The Reds, Pinks & Purples
Summer at Land’s End
Mark Twain once quipped, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” It’s apt, then, that February brings Summer at Land’s End, the fourth LP from Glenn Donaldson’s polychromatic kitchen-pop project The Reds, Pinks & Purples. Donaldson isn’t referencing the rainy caravan parks of Southwest England, but rather the lookout point adjacent to San Francisco’s Richmond district. His beloved city imbues every hazy strum and Casiotone purr—which is natural, considering he writes these songs in his head while ambling around the neighborhood.
A pastel-green townhouse decorated the cover art of last year’s Uncommon Weather. Heading into the back garden, Land’s End instead features a blurry snap of a flower. It’s the sort of image a photography major litters his Insta with, though so does Donaldson, his heart on his sleeve, and beating through Balboa Street as he mainlines Pacific breezes and floral color bursts to create unhurried echo-pop reminiscent of The Magnetic Fields, R.E.M., and Robert Smith.
Sitting at his dining table with a hollow-bodied guitar, a drum loop fluttering away, Donaldson dribbles plaintive lullabies about fighting his feelings, elusive dreams, and yet more uncommon weather (“The cold air doesn’t suit me”). He coats the arrangements in morning breath, trying to keep the delivery as floaty as it sounded in his head, though it grows on you like a mauve wisteria twining its way up the garden wall.
The album unfolds in roughly two parts, split by a languorous seven-minute intermission in which slowly chiming chords circle the same city block as the sun melts them into the pavement. Jolly janglers such as “Pour the Light In” and “New Light” score sunnier days, whereas it literally rains over the album’s back half. “Dahlias and Rain” is wordless and subdued, a buzzing organ line articulating feelings without words (a concept that inspired Donaldson during the writing process). “Upside Down in an Empty Room” is similarly grey-skied, lamenting the impermanence of good times as an E-bow guitar sways like a fading memory of an endless summer. On the sparse denouement “I’d Rather Not Go Your Way,” Donaldson sighs as the summer rain “rolls down the windowpane.” Rather than basking in it, as on “Pour the Light In,” he’s now recalling “the times that hurt the most.” (How can feelings be consistent when the weather isn’t?)
Summer at Land’s End is a rewarding release in an increasingly saturated jangle-pop landscape. Remember when you were 14 and you swam with your cousins off the coast of Nantucket before being wrapped in a towel, a paper plate of barbecue pressed into your water-wrinkled hands? No? Listening to The Reds, Pinks & Purples will bring it all back.