The Twilight Sad – Forget the Night Ahead

twilightsad

Rating: ★★★★ ·

From the depths of the Glasgow music scene burst forth another band in 2003.  Since then, The Twilight Sad have slowly been building up a reputation for their melodic rock meets shoegaze, creating beauty surrounded by squalling guitars.  Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters won over many critics, and the world was eager to see if Forget the Night Ahead could keep the band riding the wave of popularity into the hearts and ears of everyone.

As “Reflection of the Television” opens the album up, you can see the screaming feedback you can see that the band still has some of their traditional elements in place.  But, you will also notice that those elements no longer live in the foreground of the song, as they did on previous efforts.  Singer James Graham now has his vocals standing before you for all to see, and while it dramatically changes the aesthetics of the release, you still catch onto the power of music.

“I Became a Prostitute” is the band’s first single off this album, and you can see that it definitely has a presence that can rise above the indie status. Like Glasvegas, it’s a grandiose number full of wave upon wave of guitars accompanied by Graham’s vocals, which just so happen to crash atop the song as well during the chorus.  All in all, it’s a softer approach to writing than the group took in the past, but for most listeners, you will find that it’s equally as effective.

Fortunately for us, this album is longer than their previous affairs, despite the fact that each song reaches well beyond the mark of 3 minutes, with most running near the five minute mark. However, the dynamics of the atmospheric guitar flourishes combined with Graham’s new vocal presence do make some of the songs blend into one another, making it hard to differentiate between the album’s best numbers.  Don’t take this to mean that there aren’t standout tracks in abundance.

“That Birthday Present” is a clever song, with the majority of the tune relishing in the bouncy guitar work.  All this comes to light even though this also happens to be one of the noisier songs on the record.  The Twilight Sad at this point seem sort of like a cross between M83 and Mogwai, except they rely upon a more traditional songwriting structure.  It allows their songs to breathe, instead of wallowing before they fade into obscurity like other bands that implement noise attacks.

“Floorboards Under the Bed” is different than most tunes you’ll find in the groups catalogue.  It seems to wear the influence of tour-mates Frightened Rabbit, but then it fades into a piece of tinkering flare.  Albeit an interesting opening, the song quickly disappears into the back of your mind.  All the build up will lead you into the final three tracks.  Of the final three, “The Neighbours Can’t Breathe” is the stand out, although the closer, “At the Burnside,” has an emotional appeal, with a hint of Glaswegian balladry wrapping it all up.

This album has some really beautiful moments, more than way out the few weak points.  The Twilight Sad are able to build upon their own sound, pushing the shoegazing into the realm of a more pop-centric world, and Forget the Night Ahead wins because of its ability to step into these new realms, encouraging the band to become more than just another stagnant noise-rock act.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/reflection-of-the-television-1.mp3]

Download: The Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television [MP3]

Division Day – Visitation

dday

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Los Angeles quartet Division Day have been discussed in circles of dream pop and shoegaze sine the release of their first album, and while both those genres or stereotypes find homes on this album, it remains a more focused album than their previous effort. Visitation grabs onto the reigns of their past and propels the band into a more finished product.

You can immediately feel the dark spiritual quality that persists through this record from the opening minute of “Reservoir;” distorted drums cadences collide with a trainwreck of guitar.  All this meets the melodic vocals, almost as if the entire song is riding upon a crescendo. “Malachite” resembles the first song, if only in the pummeling drumwork, as the overall emotional appeal of this tune seems to crash rather than rise.

So we come upon “Chalk Lines,” which hit the Internet a bit ago, and at first it appeals to be one of the more accesible songs, though careful listens reveal various guitar squeals into the outer regions of the song’s negative space.  It’s this effect that makes the band resemble a darker version of Mew; the pounding drums with meoldious vocals seem almost like mirror copies  of one another.

Other areas on the album appear to veer away from the various associated genres, such as “Planchette,” which comes as close to a ballad as you might find, although the instrumentation here is extremely sparse until the rest of the band joins.  It reminds you of various soundscape groups, using guitar squalor to coat the melody, along with programmed fixtures in the background.

You’ll find an interesting listen if you check out “Surrender.” It’s a more exploratory OK Computer-era Radiohead track, almost as if it’s the middling ground between said album and Kid A. The industrial appeal of the track provides some variance to the album, and it’s placement here is perfect, as it mixes up the shape of the album; this is one of the things lacking on Division Day‘s debut.  Such a technique is also employed when the band makes their way to the album’s title track.  Around this point, the shift seems to go away from the instruments, albeit rather briefly, instead focusing on the strength of the dynamic vocals.  This song is everything you want a dream pop song to be, even with the M83 textural effects vibrating in the background.

