Emotion is something that is complex, personal and unique to each and every person. Some people wear their emotion on their sleeve; others mask it behind a façade of trepidation. It can usually be heard (by the sound, tone, inflection, volume of one’s voice) but it can’t genuinely be seen as effortlessly. So, we have music and some artists/bands infuse their music with everything inside of them. They pour their heart out and with it, their emotions, into a single work of art. It can aid in creating gorgeous masterpieces like Beck’s Sea Change or maybe just one song, such as Trent Reznor’s evocative, brooding, “Something I Can Never Have.” When you can create music to healthily express your emotions, ah, well it’s a beautiful thing.
So, with all of that in mind, we get The Twilight Sad’s debut album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters. This oozes with emotion, flows like a river, thunders like a tidal wave, explodes like a bomb, shoots out like a firecracker — it’s drenched with and pouring emotion all over. The songs are overflowing with poignant, distressing lyrics covering topics like broken families and homes, desolation, solitude, seclusion, resentment and loss. They do this by crafting sonic landscapes of the music; towering crescendos that grow into climactic moments where you can just “feel it,” fortepianos that express sudden demise and frequent sforzandos.
The Twilight Sad is a four-piece band and their lead-singer, James Alexander Graham, sings in a Scottish, baritone drawl. As Jen from Stratosphere wrote earlier, when she reviewed their eponymous EP, “Graham’s reminisces and recriminations are expressively wrapped in his pronounced Scottish accent, giving rise to an emotionally crippled and claustrophobic feeling – of things not spoken, of saying too much, of family secrets and repressed emotions.” And that is all presented here again as the album features nine total songs, three of them copied and pasted from the EP to this debut LP.
The opener, “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” starts off with a quite build of stomping piano, some reverb and a gentle guitar melody. Graham’s voice tenderly enters the mix and the magic goes on from here. The song grows into a lush, diverse scope of heightened proportions; it hits you straight in the face with an emotional jolt of pure strength. It ends the same way it began, with the piano and reverb peacefully closing it out.
Every song has a highlight and every song is a gem—every single one. There is the explosion in “That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy” that hits as hard as it hurts, the triple meter of “Talking with Fireworks/Here, it Never Snowed” that very simply, starts off with a fittingly, firework of music that is both crushing and breathtaking, and then the miserable, heart aching, “I’m Taking the Train Home” where Graham practically yells out the lyrics. Everything on here works and everything on here is dazzling.
It’s a remarkable debut by a tremendous quartet. Not only does it have the raw emotion, but also the intense, glorious musicianship, absorbing hooks and grandiose arrangements to leave you utterly breathless, drained and wanting more. Where they go from here, who knows? But if this is just a taste of better and bigger things to come, then I await them, eagerly and attentively.