Saturday, 25 February 2012

REVIEW: The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know

The Twilight Sad have, for me, always been a band whose sound well matches their monicker. Downbeat, introspective, and with layers of peculiar beauty, it's not hard to imagine aimless wanders along the Clyde at dusk, searching for something all too intangible.

On new album 'No One Can Ever Know', however, the Scottish group tread new ground. Or at least add some fresh earth to keep their sound fertile.

Fixed to their past material by that distinctive sombre vocal of James Graham, the band explore more than the contemplative indie rock of past releases (of which 'Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters' is heartily recommended). They branch into a number of 80's post-punk/new wave influences, from the distinctly Joy Division pulse running through the atmospheric 'Kill It In The Morning', to warmer Depeche-isms on ' Another Bed ', which seethes in the quietest possible manner to great effect.

Where 'No One Can Ever Know' excels is in weaving a disconcertingly positive feeling into songs that should otherwise remain unrelentingly dour. To further the obvious homeland allusions, the effect is not dissimilar from a shaft of sunlight breaking all too brieflt through the heavily clouded Highland skies. 

Take 'Don't Look At Me', which seems to relay the tougher moments of a torrid affair yet, in passages, burns brightly with optimistic synths and the touching cry of "I still want you!" Placed alongside other potentially redemptive songs such as 'Dead City', the contrast with darker moments like 'Not Sleeping' and 'Alphabet' leaves a lasting impression.

Not that The Twilight Sad don't still specialize in sound tracking those bleak, wet and foggy late winter nights, when the world seems so much smaller. They do, with room to spare. But they add space to the songs in just the right places, allowing the listener a moment to hope and dream before plunging back into the darkness. Therein lies the morose brilliance of this album and the skilled manipulators of emotion behind its creation.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Track Tricks: James Vincent McMorrow

Track Tricks is a completely whimsical feature, appearing only when an individual song moves my mind to deep thought. If you don't see it for a while, the music I'm listening to isn't good enough, so do me a favour and pop me some recommendations: @HeavierThanAir

James Vincent McMorrow's quietly contemplative ode to the simple things in life - those elemental pleasures to which all of us have access, yet few of us appreciate often enough - is an exercise in understated glory.

It's a track that has a distant melancholy floating around it, though the main thrust of the song revels in an optimist's world view. Lyrics such as "I'd rather be working for something, than praying for the rain" and "if I were you, my friend, I'd have a little trust", delivered in a hushed, serene lilt, shine a light on the darker parts of your day. 

Carried along on the barest of keys and lightest of percussion, neat little instrumentation additions pepper the song, lending poignant moments that extra depth. Take the faint triangle that skips in around 3.30, keeping the genteel heart of the song alive just as things begin to take a heavier turn. The redemption from that brief nadir, singing the same refrains but with a greater gusto, is cheered on by a confident drum, offering all the support needed to power on to a rousing crescendo.

It's a simple power that 'We Can't Eat' holds, connecting quickly and deepening with every listen. The subtle suggestions that creep into each subsequent listen are a joy to allow unravel into your consciousness, forging an ever stronger bond between the song's message and your own interpretation of it.

In that lies the power of the individual track and the unique quality that I'll be seeking out for this feature in future editions. Where do you find it?