Member’s Only jacket not included.
Nostalgia is always a prickly proposition. While certainly, the best artists steal, too much over-borrowing can lead to a product with no soul, all artifice and no art. It takes a real talent to expand on the past. While I’m not sure George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, is necessarily old enough to remember the sounds he references on his new album, Confess, he does as good a job as anyone I’ve ever heard of evoking the time when I was a preteen, just discovering pop music for myself.
Twin Shadow’s first album, Forget, was a nice diversion, an indie/new wave aside, and although Lewis seemed to think big picture, the end result was left writ small. While Forget made a lot of 2010’s end of the year lists, it felt more flavor of the month than anything genre or mind-bending. On Confess, Lewis has done anything but “forget”, going back to the well of early 80’s radio pop with full force and apparently with a complete and sincere love for the music of the times. It makes the record, as well as my opportunity to go back down memory lane, all the more endearing. While simply naming off the influences and references on Confess would be both lazy and an exercise in futility, it seems Lewis focused in like a laser on popular music being produced between roughly 1982 and 1987, my own formative music years.
Lewis’ husky, breathy, (and, it should be said) stellar sounding vocals are a perfect fit for the turgid clubland soap operas on Confess, suited as well for new wave revivalism and early ’80s English alt-pop, as they are for R&B, both of which retain a ton of traction on the album. While opening cut “Golden Light” and it’s follow up, “You Call Me On”, are both solid, the album hits its stride on the album’s third track, “Five Seconds”, a driving, guitar-centric number that sets the tone for the rest of the record’s dark but emphatic synthpop. For Twin Shadow that means a mixture of neo-neon classicism and Morrissey meets Michael Jackson set pieces, made for the dance floor every bit as much to the romantic apex of a John Hughes movie.
It would be a mistake to leave a discussion of Prince and The Cure out of any review of a Twin Shadow record, and on Confess, Lewis wears his influences on his sleeve. I am relatively certain that Lewis stole the opening keyboard and bass riffs from The Cure’s “Close to Me” outright- and may owe a hefty sum to Robert Smith and his mopey minions on “The One”. To seemingly put even more emphasis on his Reagan decade infatuation, Lewis has written the best percussive intro that The Artist once again known as Prince never wrote on “Patient”, which makes sideways nods at Phil Collins (In a good way… stay with me!) AND the Afro-Carribean influences so important to the pop music of the time.
Confess leaves few stones unturned, but achieves its successes by being openly emotional and more importantly, infectiously, deviously, catchy. I was able to hear Simple Minds, Jan Hammer, Howard Jones, Spandau Ballet, and dozens of other names that I had not thought of in decades. They all came rushing back. So yeah, I’m biased, but Confess is also the best album I’ve heard this year.
Purchase: Twin Shadow – Confess