Album Review: The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

By on Thursday, 5th January 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

In their first two albums (2007’s ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ and 2009’s ‘Forget the Night Ahead’), alt-indie rockers the Twilight Sad seemed to enjoy the cold embrace of the darkness and indeed, music reviewers have sort of come to expect the darker side of life from this Scottish band. A quick review of the song titles from their 2012 effort entitled No One Can Ever Know seems to support their continuance down this path: ‘Dead City’, ‘Sick’ (acoustic video here, Cheryl’s review of the single here), Nil’, ‘Don’t Look at Me’.

While the new album is dark, the approach taken is vastly different. Take for example their choice of producer: famed DJ/electronic producer Andrew Weatherall oversaw the proceedings, a clear sign they wanted to take their music into an electronic direction (specifically, incorporating the analog synthesizer). Under Weatherall’s auspices, the band – now a trio after bassist Craig Orzel’s departure in 2010 – headed towards what guitarist Andy Macfarlane has called “a sparser sound, with a colder, slightly militant feel”.

This is exactly what you get with ‘No One Can Ever Know’. There has always been something inherently sinister in Twilight Sad songs, and that unsettling feeling is cranked up to 11 on this album. The track ‘Not Sleeping’ is so creepy, it could soundtrack a Stephen King film. What you notice quickly is that the bareness of the tracks allows for industrial Nine Inch Nails-style clanking and vibrations to come through. But this sparseness is in great contrast to their previous material in which the Scottish band spent most of their time crafting and honing their ‘wall of sound’ that threatened to engulf you every time you queued up a track. On this effort, being less complicated instrumentally means vocalist James Graham’s lyrics can take a more starring role; his voice is equally filled with conviction as before, but this album gives Graham’s words the attention they deserve (see ‘Dead City’).

Perhaps this was accidental but the adjusted parts make for a greater whole that might be, dare it to be said, possibly more accessible and give the Scots the kind of mainstream success that has eluded them up to now. The most devoted fans were polarised when the album’s first teaser, ‘Kill It in the Morning,’ was released last September (read my earlier musings about it here; first single ‘Sick’ followed shortly after. Why? ‘Kill It in the Morning’ sounds like the Twilight Sad were trying for a disaffected dance vibe cornered by Depeche Mode.

On songs like ‘Don’t Move’ and ‘Another Bed’ the band shines, channelling the best parts of the legendary synthpop band; they’re sensual and rhythmically mesmerising. It’s an interesting album, one that will turn the kind of electronic heads that never would have picked up a Twilight Sad album previously. But more importantly, it’s an album that just might grow their fanbase by leaps and bounds.

7.5/10

The Twilight Sad’s third album, ‘No One Can Ever Know’, will be released on the 6th of February on Fat Cat Records.

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