Album Review: Twin Shadow – Confess

[4AD; 2012]

Like 2010’s Forget, George Lewis Jr.’s latest album, Confess, opens with a pulsating kick drum and intimately delivered lyrics directed at some unnamed love interest. But whereas “Tyrant Destroyed” percolated over the course of its three and a half minutes, never quite reaching the climactic denouement we might have expected, “Golden Light” practically explodes with a bombastic chorus, Lewis’s voice sounding more insistent and enthused than ever.

Indeed, Confess feels like a wide-screen, high-def sequel to his debut’s more restrained charms. With its rapid-fire percussion and ’80s-hard-rock guitar riffs, “You Can Call Me On” sounds more like Sleigh Bells than Wild Nothing. Meanwhile, “Five Seconds” and “The One” sound tangibly deeper than the music we’ve heard from Twin Shadow before; sci-fi synths, electric and acoustic guitars, and overlaid vocals that alternate between immediate and echoing give this already-ramped-up album a further adrenaline boost.

The guitar’s increased presence on Confess signals the biggest shift in Lewis’s sound; here he often presents himself as a rock artist, a role few could have predicted upon hearing the swirling, downright pretty synths on older songs like “Castles in the Snow.” There are also fewer ballads this time around. If Forget was a quintessential bedroom pop album, then this new album sounds better suited to cathartic highway radio singalongs. “Run My Heart” could’ve been a Cutting Crew single.

Fortunately, Lewis has retained his penchant for confident songwriting; the hooks are still joyously hooky, the melodies still admirably balance teenage melodrama and “indie” inventiveness, and the pop song structures remain malleable and inventive—perfect for repeat listening. On the other hand, perhaps as a result of his broader musical scope, his lyrics have gotten more generic. The thoughtful ruminations on race (“Tyrant Destroyed”) and fragmented nostalgia (“Yellow Balloon”) have largely been replaced with thematically bland romantic cliches. There’s a lot of talk about hearts and love and “the night,” for instance. This is a shame; interesting songs like the hair metal/ marching band posturing of “Patient” deserve better than “And now you look at me like I wasn’t true” and “I am patiently waiting for you to give up everything and say just what you mean,” lyrics that wouldn’t have felt out of place on a “Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know”-era Britney track.

So even if Confess is a decidedly less personal affair than its predecessor, it’s no less enjoyable. Twin Shadow has released another album of unpretentious, catchy synthpop, this time around with a bit of a hard rock edge thrown into the mix. While I wish Lewis had something a bit more substantial to confess, who says boys don’t just want to have fun too?