The Twilight Sad: Forget the Night Ahead

Maybe, no matter how strong the Twilight Sad can sound, there's just a ceiling on this kind of expansive rock. Because for all the thunder here, we only get a few lightning strikes.

The Twilight Sad

Forget the Night Ahead

US Release: 2009-09-22
Label: Fat Cat
UK Release: 2009-10-05
Label Website

No one could knock the strength of the Twilight Sad's sound on their last record, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, and songs like "Cold Days From the Birdhouse" were as titanic and brooding as rock music gets. But the album's detractors also claimed that its monolithic sound was, well, a little too "mono". But on Forget the Night Ahead, if the band aren't necessarily out to prove anything, they are certainly moving more towards melody and variety of texture here, giving us a subtler side of their sound that loses none of its power, and actually comes off as a darker slab of songs than its predecessor.

Never mind the obvious experiments here (like the three minutes of swirling grind that is "Scissors"). The biggest surprises on this record seep out slowly through the noise, instead of insisting on themselves. The opening "Reflection of the Television" has the thundering drums, and the guitars churn and froth away, but the focus has shifted from the storm to its eye, where James Graham smoothes his thick, curling voice into a heartbroken croon. Even when the song reaches its breaking point, the instruments don't overwhelm his voice, nor does he resort to strident bleating. Everything stays even and tense and affecting.

On "Seven Years of Letters", the guitars get that edge sanded down to a crisp riff, as the band offer their most stripped-down sound to date. Graham is out front drawing us in with a beautiful melody and his knack for capturing mood in a seemingly simple line -- here he insists "there's a chance that we're running scared". And "Made to Disappear" is a nice followup to "Seven Years of Letters", as it takes the same tunefulness and starts building a bridge back to the band's usual expanse. There's still enough tempered echo and space to fit a tight hook, but it stretches out and grows with a power that, even if we've seen it from them plenty, can still be staggering.

But while there is variety in the texture here, and a better focus on setting each song apart from the one before it, there's still a feeling that this record wears itself out much like its predecessor. Strangely, nothing makes this more apparent than the album's biggest standouts. "I Became a Prostitute" and "That Birthday Present" work because they rise out of the overcast rumbling of their sound and up the energy. Graham, whose singing is under control throughout the record, lets loose, wailing from out of some dark cave on "I Became a Prostitute". And the drums take the band on their back for "That Birthday Present" and push the song from slow march to full gallop.

These songs stand out because, for all the thunder we here on Forget the Night Ahead, they are the only real strikes of lightning. There's something to be said for restraint, but at some point here it spills over into a reliance on midtempo grinding. Perhaps, then, it's not a question of variety at all. Maybe, no matter how strong the Twilight Sad can sound, no matter how loud the drums can rumble and the guitars slash, there's just a ceiling on this kind of expansive rock. Once "That Birthday Present" ends, the record settles into a pleasant but too settled rumble. Even on the more uptempo "The Neighbours Can't Breathe" there's a promise that never quite gets fulfilled. It starts with lively clanging and thickly layered notes, and ends in the same miasmic brooding we've heard before.

Of course, there's nothing necessarily wrong with any of this. The guys know their sound, and shift enough so you don't think feel they've made the same album twice. And "I Became a Prostitute" is as bracing a rock song as you're apt to hear this fall, but the record as a whole comes off as smaller than its best parts. It's a different darkness this time out from the Twilight Sad, but eventually you still find yourself missing the light.







In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.