Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Review of The Twilight Sad's Forget The Night Ahead
Nic ShonfeldI’ve described – in spirit, if not precise words – The Twilight Sad’s debut album Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters as a sonically monolithic slab of angst, a crescendo sustained over 40 minutes, the sound of a man standing on a Scottish cliff face, arms raised and bellowing against the world. And also one of my favourite records of 2007.
Needless to say, the follow-up was anxiously awaited and though the release of a couple EPs and a collection of live tracks and rarities certainly helped make that wait bearable, that material also came largely from the timeframe of the debut. Which was fine, but didn’t really help answer the question of what sort of direction the band would take for album number two, because as much as I liked the debut, duplicating that recipe almost certainly wouldn’t work again, or at least yield greatly diminished returns and I believed them to be capable of so much more.
And while their set opening up for Mogwai back in May offered a tantalizing preview of the new material, only proper listens to Forget The Night Ahead prove that faith to be justified. With it, the band have largely managed to maintain the immensity of sound that defined Autumns, but have shed enough sonic and emotional weight to be more nimble, more dynamic. And in doing so, the Twilight Sad have opened up space for James Graham’s more sophisticated songwriting to come to the fore. Whereas the lyrics on Autumns were more on the impenetrably abstract side, Night is more evocative in imagery, almost cinematic, and less opaque while remaining sufficiently inscrutability. And glum and depressed as hell. That’s crucial.
Obviously Night doesn’t offer quite the same gut punch of discovery that Autumns – it can’t – but it may well be the superior record. That’s a subjective call, but it does prove that The Twilight Sad have more than one trick in their arsenal, or they’ve figured out how to get even more mileage out of that one. Either way, consider the sophomore slump evaded and The Twilight Sad a band to hopefully soundtrack many more nights of sitting in a dark corner, rocking gently back and forth.
The Twilight Sad are entering the second half of a North American tour that brings them to the El Mocambo on October 10. Exclaim piggybacked a short interview with Graham onto their review of the record and Clash solicited a song-by-song annotation from the band to go with their stream of the album.
Also currently streaming is Richard Hawley’s new one Truelove’s Gutter. It’s excellent. In case you were wondering. There’s interviews at The Chester Chronicle and Shields Gazette and Clash asks him how he’d spend his last day on Earth.
Check out the third single from former Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall’s forthcoming solo record Without Why, due out next year. I know that the point of pre-release singles is to build anticipation for the record, but in this case it’s working especially well – all three so far have been quite great.
Music Snobbery and The Derby Telegraph interview Noah & The Whale, whose First Days Of Spring will be out in North America on October 6 and who play the Horseshoe on October 31. The album is also currently streaming at NPR.
The San Francisco Examiner, Pioneer Press and The Georgia Straight welcome Manic Street Preachers to North America for their first tour in a decade. Need I mention how stoked I am for this Sunday’s show at the Phoenix?
Video: Graham Coxon – “Dead Bees”