Twin Shadow: Confess

George Lewis, Jr. sings to the cheap seats with aching abandon on Twin Shadow's sophomore album. He doesn't always make it, but his ultra-confident, high-gloss sincerity is more often than not pretty hard to resist anyway.

Twin Shadow


Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2012-07-10
UK Release Date: 2012-07-09

George Lewis, Jr. is an honest man. He's been refreshingly upfront about his decision to grace his second album's cover -- "I'm a good-looking guy" -- as well as his adoration for his much-maligned home state of Florida, the superiority of Puerto Rican hairdressers, and his voracious appetite for drugs and women while on tour. His 2010 debut as Twin Shadow, Forget, followed a very real breakup with a breakup record, and was as personal as it was polished. His much anticipated follow-up, Confess, pushes his candor further. Like Forget, it forges an amicable compromise between INXS, Don Henley, and the Cure, but Lewis has foregone that album's collaborations and extensive revision this time around in the interest of expressing himself exactly how he wants. The outcome is looser, flakier, and more grandiose; Lewis sings every anthemic chorus to the cheap seats with aching abandon. Maybe it's inevitable that Confess wants for the discipline of its predecessor, and yet Lewis's ultra-confident, high-gloss sincerity is more often than not pretty hard to resist anyway.

The foremost collaborator Lewis parts with on Confess is Grizzly Bear's multitalented Chris Taylor, and while his specific contribution to Forget can be hard to parse out, comparison between the two albums suggests a line editor's pitiless supervision. Overindulgence is not among the many things Grizzly Bear could be accused of, and one imagines that Taylor would have advised against Lewis's here. The usual suspects of '80s synth-pop hedonism -- antiseptic guitar reverb, saccharine keyboards, deceptively simple (or just plain simple) post-punk rhythms -- are piled on while Lewis's vibrant vocals, by turns brooding and effusive, shoulder more of the melodic burden than before. The massive hooks of "Golden Light", "Five Seconds", "Run My Heart", and "The One" therefore emerge from a sound that's strangely dissonant and clumsy.

In a way, the artist-helmed production's inelegance resonates with Lewis's lyrics as an aesthetic of missed connections. He reportedly based his ten lovelorn tales -- 11 counting the bonus track at the end -- on frustrated romances he has had on the road. The heart is accordingly a stubborn thing on Confess, yearning against wisdom and all odds ("Five Seconds") while standing against any attempts to breach its boundaries ("Run My Heart"). Lewis gives himself over to power games ("Patient") while arrogantly letting "The One" slip away from him. "I don't give a damn about the scene," he protests, except that "it's my only way back to you" ("You Call Me On"), but not before warning that "if you chase after me / Doesn't mean you can see" on "Golden Light". The backdrop of unresolved fragments, ambient synths, and limp solos, played emphatically like wheels spinning furiously in a ditch is therefore appropriate, however accidentally.

It also pushes Lewis himself to the front, an intention his generosity to the press and choice in album art indicate as plainly as the music itself. His interest in nostalgic textures earned Twin Shadow the categorical company of Neon Indian, Ariel Pink, Panda Bear, Washed Out, and other "chillwave" artists, but Lewis was always an odd fit: he's not as electro as Neon Indian, nor as cavalier as Pink, and above all, never as willing as any of them to get buried in the mix. Identifying himself as a man of color in the opening strains of Forget was a vivid resistance against his peers' facelessness, and his gentle, voluminous, unadulterated voice gave the album an unmistakably human touch. On Confess, he's jettisoned his modest sun-warped beginnings and become a full-on crooner. His voice carries the album, and indeed nearly compensates for its persistent faults: where the guitar and synth lines feel half-hearted, Lewis's vocal lines are fully-formed, giving and emotive, at once exuberant, vulnerable, and seductive.

But some of Lewis's conceits are simply less compelling than he seems to think they are, with or without his trusty pipes to give them coherence. Confess is front-loaded; its first five tracks would have made a killer EP, but the other half is much spottier. "Patient" attempts to conjure up some Prince-like menace, superfluous guitar wailing included; "Beg for the Night" aims for straight-faced synth-pop; and "Be Mine Tonight" aims for adult contemporary balladeering. All three fall pretty flat, making them guilty pleasure filler, if not exactly unlistenable: It's easy to hear what they're going for, and easy to hear them fail. "When the Movie's Over" is closer to guilty pleasure, period, with its okay verses and great goth-boy chorus. There's undeniable pleasure in its Depeche Mode-indebted excess.

One of the most satisfying tracks on Confess, however, is one of its quietest. "I Don't Care" caps off an album's worth of cocky rejection and abject begging with smoldering surrender to the futility of a real connection. With its martial, austere bravado, it's an R&B confessional in the mode of The-Dream and the Weeknd. Its refrain, "I don't care… as long as we can dance around the room / While we lie," recalls his early single "When We're Dancing", still his finest moment, and on "I Don't Care" as on "Dancing", Lewis is willing to turn a deaf ear to a relationship's breakdown in exchange for a few moments, however fleeting, of sensual bliss. Confess, which is big on emotions but a bit shallow and murky on the details, inspires a similar attitude.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.