Artist: The Twilight Garden
CD Title: Hope
Genre: Electrionic, Darkwave, Alternative
I sat on this review for literally weeks, disappointed for how it would eventually turn out. I had no desire to turn in another scathing review, something I have become somewhat accustomed to doing.
I'd hoped to reverse the trend with Hope by The Twilight Garden, who had caught my attention through a Soundcloud post. I'd liked what I'd heard to some extent, and it stuck out due to the relative dearth of decent music on the free sites. So when the offer came through to review the entire album, I jumped at the chance. An opportunity to give an assessment of music I expected to thoroughly enjoy was a rare treat. (Quite honestly, until now I'd gone through merely picking the bands with the coolest-sounding names I could find.) And frankly, the cover art is stunning.
Alas, the foreboding dread of having to deliver unhappy results combined with the inherent desire to delay the inevitable. I held this review for weeks.
There are bright spots on the album, of course. While "Ravens and Doves" doesn't ever wander too far from its singular musical theme, it is a reasonably competent goth track with the tortured, soaring vocals made possible with a delay pedal. "Hope", one of the best songs on the album, justifies a simplistic and overly-long-for-its-complexity keyboard lead-in with a reasonably competent arrangement behind.
Other songs did not rate so well; most songs were at their most engaging at their title. "Falling Rain" proved pedantic and unmotivated, with a repetitive synth melody that never let the song get off the ground. "Burning If We Stay" shares a similarly weak synth background, coupled with a distracting and dull drum breakdown midway through (that honestly probably sounds pretty good live).
The album doesn't let up from here. "Falling in Circles" perpetuates the trend of simplistic, unengaging synth patterns, though at least in this song's case the vocals are more well structured than most of the rest, providing some measure of liquidity against the wall of concrete uniformity they are laid against. "Trail of Tears, Part I" is shockingly punkish and aggressive, and its dum-dum-kshhh rhythmic simplicity does not mesh well with the more atmospheric mood of the rest of the disc.
By the time I made it to "Reconcile", I really wanted to like another song; and fortunately began to find myself pleased from the outset. The keys and synths in the lead-in, while simplistic, were well-written and scaled well; and then promptly got out of the way when the vocals kicked in. Some reasonable chord progressions later, and I was able to release a sigh of relief--while not an immediately catchy song, this would be a perfect track to mix in at your local spooky club. The catchiness began to pick up at about 2:15, when the synth tracks came layered a bit more heavily, and I found myself really enjoying the song for its melancholy and pedantic rhythm. (A few shots of Fireball didn't hurt.)
"Fixation" breaks the pleasant spell left by "Reconcile" and "Ravens and Doves", and while the conspicuous key pattern in the background is not highly offensive, it doesn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the song. "Fire" opens up as anything but; a watery, slow song that is more atmospheric than anything else. "Trail of Tear, Part II" is a similar track, more atmospheric than melodic, though a little more infernal than "Fire" could have ever imagined being; an interesting aura of menace hangs over the song that few of their other tracks had bothered to match.
"Violet" strongly perpetuates The Twilight Garden's propensity for using dull, prominent synth leads behind their droning melodies, and the song never lifts beyond it. "Resolve" is a purely instrumental piece to close out the album, and is suitable for background music over candlelit dinner more for its pure unobtrusiveness than its sheer beauty.
There are uplifting moments on most albums, and Hope does not thoroughly disappoint. However, the good here is loudly shouted down by the pedantic and mediocre; little about this album hints at strong musical craftmanship. "Hope" and "Reconcile", the strongest cuts on the album, cannot quite bear so much dead weight dragging them down; and unfortunately the disc founders in its own circularity and repetitiveness.
Take a Listen: Trail of Tears Part I
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