Originally released through their live shows towards the end of 2014, Òran Mór Session sees The Twilight Sad stripping their sound down to the absolute minimum; vocals and a lone accompanying instrument is all that’s used here. Taking 7 songs from their 2014 album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, a b-side from the same album and adding a cover of Arthur Russell’s I Couldn’t Say It to Your Face as well, it offers a decidedly different view of the album and their music.
The original version of Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave featured a wall of buzzing synths that drowned out almost all other elements, including James Graham’s voice. Hearing the same track with nothing but an acoustic guitar and vocals is intriguing, giving more focus to the repetitive lyrics but highlighting the pure emotion Graham puts behind it. It comes across as a completely positive, enthralling interpretation in this case, but the same translation doesn’t work for many of the other songs.
The originally infectious, dark post-punk of Drown so I Can Watch most noticeably falls flat. Vocals and acoustic guitar alone are barely enough to carry the song by themselves, and can’t hope to evoke the eerie nature of the original song. Even when songs take the translation better, they never reach the peak of Nobody Wants to Be Here; these clearly aren’t songs made to feature nothing but a guitar and vocals. I Couldn’t Say It to Your Face is the album’s only other highlight: Featuring accordion accompaniment instead of guitar gives it its own identity on the album, and it feels like a natural fit for this minimal sound, most likely due to its faithfulness to the minimal original.
Both the biggest draw and issue with the album is the alternate sense of emotion that the songs carry. While the conversions largely felt underwhelming and without their original magic, the idea was there. When a conversion worked, it usually worked perfectly; the Nobody Wants to Be Here rework is worth your time even if you have a distaste for acoustic music. In the grand scheme of things however, Òran Mór Session is for the hardcore Twilight Sad fans, who will appreciate it much more than casual or new listeners. Consider it as more of a companion, rather than its own entity.