are evident reference points for The Reds, Pinks & Purples, equally the melodic thrum of The Chameleons has always proven a strong ally. So, too, American Music Club, with Donaldson combing the same lonely orbits once inhabited by Mark Eitzel.
While previous albums have seen Donaldson ramp up the speed with wall-to-wall jangle, throughout Summer At Land’s End the pace is dialled down, enabling us to really get into the fissures of the world Donaldson has created with this project.
Anxiety and paranoia have always featured heavily throughout Donaldson’s songwriting. Not afraid to meet these subjects head on, the same applies during Summer At Land’s End (the pop majesty of Upside Down in an Empty Room).
“Maybe your mood doesn’t suit me/ The cold air cuts right through me,” sings Donaldson on the opening melodic gust of Don’t Come Home Too Soon. A song where Donaldson’s effortlessly picks up where he left off from Uncommon Weather.
Juxtaposing perennial charm with misery, Let’s Pretend We’re Not in Love is the kind of heartbreaker Belle & Sebastian subjected their listeners to. With The Reds, Pinks and Purples, it’s always been Donaldson’s stock-in-trade, and on Summer At Land’s End his methods are only solidified.
Granted, there is the odd bit of light that shines through. With a snaking riff that chimes with grandeur, Pour the Light In sees Donaldson showcasing some optimism.
Then there’s the title track and Dahlias and Rain. Hazy instrumentals that are welcomed interludes to Donaldson’s weighty themes. Here, he creates room to manoeuvre, exploring through different sound portals.
It all feels like a lead-up to the grand finale, I’d Rather Not Go Your Way. A song about a friend who succumbs to substance abuse, it’s not only the darkest song Donaldson has ever written. It’s his best.
Highlighting the same dark sentiments and everyday struggles that Eitzel projected through his protagonists on Everclear, if I’d Rather Not Go Your Way doesn’t bring a tear to the eye then you’re probably dead on the inside.
It’s a tragic way to end Summer At Land’s End, but it reaffirms what Donaldson sets out to achieve with The Reds, Pinks & Purples. Beauty and heartbreak often intertwine, and Donaldson has always accentuated this through sound and lyric to great effect.
That message becomes clearer on Summer At Land’s End in what is yet another fine addition to the The Reds, Pinks & Purples canon.
Summer At Land’s End is out now via Tough Love. Purchase from Bandcamp.