One thing you do not do is go into your first listen of a new Twilight Sad (facebook) album with expectations, because the chances are you’re going to be completely thrown. They’re the kind of band who, rather than building on what’s gone before, prefer to switch things up with every album they put out. No One Can Ever Know is as much developing on the old as it is ushering in the new: a sound that is more claustrophobic than ever before. “We were already progressing toward a sparser sound, [one] with a colder, slightly militant feel,” principal songwriter Andy MacFarlane explains.
You get the feeling that his comments will make immediate sense once the new album is placed in context; lined up alongside Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters and 2009’s explosive Forget the Night Ahead, the Scottish group’s third outing can immediately be recognised as The Twilight Sad, but it’s also arguably their most ambitious and darkest offering yet, and that’s not just because of the new sound. Even looking at some of the titles points ominously towards a tense and brooding album: Dead City, Sick, Nil, Kill It In the Morning. Hell, even No One Can Ever Know speaks volumes.
This sense of the new record being an uneasy listening experience is heightened still when some of the albums it’s compared to in the press release are mentioned; The Holy Bible and The Downward Spiral stand out, as well as passing nods to Liars, Magazine and Autechre. However, even before Alphabet‘s skidded to a stop, all notions of the album being overly difficult can be dispelled. The chorus of its opening song should convince anyone of this, even if James Graham’s lyrics are as cryptic and dread-filled as ever.
Alphabet bleeds into the Krautrock-influenced drumming and absolutely filthy bassline of Dead City, a song that seems entirely comfortable with stretching itself to six-and-a-half minutes. The song, from which the album takes its title, is immediate yet expansive, a description that can be applied, in a wider context, to the album itself. Teaser track Kill It In the Morning and lead single Sick are polar opposites: the former is terrifying, going all out as the album’s closing salvo; the latter just barely keeps itself in check, in a kind of a knowing way – its chorus of, ‘You look so frail, you know’ could have led into an eruption of noise, but all that happens is that kitted drums are teamed with the skittering, electronic beat that underpins the song. It’s subtle, but in a menacing kind of way.
This is an album that knows precisely what it’s doing: Nine songs that run to a total of 45 minutes (one glance at the tracklisting might give the impression it’s a little short, but it’s definitely not); it’s proof that sometimes less is indeed more. Minor-key melodies have rarely sounded as uplifting as they do at certain points on this album, such as during the latter half of upcoming single Another Bed (which follows the album on February 20th). Some people may think that they know what to expect with a new Twilight Sad record, but if you thought you knew this band, you’re in for the shock of your life. This is going to turn heads come early February, make no mistake.
No One Can Ever Know will be released on February 6th 2012 through FatCat Records; you can buy the Sick 7″ here.