Twin Shadow - Confess
We find ourselves at a curious juncture in the evolution of pop music. Never before have songwriters squeezed the hand of the past with such enthusiasm. As the children of the 1980s become the artists of today, the decade's sounds have become so pervasive that it's genuinely difficult to know whether you've encountered a new composition or unearthed a quarter century old gem. From indie to mainstream, Toro y Moi to Gaga, music is increasingly built around a throwback sound and ethos, and in an art form that lends itself to faddism unlike any other, style has emerged as king.
Writing out from hipsterism's Brooklyn epicentre, George Lewis Jr. obsesses over style like no other. Formerly one third of mercurial Boston garage rockers Mad Man Films, Lewis relocated and adopted the Twin Shadow moniker in 2006, forging an entity which gave birth to 2010's Forget, an album that took all the self-indulgent post irony of a floral shirt and moustache combo and married it to some of the most masterful pop songwriting of the last ten years. It was smooth yet astute, debonair but erudite; Lewis's knack for pairing heartbreakingly insightful lyrical detail to an infectious groove providing the closest rival to Morrissey and Marr west of Lancashire.
Since then, Lewis has not only continued to record the vast majority of the instrumentation, but also taken over on production duties. The result is an album which is sharper; a high definition update on Forget's VHS haze. His vocals are foregrounded, and although the dreamlike synths are preserved on 'Golden Light' and 'The One', Confess sees him take cues from mid-80s stadium rock as well as the British shoegaze and synthpop that informed his previous work. 'Run My Heart', for example, is a glorious sequel to 'The Boys of Summer', while Patient wouldn't sound out of place had Jacko commissioned Lewis's talents on Bad.
Lewis' confidence is also quite evidently higher this time around. Whereas on the cover of Forget where the monochrome outline of his face was blended with the background, on the packaging for Confess he stands, thumbs in beltloops, collar up. Any lingering teenage gaucheness has disappeared, reflected in the album's lyrics. If Forget flung open the protagonist's diary to chronicle the joyful vulnerability of his teenage years, Confess is a decidedly adult picaresque that places sexual adventure and misadventure at its centre. It's teeming with lustful hedonism so that the tenderness of a song like Tyrant Destroyed ("It wasn't enough just to hear you speak, they had to give you lips like that") is replaced by a grimy underworld where sex is painted as an often malevolent and always addictive force, an end in itself for the tortured anti-hero, desperate to deny that it leads to anything approximating love. If Forget was about first dates, crushes and dancefloor glances, Confess takes the disturbingly cold psychology of sex and cold, hard gratification as its subject matter.
However, while it lacks the lyrical depth of its predecessor, Lewis' talent for a hook has never been more patent. Every song, including hidden track 'Mirror In The Dark', could quite feasibly be a single. From 'Five Seconds' incendiary synthpop, to the bouncing Edwin Collins new wave of 'Beg For The Night', you'll be hard pressed to find a catchier, better-constructed album this year. It's unashamedly excessive but much of Confess' charm actually lies in its sense of fun, with the album's only bona fide cringe moment coming on 'I Don't Care's languid exploration of two lovers' deceit.
And so, if Twin Shadow was the bard of halcyon teenage days on Forget, Confess is a triumph for a twentysomething Dionysian aesthete. For now at least, Lewis is able to balance style and substance with consummate ease. Let's hope it stays that way.