Authenticity is an often misunderstood termed used as a means of validation in both music criticism and popular discourse. It is reductive, entirely subjective and prone to misuse. Performance and contrivance exist in all forms of art and compromise is inevitable between ideas and their resulting action. Pub chats on music up and down the land often centre on the elevation of singers or bands due to a perception of how much they “mean it,” whilst those in conversation dance gleefully on the corpse’s ashes of the latest “manufactured” pop band to wane from public affection. Yet, such ideals only exist to attribute value for the audience’s choices rather than the substance of the material they listen to. “Their” music acts as a conduit for their worth and establishes them firmly as a culturally competent consumer with taste and, by association, the use of the term “authentic” in music discussion does little more than act as a shield against criticism and, at its very essence, is a basic circle-jerk between artist and audience.

Still with me? Great.

The Twilight Sad really want you to believe they mean it, and they most likely do - but that should not in itself be enough. Anyone who has seen the band live in the last few years knows that they have grown into something of a beautiful celebration of isolation in front of an ever-larger crowd, as oxymoronic as you could wish to get. Singer James Graham has become more confident, more vivacious and simply more brilliant as a frontman, yet his on-stage theatrics often mask the fragility of the Twilight Sad’s lyrics. Their shows in the summer, including a rousing and horribly short set at The Cure’s Hyde Park extravaganza, included a cover of Frightened Rabbit’s quite brilliant ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, the band paying suitable heartfelt tribute to their friend and Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchison. Resilience and weakness have never been more beautifully and problematically aligned. It is the acceptance of these juxtapositions that separates fans of this band and those who don’t “get it.” This album won’t change people’s minds about The Twilight Sad, but it may open more ears to their triumphant melancholy.

On the band’s fifth studio album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (their first on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records), they continue to plough the same furrow as on their previous albums, yet with a little more urgency, consistency and richness that some of their earlier work lacked. There is a simplicity here, both in terms of lyrical content and musicality. The same lines or lyrics with little variation are sung over and over, their repetition serving as perfect illustrations of how separation and loneliness lead to self-doubt and recrimination. “I don’t want to be around you anymore/ I can’t stand to be around you anymore,” on ‘I/m Not Here (Missing Face)’ serves as a perfect example of this.

This is the most highly-polished Twilight Sad album to date in terms of production, and there are also elements which align them with a number of obvious influencers: the clattering drum machine and guttural bass on the ‘The Arbor’ echo fellow Scots Cocteau Twins, whilst Graham’s vocal melody and the keyboards on ‘VTr’ are reminiscent of Talk Talk. None of these aspects are so painfully obvious as to be derivative, and they arguably flesh out The Twilight Sad’s place in the pantheon of miserabilism and positive despair.

The last track here is the already released ‘Videograms’, and it is a sign of the strength of the album as a whole that this song sits at the denouement of the work. The previous ten songs, all tales of lost and dying love, frustration and ennui are wrapped up in this last track, which shows signs of positive growth and the personal development of the protagonist with the chorus of “So don’t start/ Don’t you start on me.” Here, there is less a sense of defeated resignation and more one of learning from previous mistakes. It is also of note that many of the choruses and refrains in the earlier songs seem to be very reflective, inward-looking, as moments of self-talk and personal encouragement to gain the strength needed to walk away. In these final lines, it feels as though there is some relief to the constant barrage of woe, and there is a sense of release for the listener, pride in the newfound confidence of the person whose side we are on. This doesn’t last long, however, and there is a final sting in the tale for the listener as weakness and uncertainty once again seep into the mind of the singer.

Very much like their kindred spirits The National, there is a lack of transformation, of development and of significant progression on this album, yet this only serves to reinforce the singular message of what has gone before. The Twilight Sad have not needed to reset themselves, nor have they tried to. They have simply settled into their sorrow more readily and we can all take comfort from that.

This album is filled with simple refrains, hooks and lyrical repetition that could well see The Twilight Sad take all before them at every festival that no doubt they will play in 2019, and then the backlash on their “authenticity” can inevitably be played out for every mug with an ill-informed opinion to involve themselves in.