I’ve missed two opportunities to see The Twilight Sad; once last year because of awful weather and once just this month due to an awful cold. I was disappointed that I missed them last year since their five-song, self-titled EP was remarkable. The song “And She Would Darken the Memory” leapt into my top 10 list for favorite songs of 2006. Now I’m just kicking myself in the head for missing them this year because their full-length debut, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, is plain brilliant. It’s a shimmering, cathartic rush of shoegazer bliss driven by Andy MacFarlane’s pedal-augmented guitar noise, Mark Devine’s drumming and James Graham’s über-Scottish vocal delivery.
Three songs from last year’s EP make an appearance on this album, including the previously mentioned “And She Would Darken the Memory” and the similarly anthemic “That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy.” Both of these songs contain memorable lyrics that stand apart from an already enticing wall of sound, one that (as described in the review of their EP) sounds kind of like The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Walkmen and just a wee bit of Interpol at their most somber. It really is hard to not enjoy lines like “And friendly faces with put on smiles” or the oft-mentioned “The kids are on fire in the bedroom.” Both are evocative, well-turned phrases that I can’t get out of my head for some reason or another. The smarty-pants part of me thinks it has something to do with the profound moment of experiencing something entirely novel and how such things imprint themselves in one’s memory. The non-smarty pants part of me just thinks they’re great lines.
The Twilight Sad has similarly seasoned the whole of Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters with memorable lyrics. On “Walking for Two Hours,” Graham’s repetition of the lonely “Because you’re so far from home” lends a sense of being lost in a strange place to a song that’s already on the bittersweet side. On the opener “Cold Days from the Birdhouse,” it’s the line “And your red sky at night won’t follow me / It won’t follow me now.” Possibly my favorite line on the album, “I’m Taking the Train Home” offers the lyric “And your green eyes turn to blue,” a phrase which makes a melancholic accordion melody seem more melancholy.
This blend of cathartic noise and quaint, meditative moments is best epitomized on “Talking with Fireworks / Here, it Never Snowed.” The song opens with an immediate squall of guitar noise that is soon accompanied by drums like cannon blasts. This deluge gives way to a quaint, folky moment of benign guitars and the calm pitter-pattering of drumsticks. This shift in volume and intensity is like the difference between a blizzard and a spring drizzle. Graham pleasantly delivers some ominous lyrics during the quiet moments (“And did your fear not grow when you see that you’re all mine / See that you’re all mine / With a knife in your chest“) before the walls of noise return again.
Unlike the other intense entries on the album, “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” builds into its initial burst of noise slowly. The song begins with the steady, metronome-like tap of a single piano key as MacFarlane’s guitar yawns out its melody. The first third of the song is almost like a slow wake-up call before it shoots into its shoegazing section. While “That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy” also builds into its louder and more intense moments, it’s build up is not as pronounced as it is on “Cold Days from the Birdhouse.”
The last song on the album, “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters,” and “Last Year’s Rain Didn’t Fall Quite So Hard” are reminiscent of the instrumental interludes on My Bloody Valentine albums, particularly in how they grow on you with each subsequent listen. The title track is soothing, a mix of feedback, piano and brushes on snare drums that goes well with watching the rain from your window. Interestingly enough, “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” loops back to “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” quite nicely, which makes for seamless repeated listening.
I’m going to see The Twilight Sad the next time they come to town no matter what. I have purchased many warm union suits as well as umbrellas that won’t invert in the wind. I am on a daily regiment of vitamin-C supplements and occasional helpings of Echinacea. I’ll brave inclement weather, the flu, zombie attacks or whatever disaster the fates have in store because, yes, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters is just that good.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The Walkmen – Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy