This third album from the Twilight Sad is a slight departure from their earlier records. The powerful, distinctly Scottish vocals of James Graham are to the fore as always, and the intensity of their stark songs is still intact; the main difference is the guiding hand of Andrew Weatherall and the presence of some heavy synths and driving beats in place of the shoegazing wall of guitars found on their previous album.
It's a change that has worked well for them. At the heart of it all, the Twilight Sad are the same band and their songwriting is distinctive, often using long melody lines that seem rooted in folk music. In fact this was underlined by a recent interview where they stated that all the songs here can be played and sung with just an acoustic guitar.
'Alphabet' is a subdued opening track, with creepy synths from the start, but this is still unmistakably the Twilight Sad. 'Dead City' ups the pace a lot, and although it's the longest piece here, it throbs along with a pounding Krautrock pulse and a soaring refrain. It's one of the most immediate highlights here. I try not to compare bands to others, but the single 'Sick' does strongly evoke Radiohead with its opening guitar passage and muted beats. It slowly layers more instruments into the mix and builds into yet another highlight.
They return to the motorik beats for the taut, claustrophobic 'Don't Move', a typical Twilight Sad lyric which hints at a story but gives little detail away. This is about a couple “paired off in the violence”, and it hints at the album title with the couplet “I want you more than you will ever know/ I'll hurt you more than you will ever know.” This creepy theme is continued on the uptempo 'Don't Look At Me'.
'Nil' begins with an edgy synth backdrop, not unlike a Trent Reznor soundtrack piece, while James gives another strong vocal performance as the music builds again. It sits at the heart of the album and is one of the best songs here, coming across as a strong story song with something sinister at it's heart and much tension in the refrain “I won't let you out through the day again.”
'Not Sleeping' is also atmospheric and layered, and once again those lyrics draw you in. “Be careful who your arms are around” is a great line I think.
'Another Bed' is actually reminiscent of someone like Giorgio Moroder with it's danceable beats and big soaring synths. I can see why it's a single, although it isn't typical of the slow-burning nature of the rest of this album.
'Kill It In The Morning' was the first track they previewed from the album late last year, and in a way it announced this new direction. It sounds less like the Twilight Sad than the rest of this album, coming across more like Liars in its intensity and hints of discord, but it's a pretty strong way to round this album off. It leaves you wondering where they are going next on their musical journey.
Perhaps this making this album was a risk but I think it has paid off. I can't see many fans being disappointed with this as they have updated and added new dimensions to their sound, whilst still managing to sound like themselves. James Graham's lyrics are still intriguing and his vocal delivery totally works within these arrangements. The voice isn't lost within multiple noise guitars, instead it soars above a wall of synths. Impressive from start to finish, they can certainly consider this a success.
'No-one Can Ever Know' is out today on Fat Cat.