The Twilight Sad’s output as of late, though steeped in undeniable skill and indulgence, has felt as though it was holding something back. While lush, immersive records like 2012’s No One Can Ever Know and 2014’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave boasted memorable songcraft, they weren’t able to match the emotional rawness of the Scottish noise rock band’s unassailable debut, 2007’s Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters. That is, until now. With It Won/t Be Like This All the Time, the group’s first album following drummer and founding member Mark Devine’s departure and the death of friend of the band Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad are done smoothing over their rough edges.
Right off the bat, this fertile album finds the band doing what it is they do best. Sweeping and atmospheric opener “[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]” cements the sound that has captivated audiences since the band’s inception, swirling in the cosmos somewhere between the electronic resonance of New Order and the raw emotive lyricism of Elliott Smith. Completing the sad kid trifecta, on glum tracks like “VTr,” James Alexander Graham, not unlike Morrissey, demonstrates his astute ability to incorporate a destitute wail into a catchy pop earworm: “Please don’t leave me alone / I don’t know who to trust.” His bleeding heart questions seep into the listener’s blood, as with “The Arbor,” strobing pop fever dream that gets caught up drinking in the compulsory seduction of the shifting blame of hindsight’s sticky hypotheticals: “Why couldn’t you leave me be? / Why couldn’t you leave it be? / Why couldn’t we leave it be?”
What truly makes The Twilight Sad so indelibly captivating is the infectious and entrancing sound they are able to forge on each and every one of their endearing songs. From the unhinged, explosive “Girl Chewing Gum” to the bewitching, cool-toned “Let/s Get Lost,” the band possess the uncanny ability to make each statement feel at once wholly original and inexplicably universal. With the pounding, guitar-driven accusation “Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting,” they craft a powerful mood piece that fills its racing choruses from all four corners. A true testament to this gripping sonic wave is “I/m Not Here [missing face],” an ever-changing sampler of the band’s impressive range, as a hushed confessional bleeds seamlessly into a relentless dance hall anthem. Imaginative tracks like “Auge/Maschine” carry a tingling kinetic energy that feels less like they were deliberately written than captured in the wild and placed on display for the world to consume.
For Graham, continuously calling upon the therapeutic waters of song is an absolute necessity. He pours out his insecurities on the tracks, as if that’s the only safe space he’s been able to find for them. Hesitantly, he invites the listener into his own inner workings on diary entries like the bleary-eyed electronica of “Sunday Day13” (“Would you throw me out into the cold? / Would you throw me out onto the road / If that’s what you were told?”) and the bouncy and bittersweet cocktail that is “Videograms” (“I’m yet to see / All the things you saved for me / I’m not even scared of these / The hurt is something I don’t need.”) as if he’s never uttered the words to another soul. Through the spastic, restless bursts of unfettered emotion on “Keep It All to Myself,” Graham finds a hard-earned release that lays everything on the table: “Can’t be happy with me? / Who is it you see? / What did you fall for? / When I lose sight / I see you all the time.”
At a certain point, It Won/t Be Like This All the Time is simply beyond logical or even emotional explanation. The album becomes altogether spiritual, cementing The Twilight Sad amongst some of the genre’s most stirring acts. With its spellbinding vulnerability and winsome melodies, It Won/t Be Like This All the Time sets the bar incredibly high for a follow-up.