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Twin Shadow


[Terrible / 4AD; 2010]

By ; October 8, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

As a kid growing up in the UK in the ’80s, pop music was something that didn’t hold much appeal. From a personal point of view, having an older sister whose tastes extended about as far as the first few Kylie Minogue 7″s certainly didn’t help; if she’d read the NME instead of Smash Hits, the sounds that I was forced to endure through the wall of our adjoining bedrooms could have been much more bearable. As it happened, I discovered about twenty years after the fact that there was amazing music out there back then, but in the years of ignorance leading up to Public Enemy and Guns ‘N Roses igniting my life’s big passion, the only thing I knew for sure was that music shouldn’t sound like Phil fucking Collins. Fast forward to 2010, and imagine my surprise at finding synthetic pop suddenly back in fashion, with LCD Soundsystem ripping off the Eurythmics, and even OMD making a comeback. What comes as an even greater shock, though, is that Twin Shadow’s Forget, a record that owes more than a little to the tinny, pastel-hued electro-pop I hated so much as a youngster, is fast revealing itself as one of the year’s best.

Forget is the debut album from George Lewis Jr., a bedroom pop maestro (and possibly – judging by his distinctive ‘fro and pencil moustache – part-time pimp) from Brooklyn, and also the first full-length release on Terrible Records, the label run by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. Aside from a little production help from Taylor, Twin Shadow is very much a one-man enterprise, with Lewis handling all keyboards and guitars, as well as the odd bits of live percussion that occasionally flesh out the programmed drum tracks. It’s Lewis’ rich, velvety voice, however, that really breathes life into these dreamy tales of obsessive lust and tragi-comic fantasy; mellow and airy, sitting somewhere between Damon Albarn and the Dears’ Murray Lightburn, it adds a polished finish to lyrics that would make Morrissey himself smile. Stylistically, these songs are most indebted to the likes of Substance-era New Order and early Depeche Mode, although there are distinct nods to the new wave indie-rock of Echo and the Bunnymen and even their more mainstream peers like the Police, and it’s this clash of cultures – the softer, more plastic side of pop rubbing up against its rougher, more organic older brothers – that elevates Twin Shadow’s ’80s revision above like-minded but less imaginative contemporaries like Hurts.

With so many obvious influences in the mix, it’s an impressive feat that none of Forget’s eleven tracks come across as derivative. It isn’t too hard to imagine Molly Ringwald skipping round the dancefloor in some lost John Hughes movie to “I Can’t Wait,” but the song’s wonky synths and slippery rhythmic shifts owe too much to more current trends to allow any real confusion with, say, Simple Minds; similarly, tracks like “For Now” and “Castles In The Snow” take elements of house and even dubstep, albeit toned down to sound like preset Casio beats. Lyrically, the album is littered with seemingly throwaway lines that hit like a train: “As if it weren’t enough just to hear you speak/ they had to give you lips like that” Lewis croons on “Tyrant Destroyed,” expertly summing up all the painful pleasure of adolescent angst in a matter of seconds. For all its lovelorn poetry, though, Forget is relentlessly upbeat; certainly not the typical fare of a label like 4AD, who have picked the album up for wider release. Neither should it be pigeonholed as an exercise in retro-futurism, regardless of how many opportunities it invites to spot the plentiful New Order lifts hidden within. Here Lewis proves time after time that music doesn’t have to be played live by a group of po-faced guys with guitars to be taken seriously. And I guess if they inspired sounds this great, maybe the ’80s weren’t that bad after all.


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