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Twin Shadow, the creative moniker of George Lewis Jr., will release his second album, Confess, on July 9th. Self-produced and with mixing duties handled by Michael H. Brauer (Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney), the follow-up to 2010 s Forget ( Impressive The Sunday Times 4 star) finds Lewis Jr. doing what he does best; remembering and reinventing, and fashioning a soundtrack which sounds refreshingly and distinctly modern.
On the cover of Confess, George Lewis Jr aka Twin Shadow stands aloof in dim light, his leather jacket torn and rugged. He looks like the sort of guy you wouldn't want your daughter hanging around with – and if Confess is anything to go by then that gut feeling would be a smart one.
While his 2010 debut Forget traded in gentle, slight melodies and obfuscation, there's nothing indirect at all here. Instead, Lewis' sonics are masculine and upfront, while his lyrics are strung together with sly digs and cruelties.
If the polar shift from one LP to the next wasn't clear enough, Lewis vocalises as much on Five Seconds when he shouts: “There's no way to forget it all.” He brushes aside the title, and the ethos of Forget, in a second and then backs it up all over the record.
Take Run My Heart, for instance. It’s a song that finds Lewis intent on ring fencing his heart – "You don't run my heart / So don't pretend you can" – before finally spelling it out: "Can't you see I'm not in love?"
For all the coldness, though, Confess is an easy record to listen to and love. Lewis has clearly grown as a songwriter – a song like The One feels like it might have been beyond him a couple of years ago. The light, preppy touch in the bass and guitar feels assured, while the brevity in the writing helps boost Lewis' hooks to the level they deserve.
Beg for the Night is another highlight. The track allows space to open up around another big chorus and super-sizes its masculine vibes by deploying a revving motorcycle engine for percussion.
For an artist often lumped in with chillwave it might come as a surprise to some that Confess is so bold and honest. There's no dream-pop pussyfooting from Lewis this time; instead, he leaves himself nowhere to hide as he pushes his character to the absolute limit.
This approach makes for a Twin Shadow record that might be brutal at times but also smarts with impressively high-octane pop.
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Confess is riddled with the same retro 80's smoothness that his excellent debut Forget had, however it features a much stronger emphasis on the poppier elements of this style, with the production featuring less reverb and the instrumentation sounding louder, more melodic and direct. "Golden Light" opens the album brillaintly with George Lewis Jr delivering a staggering vocal perfomance to bombasticly smooth 80's style synths and drum machines. Lyrically it's filled with sharp, bitter declarations of apathy towards what one can only assume was a previous love interest.
If there's any justice in the world lead single "Five Seconds" will be blasting out of every speaker in nightclubs for years to come; it's bouncy, buoyant, full of energy and shamelessly catchy. The rest of the album takes a similar approach to the afforementioned tracks by staying in 80's town but the scope is considerably wider with the lovely "One" drawing inspiration from The Cure's Goth pop, "Patient" combines elements of Toto's "Africa" and the sassiness of Purple rain era Prince and then there's even a little Quiet storm ala Anita Baker in "When the Movies Over".
It's hard to escape from the fact that a couple of the songs on confess are a little MOR sounding, Specifically "Be Mine Tonight" feels rather vacuous when compared to the edgy dynamism and clever ambiguity of "Golden Light or "Patient". Nevertheless a spot of filler isn't strong enough to dampen this album's appeal and for anybody who's grown up on Rihanna or Bruno Mars exclusively, you'll think these lesser moments on confess are like masterworks in comparison to what you've previously heard.
Confess, on the other hand, is much surer of itself now that Lewis has cast himself as some leather-clad troublemaker - there's little chance however of him going that extra step and becoming the leader of the pack because the allure of the 80s still hangs so heavily over his every move that it's like he's bathed in Paco Rabanne. Undisputed album highlight, "Five Seconds" is, for example, pure unabashed pop that showcases punchy bass tempos pilfered from David Lynch, perfect synth hooks, popping drum sequences and more guitars ripped from the Boss.
There are echoes too of that diminutive lothario Prince in the satin smoothness of "You Call Me On" and "Beg For The Night" is all about a cruising bassline and stadium-sized drum blasts over which laser effects latterly play off against soaring guitar solos. Sweeping bass synths scan the nether regions of "Patient" like a searchlight as Lewis states that "Boys will be boys", dressing the fact with harsh snares and a peppering of guitar funk.
Lewis the would-be-swordsman isn't entirely irresistible though and he strikes out with several unremarkable cuts, also, along with Alt-J and Beach House's recent faux pas, falling foul of trying to resurrect the "hidden" track and its necessary intrusion of prefacing blank space - thankfully reward finally does come in the form of the clapping, crunching funk of "Mirror In The Dark".
Confess is a brash album full of period masculinity, but one not so mired in the past that it's a joke. The anachronistic undertow of the bass synth drone/pulse for example renders it as contemporary as the snare programming anchors it further back in time. A precarious blend in places, Confess is nevertheless excellent in others.
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