Writing about albums is a ridiculously obtuse occupation. You take an artist’s hard work, listen to it thoroughly to get to know its quirks and charms and all the pain and anguish involved in creating it, then write a short summary. It’s not surprising that the press has been deemed the enemy, especially when some writers seem to simply scoff, then cough up some half-assed commentary about whether the disc is good or bad. In truth, many albums don’t require painstaking attention to detail in their analysis. But occasionally an album is so breathtaking that a writer wants to dig into the details. Such is the case with the debut album by the Twilight Sad.
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters is the kind of lush epic you would hope formerly great bands such as U2 or Coldplay would come up with. The album builds off the band’s strengths, which were previously demonstrated during live performances and on its Max Richter-produced, self-titled EP in 2006, but add a new layer of dramatic euphoria to the mix. Rather than beginning as a mediocre pop group, the Glasgow quartet developed its sound with shows centered on half-hour live-noise compilations. The foundation of experimentation is the heartbeat of Fourteen Autumns, which leans heavily toward the sonic bombast of former labelmates Sigur Ros or perhaps Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth.
But don’t be put off if you’re not interested in pushing aural boundaries: Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters is full of thoroughly enjoyable tunes and melodies if you’re willing to give it time. The production was handled by the band and Peter Katis, who’s worked with Oneida, Clem Snide, Mice Parade, and Interpol. The first single, “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” or the equally confident “Mapped by What Surrounded Them” are delivered with poise by James Graham, whose heavily accented vocals add to the group’s personality.
This may not be the type of album to put during on Wrestlemania (as the group claimed they would be doing), nor is it something we’ve never heard before (some of the epic builds are vaguely reminiscent of Mogwai or Interpol’s back catalogues or the Smashing Pumpkins during the Mellon Collie era). But it is a welcomed addition to FatCat’s already solid canon of records. If this debut is any indication, we can expect even bigger and better sounds from this quartet. For now, I’ll just close my eyes, throw on Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters and forget about how ridiculous the pursuit of describing music is. That’s a mark of a great record, after all.