Monday, February 6, 2012

REVIEW: The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know

The Twilight Sad have earned a devoted following predicated on their big guitar sound, solid rhythm foundation, James Graham's expressive, commanding vocals, and titles and lyrics that suggested dark secrets and horrible circumstances. So the band didn't need to make a shift in their sound for commercial reasons. But rather than deliver another well-conceived effort in the same vein, the band took the risk of altering the template. Happily, the result on No One Can Ever Know is The Twilight Sad's most consistent, and most consistently excellent, album to date.

What is the shift? While the sound remains large, the band pared down the contribution of the guitars and added analog synths. The synths provide a chillier, often moody sound which perfectly compliments the ominous lyrics and darkly expressive vocals. And those vocals--for me, Graham is one of the more captivating vocalists in rock. It is a richly accented moan that ably thrusts home the intensity of the music. Multi-instrumentalist Andy MacFarlane again provides the music for the stories, adjusting his palate to add knobs and keys to strings and pics. While the result is spare compared to the last two albums, it nevertheless provides a full and lively texture. Mark Devine is the member of the band responsible for drums and programming, providing a somewhat militant backdrop to the tracks. (The band's long-time bassist, Craig Orzel, left before this album war recorded, and the band will flesh out its live sound with to additional musicians.)

Here is the first official single, "Sick". It is a powerful song, despite the band dialing the usual thunder down a notch.

The Twilight Sad is not about hooks and melody, or in many cases even about verse/chorus structures. Their songs rely on the increasing tension jointly built on the driving music and emotional vocals. It seems to me that I feel The Twilight Sad as much as I hear them. All nine tracks on this album are strong. The three tracks released so far ("Sick" and "Another Bed" officially and "Kill it in the Morning" "leaked") certainly are among the best. But personally I rank "Nil" the second best track on the album, just behind "Sick" and just ahead of the scorching "Kill it in the Morning". Surprisingly, while this album sounds great from the first listen, it actually grows on you; on each successive play you discover nuances and layers you missed earlier. A standing ovation for the The Twilight Sad.

"Another Bed", with a somewhat disturbing video:

And the album closer is "Kill it in the Morning", which builds to a white hot finish over its nearly six minute run time.

The album is released today, February 6, on FatCat Records.
Lyrics - James Alexander Graham
Music - Andy MacFarlane
Drums/Programming - Mark Devine
Produced by Andrew Weatherall
Engineering, Mix & Additional Production: Jim Anderson

Twitter ( @thetwilightsad )

UK tour dates (all in February):
9 Thu GLASGOW Grand Ole Opry
10 Fri MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge
11 Sat SHEFFIELD Queens Social Club
12 Sun BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
13 Mon BRISTOL Fleece
14 Tue LONDON Cargo
15 Wed NOTTINGHAM Stealth
16 Thu LEEDS Brudenell Social Club

US tour dates, starting in late February and ending at SXSW in Austin. I have the Seattle date circled on my calendar.
Feb 23 Washington DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
Feb 24 Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Feb 25 Brooklyn NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb 26 Allston MA – Brighton Music Hall
Feb 28 Montreal QC – Il Motore
Feb 29 Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace
Mar 01 Grand Rapids MI – Pyramid Scheme
Mar 02 Chicago IL – Empty Bottle
Mar 03 Minneapolis MN - 7th Street Entry
Mar 05 San Diego CA – Casbah
Mar 06 Los Angeles CA – The Echo
Mar 07 San Jose CA – The Blank Club
Mar 08 San Francisco CA – The Independent
Mar 10 Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern
Mar 11 Portland OR – Doug Fir Lounge
Mar 14-18 Austin - SXSW

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