Twin Shadow's not afraid to swing for the fences
If there’s one quality that stands out on Twin Shadow’s second LP, Confess, it’s that the album simply sounds amazing. This is obvious right from the opening track, “Golden Light”, which comes in on a reverb-hazed wash of synthesizer before exploding into a soaring chorus showcasing the achingly emotive singing of George Lewis Jr. And then there’s the single “Five Seconds”, with its propulsive beat and anthemically chugging electric guitar. Most critics have noted Lewis’s apparent affinity for the music of the 1980s, but “Five Seconds” would be just as pulse-quickening pumping from your car radio next week as it would have been underscoring a first kiss between Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy.
Speaking from the Toronto office of his record label, Lewis acknowledges that Confess is a much slicker work than Twin Shadow’s 2010 debut, Forget (which he produced with help from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor). He attributes the difference to the fact that he really had no idea what he was doing back then.
“My first computer that I ever, ever owned, ever—other than when I was a kid, of course, when my parents owned a computer—was when I made that record,” the Los Angeles–based musician reveals. “And that record is a product of me getting a computer and learning about programming and all that. So it has this very primitive thing to it. You could call it indie because it’s lo-fi and it lacks some of the production that I would have liked it to have had. But I never felt I was in the indie category. I’m constantly trying to make pop music. But I’m trying to make it on my own, so I’m at a disadvantage, in the sense that I haven’t spent the last 10 years mixing records, so I don’t know exactly what to do to get the sound that I want. But I really am trying to make it as high-quality as possible.”
Mission accomplished, but there’s more to Confess than its polished aesthetic. It also has songwriting to match. Take “Patient”, which juxtaposes marching-band percussion and a stadium-rock guitar solo with beyond-confident soul-pop vocals, or “When the Movie’s Over”, a new-wave weeper made for those who prefer to dance alone. Lewis pulls from myriad influences—a bit of Prince here, a little Springsteen there—but what he pours into all of his songs is a swinging-for-the-fences sensibility. He wants them to be great, but more crucially, he wants you to think they’re great. Lewis is striving for universal appeal, and for that the former punk rocker offers no apologies.
“I just always want to be where I haven’t been,” he says. “And I’ve been everywhere—everywhere but the top. I just want to experience new things all the time. What I’ve never had in my life is a product—‘product’ sounds so cold, but you know what I mean: a piece of work—that communicates with tons and tons of people across many different cultures, that spans time and spans distance. And so that is going to be my goal, just to get more and more and more people involved, or try to get to a different place. And once I’m done with that, I’ll go do something else, you know?”
Twin Shadow plays Venue on Saturday (August 11).