Summer At Land’s End is the fourth in a series of interlinked albums released by San Francisco-based songwriter Glenn Donaldson under The Reds, Pinks & Purples name. It shows him to have perfected his articulate, emotionally intelligent guitar-pop and provides a set of soft, warm songs in which to find comfort and support. We last heard from Donaldson on 2021’s Uncommon Weather, and Summer At Land’s End follows on seamlessly, the songs here once again discreetly exploring human relationships and vulnerable masculinity under an old school indie-pop umbrella of introspection and sensitivity.
Don’t Come Home Too Soon ushers in the album with a soft, shoegazey feel that washes over the listener pleasurably and Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love showcases his expertise in gently delving into the minutiae of personal relationships. The best comes on the euphonious Pour The Light In which, aided by jangly guitars, projects a strong ‘joy in sadness’ feel. It seems to confirm that while his songs still project a rueful regret for past lives not lived there’s also an accompanying sense of trying to remedy things gone wrong through song. Donaldson’s vocals may recall the likes of Wedding Present frontman David Gedge in his Cinerama guise, Owen Ashworth of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Advance Base fame and even Slowdive frontman Neil Halstead, but they also simultaneously occupy their own particular niche.
Upside Down In An Empty Room seems to almost encapsulate the album in its title alone, as he goes on to reveal how he’s “watching the earth revolve from a flower bed” before bemoaning how “the good times end too soon”. It’s a quietly impactful moment, a love hangover set to music, all world-weary fatigue and delicate emotion. Later, I’d Rather Not Go Your Way sees him at his most stark as he cinematically depicts another scene of longing mixed with ennui, the song’s main character looking out on the world while rain rolls down the window pane.
Elsewhere, New Light has a refined subtlety that leaves you wanting more and My Soul Unburdened is similarly succinct, a perfectly crafted vignette that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Pastel coloured instrumentals like the title track and Dahlias And Rain go some way to allowing the melancholy of lyrics to take root (the first pressing of the vinyl comes with a limited edition instrumental album which won’t be available digitally).
The pathos-beauty-comfort-hope cycle might be a well-ploughed path in indie-guitar-pop circles but Summer At Land’s End shows few have done it as well as Donaldson. It might not be as immediate in places as some of his previous albums but given time these songs grow and blossom in similar fashion to the flower that adorns the album cover.