George Bailey’s vision and ambition exceeded the confines of his surroundings, and only by departing could he reach the limits of his grand scheme. There was so much out there, just waiting to be explored and devoured. Anything was possible, yet tantalisingly out of reach. Inevitably, it would remain that way until his will shattered under the weight of a life he had previously branded mundane and inconsequential. Inheriting a house incapable of offering comfort, there was struggle soaked into the walls even before his arrival. Peers took his dreams and claimed them for their own, while loved ones bestowed complication and anchors upon him. Chance eyed him with disdain and sneered with each twist of the knife. There was an ominous truth emerging from the snow: he would never meet his own expectation.

I live in a world where George Bailey’s impact on those around him is duplicated across the entire adult population. Self-gratification is superseded by generosity at every turn, and the consequences of that generosity go unnoticed by its host. We care for everything that enters our view, giving unflinchingly without thought for possession or jealously guarded rights of ownership. Creativity trumps profitability at every turn and The Twilight Sad are massive.

The paradox inherent in this scenario is that the music they make would be altered beyond recognition; the darkness they mine would be impossible to locate and its effects so minuscule that to even try and identify would prove futile. The burden of the true present is both millstone and mirror. To channel its nature into something brighter is to succeed.

No One Can Ever Know was unflinching in its terror and offered nothing in the way of comfort. Even the frosty torrent of its preceding album was unsuccessful as a preparatory measure. If the lurking horror within was a true representation of its creators’ state of mind, we all should have said something. They stood with George Bailey on the bridge and wondered aloud if the water beneath offered answers unavailable on land. There was no one else around.

Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave is what that enquiry has bred. A realisation that the impact of one’s existence cannot be measured by a single person, it instead takes everything that has transpired and forces it into new shapes. There is no defeat here, just survival—and ultimately, triumph—in the face of adversarial circumstance. The howl of No more nightmares / let them go that surfaces from ‘In Nowheres’ may be the least reassuring declaration of peace since ‘Enter Sandman,’ but it has a brightness that was hitherto non-existent. Likewise, ‘Last January’ is as wintry as its title suggests, but it’s a goddamn pop song. That in itself is indescribably joyous. Although there are elements of every Twilight Sad LP here, the inferred accusation that the band is treading water is baseless. The agonising creep of this record’s older sibling is offset by a redeeming commitment to melody and the decision to open the curtains for a while. The churn of Forget the Night Ahead is acknowledged, but it no longer seeks to overwhelm. Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters exists within these new surroundings, but its spectral presence brings no harm when visible.

George Bailey ran home through a landscape that no longer seemed so oppressive, arriving home to a deluge of kindness and gratitude. That’s what this album deserves, because right now, my old Building and Loan pals, The Twilight Sad are absolutely peerless.