Album Review: Twin Atlantic – GLA

By on Friday, 9th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

GLA COVERARTTwin Atlantic have gone back to their roots in more ways than one with their new album ‘GLA’. The title itself makes that fact very apparent: GLA is the airport code for Glasgow Airport, which was the band’s point of reference in writing the songs that would eventually become their third full length record. While the Glaswegian band did the songwriting entirely at home for this album, their perspectives on “home” clearly reflect the time they’ve spent away as well.

Musically, ‘GLA’ is a return to Twin Atlantic’s alt-rock origins. And before I continue with what might be an overly analytical review, let me just be clear: this is, above all else, a rock album. The volume and adrenaline levels are both high, especially on the first half of the record. Crunchy guitars, pounding drums and growling bass combine with fast tempos, driving rhythms and angst-filled lyrics in a pure and highly-satisfying alt-rock fashion. (As an aside, if you’re looking for some high octane music to help you grit your way through a tough workout, this album does the job nicely.)

Opening track ‘Gold Elephant Cherry Alligator’ packs a heavy first punch, screeching through concise, stream-of-consciousness style lyrical phrases inspired by divergent, yet symbolically meaningful literary sources. The “gold elephant” in the title comes from a book of travel photos that lead singer Sam McTrusty bought while the band were away from home in Los Angeles, while the “cherry alligator” is drawn from a children’s book that was read to him when he was growing up in Glasgow.

Early single ‘No Sleep’ is followed by the anything-but-subtle track ‘You Are the Devil’, whose lyrics border on the cliché (“your sickness is the thing I need . . . your evil brings me to my knees”) and the surprisingly melodic ‘Overthinking’, where the pulsing rhythm of the chorus and McTrusty’s vocal delivery both shine. Second single ‘Ex El’ is expansive and anthemic, while ‘Valhalla’ is darker and weightier, but with a bit of a sultry swagger in the bass.

The second half of ‘GLA’ digs a little deeper into Twin Atlantic’s psyche, which is possibly why several of the songs appealed to my typical singer/songwriter leanings. The lyrics to ‘Whispers’, written by bassist Ross McNae, are among the most poignant on the album, and their emotionality is exquisitely matched by McTrusty’s vocal in the chorus: “if you think dying is the easy part / leaving life behind’s the thing that’s hard / dying was the easy part / there’s nothing left in the end / so journey far”. By far the album’s quietest moment, ‘A Scar to Hide’ is notable again for McTrusty’s vocals, but also for the effectiveness of its relatively austere instrumental arrangement, which includes strings orchestrated by Coldplay collaborator Davide Rossi.

‘GLA’ closes with two songs that bring the focus squarely back to where Twin Atlantic came from. ‘The Chaser’ is a fuzzed out punk rock ode to McNae and McTrusty’s earliest musical influences, which happens to include a chorus and bridge that fairly beg for lusty live singalongs. The album ends on a strong note with the sensual and gritty recent single ‘Mothertongue’, which McNae describes as being ultimately about “speaking in your own voice and being proud of where you’re from”.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/lrQ-uldpMAc[/youtube]

Whether or not Twin Atlantic would describe ‘GLA’ as a comeback album, it feels like a triumphant return to form for the Scottish alt-rockers. Its organic, visceral rock appeal is underlaid with a surprising display of musical subtlety and complexity, particularly as the album progresses. ‘GLA’ will certainly excite early fans of the Twin Atlantic, but is sure to garner a fair few new ones as well, with myself firmly counted among those.

8/10

‘GLA’, the third LP from Twin Atlantic, is out today on Red Bull Records. The band will soon embark on a tour of the UK and Ireland in support of the album; you can find the details here. TGTF’s full past coverage of Twin Atlantic, including a recent interview with bassist Ross McNae, is collected just through here.

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