I will reluctantly admit that I was slow on the uptake when it came to Twin Shadow‘s sophomore LP, Confess. For whatever reason, my ears tend to avoid sounds with such overt references to 1980s pop music. I have always had trouble finding the humanity beneath the often plastic dance beats and synth-driven overlays that dominated popular music during the latter half of that decade. This disdain could stem from my lack of any discernible posterior that prevents my wearing skinny jeans, my inability to dance or an intolerance for uppers of all varieties. That isn’t to say I won’t rock the fuck out to Rick James, provided a few cocktails and a reason to celebrate. But by and large, I find the music to mirror the gaudiness of the time – overstated and manufactured.
Despite all of this, Confess has steadily earned my affection in 2012. Yesterday, the outstanding San Francisco-based video blog Yours Truly debuted their session with Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. “Run My Heart” proves one of my favorite tracks of the album, reminiscent of Police-era Sting or some of Prince’s more restrained work. Yours Truly presents a stripped down, bass-driven version of the song. It’s always a testament to the songwriting when a track translates in any setting. This is certainly the case with “Run My Heart,” which only grows more disarming in the intimate setting of Lewis’ Los Angeles backyard. Check out the video below, that begins with Lewis working on the most rock n’ roll of all vehicles, his Triumph Bonneville. Although he may need to trade it in for a Honda Shadow, just for consistency’s sake.
Written by Rob Peoni
When I first saw George Lewis Jr. perform as Twin Shadow, it was on a freezing cold January Saturday at Over The Rhine’s MOTR Pub after the release of 2010’s critically acclaimed Forget. Coincidentally, this was also my first show at what is now my favorite music hot spot after moving back to Cincinnati a few months earlier. At the time, I had given the albums a few spins and thought it was pretty good, but really wasn’t entirely blown away. I found the fact that the album was released in November fitting as it seemed to be more thought provoking winter pop. Even the album title inspires visions of cold and darkness. That is until the brash Lewis strutted onto the stage with a rocks glass of whiskey and an outfit of denim, a black leather vest, and his hair swooped up like some 80’s pop star. In person, these songs about heartbreak and getting over someone were something more; they had a heartbeat, a life of their own. These were honest to god life vibes, like Donnie Darko wormholes connecting everyone together that night. Needless to say, I’ve been a tad bigger fan ever sense.
Confess, the second LP release by George Lewis Jr. under the same stage name, is not Forget. There’s a great cockiness, first evident from the album cover featuring a solo shot of George looking like a “Beat It” music video extra, to this album that is new. There’s some Price feel, some Bowie, some MJ…this is 80’s new wave and pop music sent to 2012 in Doc Brown’s DeLorean. And it’s done to perfection. While Forget had that breakup album feel to it, this album feels more like George is chasing whom, or whatever, he wants with that previously mentioned cockiness closer resembling confidence as you get deeper into the track list. The opener “Golden Light” sets the stage for this new feeling as the song continuously builds the chorus of “some people say there’s good in life, you’re the golden light? And if I chase after you does it mean that’s it true?” The second track “You Can Call Me On” resonates with the chase and perils associated with trying to get someone back with George pleading with lines like ”You call me on to give it up, I give it up for you” and “I don’t give a damn about your dream, a whole world that is falling at the seems girl, that’s what it’s supposed to do, it’s my only way back to you it seems”.
The first single, “Five Seconds” features George’s superb vocals at their finest as he screams out over a poppy back beat before he breaks it back down again and contemplating the closeness of young love with “Run My Heart”. It’s around the following song entitled “Beg For The Night” when you really begin to notice how simplistic the songs have become in terms of guitar arrangements. Whereas Forget seems to rely on a heavy and complicated does of the strings to drive the songs, the first five songs on this album allow his voice to set the tone. Luckily, it’s not completely gone as “Beg For the Night”, my personal favorite track on the album, brings the edgy sound we all come to expect to the album. “When the Movie’s Over” is another standout towards to end as a beautiful melancholy, ballad-like jam.
As a whole, Confess is a statement album that combines the emotion and feeling George Lewis Jr. brought on his debut work with a new confidence in his vocal strength. The brash Brooklynite has combined the sounds of the artists he loved growing up with into his own personal brand of music. You won’t hear many albums like Confess this year, and you certainly won’t hear many better. Confess is available today via 4AD.
Written by Greg Dahman