What is the role of a sad-sack Scottish indie band in 2014? I’ve spent the better part of my life listening to sad music. Science says we like it because it is “more emotionally stimulating”. It is the work of simple men and women whose struggles may otherwise have never been heard had they chosen a 401k and a cubicle instead of a guitar. Ironically, making music for a living doesn’t seem to have raised the spirits of The Twilight Sad at all. Interviews with the band portray them as well-meaning guys, working to reach as large an audience as possible, working to improve their craft and provide an objective medium for the listener to experience their pain through their intense gigs. Well meaning and mopey.
Back in a 2009 interview with Pitchfork, the group’s vocalist James Graham said the band was trying to write shorter songs. “Pop” songs. The Twilight Sad has bathed in noise. They swam the North Sea wearing shoegaze wetsuits made from abject misery and heavily patina-ed by rain and wind. Returning with Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, the group’s sound is an agile, emotive variation on Twilight Sad tropes. Most of the songs on the album adhere to a straightforward structure, and The Twilight Sad have also toned down their level of noisy indulgence, which leaves behind plenty of white space for the band to fill with honest, heartfelt songwriting.
Lyrically, The Twilight Sad are as obsessed with being alone and washed out inside dark, candlelit houses as they have ever been. Graham’s vocal work isn’t very inspiring though, and his tendency to sing along with the melody is aggravatingly monotonous. Expressive but sparse arrangements are the album’s strength. ‘Last January’ and ‘In Nowheres’ use ghostly, slithering melodies to dismantle Graham’s confident but hostile delivery. Before a sullen ending, two songs stand out: ‘Pills I Swallow’ shines as a song for every prom-night horror movie victim to have their last dance to, and the 808 on ‘Leave The House’ accomplishes an near-impossible task for a Roland drum machine: carrying a melancholy atmosphere without schmaltz.