The Twilight Era (Blue Disguise)
By: Brian Barr
This is the sound of emotional defeat. This is what it sounds like to feel alone in a city of thousands. This is what it sounds like when everything changes too fast for you to catch your breath. Throw in some Mark Eitzel, a dash of Joe Pernice, a little outer space and some bleak Americana landscape and you've got The Twilight Era, Sanford Arms' follow-up to 2001's glistening Too Loud for the Snowman.
Over 11 solid tracks, singer/songwriter Ben London employs his weary vocals to tell the tale of his malcontent heart. "Maybe you're the same/ but how will I know?" he sings on the heart-crusher "Love--Conquer Me Again" and adds "But I'm--never gonna fall in love--again" mid-album on "Track the Changes," only to add the final plea "I just wanna love you--again," on the penultimate "MacArthur." God, who is this person wringing London's heart like a wet rag?
Backed by guitarist Harris Thurmond, bassist Jeff Wood, keyboardist Rob Witmer and drummer Rob Dent, London does not stand alone in his sadness. His vocals and effortless strumming seem to hover in the dreamy, slow motion world the band creates where his emotions unfurl. In this way, they don't seem so much like a therapy group as they do drinking pals set on seeing London make it through one more break-up.
Producer Tucker Martine (Jesse Sykes, Bill Frisell) has provided the band enough room to float through space while steering them clear of ambient disaster and this is essential for Sanford Arms' specific pop meanderings to flourish.
While only two of the songs pack an instant punch, the rest of the album seems content to wait for the listener's discovery. The hooks are there, as well as the haunting melodies. It's simply up to the listener to dig for them.