The Twilight Sad – Acoustic EP

The Twilight Sad - Acoustic EP

The Twilight Sad released a stripped-down acoustic EP as a free download in the spring of this year and it showcases the strength of the band’s bleak, stark, vivid lyrics and James Graham’s richly disaffected, emotive vocals.  The songs on this acoustic EP originate from Forget the Night Ahead and The Wrong Car and are less overtly dramatic than the source material.  Yet even with the understated acoustic guitar and subdued, matter-of-fact verses, James still pulls out the stops on the choruses, his pent up frustration and desperation finding release in vehement, repetitive, lyrically-driven refrains.

Listening to the entire 8-song EP in one go is an emotionally draining experience, especially in the absence of the band’s traditional, fulminating electric guitar catharsis.  Instead of being carried away by a massively propulsive sonic storm, the listener is forced to burrow into the lyrics and emotions, digging deeper into the suppressed (and expressed) violence and bitter desperation lurking beneath the quiet, spare, acoustic guitar setting.

The stories at the core of these songs depict the plight of socially, familially, and/or physically isolated and desolate characters who are either badly entangled with or cut off from their relations.  James becomes the narrator and sometimes portrays the characters, his passionate vocal delivery laying bare the anguish, anger, deterioration, and resignation of these unlucky souls, with only acoustic guitar for accompaniment.

James brings the lyrics to life, alternating between a tense, but weary malaise on the verses, where, with his pronounced, but clear Scottish accent, he draws out and curls around certain phrases, picking at the mundane details of daily life, and a bursting tempest on the chorus parts, pouring out his exclamations in rapid succession, repeating and emphasizing key words, slicing through the everyday banalities to get to the crux of the matter.  It’s this focus on specific, evocative details of the descriptive lyrics, both tangible and intangible, that conveys the grim and disillusioned essence of the songs.

Two melodic guitar lines pick a pretty pattern on opener “I Became A Prostitute” as James (well, the character he’s embodying) wallows in lost prospects, expressively exclaiming on the chorus “…you could have had it all…”  Picked acoustic guitar features again on “Interrupted”, where each vocal line follows closely on the heels of the previous one.  Fingers glance over the strings on waves of rolling guitars as James adds emphasis on certain phrases like the forbidding “…you and I will bury them all…”

There’s a rawer production on “Seven Years of Letters”, with James’s vocals pushed way up front so that his exclamations come out harshly.  The strummed guitar line is reserved and follows the ups ‘n’ downs of the vocals as James sings with deliberation “…you say you’ll never be there / in the dress that you’ll never wear / and it’s a sorry affair…”  “Suck”, which has nothing to do with vampires, works in lower register strummed guitar and then raises the pace on the tormented chorus with James exclaiming “I just love hitting you, see?… / “You suck it all right out of me.”

“The Wrong Car” starts off with a hand knocking on the front of the guitar,  continual thumbed bass, and occasional strums of acoustic guitar that increase on chorus as James kicks in with despondent statements like  “…it’s more than you can bear…” and “…we’ve been wrong before…”   Mid-tempo closer “Throw Yourself Into the Water Again” also includes a thumbed bass line, as well as acoustic guitar strum that breaks down with a sharp squeak of the strings at times.  James finishes it all off on a dark note as he proclaims “…reach out your hand / and I’ll pull you down…” and “…I’m dancing over your grave…”