Visitation shows Division Day finally coming into an understanding of what they do best as a group, and when they hit their stride, you see them creating wonderful moments throughout the entirety of this record.  Here’s the the band’s growth and maturity, and let’s hope for prosperity.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/division-day-chalk-lines.mp3]

Download: Division Day – Chalk Lines [MP3]

Silent Land Time Machine – & Hope Still

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Occasionally you miss a release of a deserving band, and you spend your time thinking it over, wondering how it escaped you. Luckily, Silent Land Time Machine‘s & Hope Still is here to help you with your troubles. It’s not begging to be accepted by you, it simply carries on patiently, awaiting your listening experience.

Unlike most who create musical landscape music, the remarkable thing is that this project was created by one individual.  There is not a slew of musicians willing to provide input, this is simply a wonderful creation by an individual.  That being said, it also might be the one possible detractor, as occasionally the songs drag on a little bit, repeating patterns.

It’s hard to describe the exact sound of this record, as one would find it difficult to decipher every instrument being used and at which point.  Then throw in some vocal samples bubbling underneath the structure of various songs, and you would be hard pressed to label this band as anything.  One might be able to draw comparisons to M83‘s Before the Dawn Heals Us, but take that allusion, and leave it out in the woods to grow for several years.  That is as close as one can proximate a definition for this band.

Seeing as it dwells in the creation of a soundscape, here is what one might picture as they listen to the album: You jumped in your car, as the day was sunny and clear, intent upon escaping the city, if only for a few hours.  As you drive, the music kicks in, and your thoughts cease to remain relevant.  The music is carrying you along, through densely wooded hills, across grasslands blowing in the breeze.  Suddenly, the mood strikes you to pull over near a struggling stream.  You watch atop an ancient bridge as the water trickles into nothingness.  Seconds, minutes, hours all pass you by, but the only thing you feel, or hear, is the music on this album.  You’ve drifted away, but as the album ends, it’s time to return.

You see, there is something about this album that provides an overwhelming warmth emotionally.  It evokes something that very few albums are able to do, as it asks for nothing but your listening participation.  Through its peaks and into its valleys, if you follow closely, you will be rewarded ultimately, as nothing soothes like the gentle sounds from & Hope Still.

Don’t forget that Silent Land Time Machine will be playing at Emos on January 23rd.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/01-everything-goes-to-shit.mp3]

Download: Silent Land Time Machine – Everything Goes To Shit [MP3]

Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Finally, I found music that I can run to these days, or at least music I could imagine myself running to, if I ever were to actually run.  That being said, Mogwai always offers me something that I can run to, or at least think about running to; actually, they always make music that lets me think.  The Hawk is Howling is just such an album.

First, I have to think about what I have done to begin thinking about running, which I will most definitely not do.  Then, I have to think about why Mogwai makes me think about running.  Finally, I have to think about what it is in Mogwai albums that makes me think.

In thinking about running, I came to the conclusion that its irrelevant to the topic at hand, the new album.  Then I thought long and hard about why Mogwai makes me think about running. This is my conclusion.

The band in and of itself does not make me want to run, but it is their music that makes me do so, and more important, it is their latest releases.  You see, they used to grab you, and fill your ears with swelling noise and sounds that irked your thinking caps.  They have since retired these strong arms of the axe, and exchanged such powers for mellower affairs.

Opening tracks are never going to be considered the best on the album, but here, they don’t really break new ground, and instead, they wallow in the tried and true formula they used off their last album.  It’s not unique anymore, considering the plethora of bands nowadays that are intent upon creating mood altering music.  Let’s take songs like “Local Authority” and “Scotland’s Shame.”  Each song has some offerings for music listeners, but for the most part, they are restrained musings of a band that once let go with such force that my ears rang for days, and that was with earplugs in my ears.  It is gone; they have lost the ferociousness.

There is, but of course, a song like “Batcat” which recalls that grandiose noise they used to bring on a daily basis, but the availability of such noise on this album is minimal.  They did, however, pen the greatest song this side of M83 with “The Sun Smells Too Loud.” Ridiculous song title aside, its the perfect sprawl of Mogwai at its best.

So then I just thought.  Mogwai makes me think about running nowadays because I can ignore their albums.  They used to strike me with a feeling of grandeur, but those days have long passed.  I can enjoy them for their minimal offerings, but, like their songs, the albums gently float away.

My thinking has led me to declare that the glory days of Mogwai have long since passed. In asking them not to rest on their laurels we asked them to throw away what we loved the most.  In the end, we were given sub-par albums that are always worthy of listening to, but never worthy of playing time and time again.  We can take them for a run, but like The Hawk is Howling, their albums are used solely for special moments; lets face it, the moments just don’t seem as special as they used to seem.

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