Review Summary: Don't you dare say no...
A decade into their distinguished innings, it's abundantly clear The Twilight Sad aren't about to make the same album twice. Whether they're dealing stirring autumnal warmth, harsh wintry turbulence or menacing icy gloom, the Kilsyth trio have made it their hallmark to approach each record from a fresh sonic perspective, all while retaining the dense, cathartic and distinctly Scottish din they've mastered since day one. This novel yet familiar method has afforded fans a valuable security blanket to bolster their anticipation, and given the group's penchant for fall themes it seems this fourth instalment couldn't be arriving at a more appropriate time.
Perhaps the first query which springs to mind regarding Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
is whether it's been affected by months spent touring the divine Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
in its entirety. With no meaningful anniversary to speak of, the decision to return to their debut certainly appeared a significant one, yet aside from its characteristic wordy titles the answer would appear to be very little.
Instead, the record's true influence has been relayed by singer James Graham, whose interviews have depicted both a concoction of past material and a culmination of everything positive his band have come to represent. It's not as radical a leap as that taken on predecessor No One Can Ever Know
, but in marrying this elemental goldmine they've once more crafted a piece whose sound stands apart; a profound slow-burning marvel whose subtlety of touch can almost be likened to acclaimed names such as The National, without ever bearing material resemblance.
This advance is felt most profoundly in Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane's songwriting. This might sound curious considering the outstanding moments scattered across existing LPs, but this is the first time the pair's creative partnership has yielded fruits consistently and invariably as gripping as their overriding aesthetic. The result, then, is a record that's by some way their most accomplished to date, rife with both with diversity and sure-fire fan favourites. 'There's a Girl in the Corner,' for instance, opens proceedings with a clear link to No One Can Ever Know
, its mid-paced simmer reprising not only the synths but also the eerie, unsettled atmosphere which perpetuated its forbearer. By the time the dynamic, shape-shifting anthem' I Could Give You All That You Don't Want' has entered the fray, however, the transition already seems markedly less straightforward; a feeling underlined in bold by the scorching epic 'In Nowheres,' where MacFarlane's guitar-driven hurricane returns with a vengeance.
Then, of course, there's Graham's vocal; that magnificent rhotic brogue the group's music is increasingly being constructed around. Assured and assertive, his performance at times resembles that of a man possessed, with tasteful dabs of echo, layering and distortion only magnifying his emotive Celtic punch. Nowhere is this better exhibited than on closer 'I Wished I Could Fall Asleep,' which sets his naked voice alone save for a stark piano backdrop. The arrangement is startling in itself, but even more surprising are his lyrics, which abandon the usual abstract approach for a spate of withering, crystal clear self-examination.
In a similarly candid confession, the singer recently lifted the lid on fears concerning the band's future, claiming that until recently he "genuinely thought nobody gave a *** anymore." It's ironic, then, that these fears have essentially been vanquished by a trip down memory lane, with the Fourteen Autumns
shows and the reaction to them not only proving that statement to be categorically false, but also inspiring the group to craft a record on a comparable level. They may never escape their 'cult' tag, nor their lazily forged rep as serial miserablists, but after the most minor of blips Nobody Wants to Be Here
is a record which once more sets their trajectory skywards.