Album Review: The Twilight Sad carve new sound with idiosyncratic release


On their previous two albums, native Scottish band The Twilight Sad created loud, dense music, marrying My Bloody Valentine dynamics to Smiths-style vocal melodies and form-heavy, surprisingly catchy anthems.

On their newest album No One Can Ever Know, however, the band has wrecked the formula entirely, opting instead for tunes lacking walls of guitar, and heavy on synthesizers and atmosphere. While thoroughly different, the results are no less interesting, and are certainly worth a listen.

James Graham's thick Scottish accent swirls his words into hard-to-catch lines that will get stuck in your head after only a listen or two. Reduced to a trio after a horrendous tour resulted in the departure of their bassist, The Twilight Sad listened to their INXS and Depeche Mode albums, weaving the analog synthesizers of their influences into an entirely new and original fabric.

Album opener "Alphabet" demonstrates this change perfectly, relying on several distinct synthesizer lines and insistent bass and drum parts to convey a mixture of dread and obsession. This is when it will hit the listener that one aspect of the band hasn't changed: Graham's cryptic, often disturbing and always oblique lyrics. "Sick to death of the sight of you now/ safe to say I've never wanted you more/ but now you're lying on the road," goes the chorus of the lead track, indicating what is to come.

Singles "Sick" and "Another Bed" maintain a much more upbeat pace than the methodical "Alphabet" and demonstrate that, while many comparisons could be thrown around, the Twilight Sad are entirely their own band, making their own style of music.

Driven by an urgent drum-machine, "Sick" is the most guitar-heavy song on the whole album – even if every riff is clean – and like the others, tells its story without a clear narrator or parameters. The second single, in contrast, features a 16th-note bass line that sounds programmed, as well as cascading synthesizers and a downright catchy vocal melody. These songs don't reach climaxes so much as find a sublime point and stick with it, often for the whole song.

"Not Sleeping" harkens back to their previous work, with a slow pulsing beat introducing overdriven drums to Graham's howls of "No one ever knows where she has gone." In its slowness, it loses none of the darkness that haunts the rest of the album, regardless of occasionally bright instrumentation and metronomic beats. Call it dance music for serial killers.

Both as individual songs and a complete work, No One Can Ever Know succeeds spectacularly. You might end up absentmindedly singing lines like, "I was hoping on a good day that she would be found" to yourself in a heavy Scottish slur, but this is an album you'll be happy to get stuck in your head.