The sound of Kilsyth trio The Twilight Sad has always been strikingly distinctive from their contemporaries. Acclaimed debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters and follow-up Forget the Night Ahead matched the desperate cries of frontman James Graham with the swirling, enveloping guitars of shoegaze pedigree. But the swooping, cathartic crescendos of the Twilight Sad’s early releases and the heart-on-sleeve directness of Graham’s lyricism set their work apart.
Despite this obstinate idiosyncrasy, however, long-time listeners were understandably shocked when the group announced their intention to retire their distinctive haze altogether with the recording of third studio album No One Can Ever Know. It is the aesthetic and instrumentation, rather, which has undergone complete reinvention. ‘I don’t see it as a big direction change,’ Graham told me in an interview this December. Still, the shift is impressive.
No One surges along with mechanistic, sinister momentum. The sound is harsh and often outright malevolent, but remains true to The Twilight Sad’s roots, often burying Graham amidst competing vintage Russian-bought synths and industrial guitars. There is a perceptible shift in Graham’s lyrics: the pain is inflicted here, just as it was received in albums past. This is mirrored starkly in the instrumentation, and consequently No One is at its most impressive in its discordant pinnacles, particularly opener ‘Alphabet’ or closer ‘Kill it in the Morning’. But the more subdued ‘Nil’ and single ‘Sick’ are also striking in their brooding, melodic beauty. No One is decidedly a lurch forward for The Twilight Sad, but without a single misstep.