George Lewis Jr. aka Twin Shadow
has lofty goals. After leaving his indie label 4AD
for the big halls of a major label at Warner Brothers, it wasn't a stretch to expect his new album Eclipse
to reach for the stars. Predictably, it does. But predictably isn't always a bad thing; in fact, the powerful, expansive sound of the album makes 2012's Confessions
feel like a warm up. Eclipse is an incredibly honest, roller-coaster of emotions. Over twelve songs Twin Shadow delights, adores, regrets, and condemns his muse. In the end, we have to pour over every facet of the album to find how he really feels. Unfortunately, these emotional gymnastics can also become tedious.
Album opener "Flatliners" begins on a melancholic note. The subdued verses tinged with an electronic element allow Lewis Jr. to wax on the guilt to his lover, before bombastic drums in the chorus pick up as the call and response ready, "We don't have to be flatliners/So pump, pump, pump it up," rocks the listener. Follow up-song "When The Lights Turn Out" has an eerily similar synth riff to Future Island
's "Spirit". Despite the bleak lyrics, such as "I'm addicted to the chase/just make me feel like it's worth it," the music bounces and Lewis Jr. almost sounds proud of the fact that he is entangled in this game.
The title-track "Eclipse" is the biggest offering into exactly how Twin Shadow may be feeling about his muse. Behind subtle, repetitive drum work and a steady guitar-picking riff, he lets whoever they may be know "you eclipse me." Ouch... I guess this beautifully crafted album is one way to step out of the shadows. Still, the vagueness and constant switch-up of his emotions makes it hard to keep up. Elsewhere on the album, Twin Shadow is upstaged by guest vocalist Lily Elise on the stunning "Alone". While the duet is a nice move as their intertwined melodies coupled with background vocal harmonies is a magical moment, her superior vocals begin to overwhelm what should be Twin Shadow's song. Perhaps this is why he ends the song with the gut-wrenching lines, "The last time that I saw you, you said you'd make it up to me/I haven't seen you since and I don't plan to." Twin Shadow wins this round.
Twin Shadow is best when he is experimenting. The grunge riffs of "Turn Me Up" -- coupled with electronic hand claps -- have a piano riff that is so pretty it cancels out the intensity of the other instruments. As the song progresses, the vocals grow distorted and distant, perhaps signifying he is indeed turnt up or drunk. The whispers of "I'm Ready" are different and deceptively intense enough to almost distract from the admittance that these songs are "the ghosts of embarrassing memories." We aren't all so lucky to make pure pop magic without embarrassments unfortunately.
The main issue with this album is the production. While the synthesizers are obviously more layered, louder, and expansive, they do seem to flow into one another. This effect may be useful for a live show, but it starts to drain during a sit down listen. After a while, it became hard to distinguish which instrumental belonged to which song. The saving grace, however, is the poetically simple lyrics leading the way. Frequently on the album, Twin Shadow lets his voice take center stage, which is not always the case in synthpop new-wave inspired music. Clearly, he is showing his influences, but trying to mix up the formula. Still, the songs have considerable potential for radio hits. Incredibly catchy with some dance heavy tracks, expect Twin Shadows to become a part of the mainstream pop culture conversation very soon.
Check out the video for "Turn Me Up" below and check out the new album Eclipse here