Jeff Pearson, October 3, 2012
Listen: “Beg For The Night”
Forget for just a second what you have always been told about judging a book by its cover—though if you have ever perused a “Romance” section of a bookstore, you are probably already familiar with this practice. Much like the chiseled, Fabionian Viking men holding the once-distressed, now just horny, damsel in his bulging arms tell more or less what’s going to be inside The Viking’s Defiant Bride or Edin’s Embrace, Twin Shadow’s Confess has a lot of its contents revealed by its cover. Much like many of the stark album covers of the new wave music it emulates, the cover of Confess features only George Lewis, Jr., the creative mind behind the project, against a bold blue background and “Twin Shadow” superimposed on top of his leather jacket-clad figure. A red light bounces off the side of Lewis’ face, seemingly the glow of a club’s neon sign in the distance. In going with this artistic direction for the cover of a new wave revival record in 2012, making himself the face of the music beneath the sleeve, Lewis is making a couple of statements. First, the music is meant to be taken as a personal reflection of Lewis’ life as of now. While his debut record, Forget, was a collection of hazy memories, Confess is Lewis opening his post-breakthrough life up to the listener. Second, through the perfectly-cured five o’ clock shadow/pompadour and leather jacket, the style that Lewis holds so dearly and puts on display for the cover—like Prince playing the lead in a James Dean biopic—is to be exuded within the music the record holds. Lewis constantly straddles the line of a stylized sheen and late-night boho grit on Confess.
While the music it emulates had a typically sunny view of the world it soundtracked—perhaps even more morally twisted than the state of affairs surrounding the time during which Confess comes to us—Lewis has a much more cynical view of things. While the subject matter present on Confess is of a darker hue than the bright splatters of color present in so much of the music that Twin Shadow calls to mind, Lewis actually displays a keener sense of sunny days in his production than his new wave predecessors. It is through this juxtaposition of the bubbling beats beneath scornful lyricism that gives Confess such an interesting element to it. Lewis has the uncanny ability to get lovers dancing, closer than ever before, while he simultaneously denounces love, to deliver positively catchy songs about his lack of faith in positively catchy things on songs like “Run My Heart” and “I Don’t Care.”
That contrast is illuminated immediately with the rumbling “Golden Light,” a song combining pounding rhythms with oscillating washes of synthesizer that present a near impossibility to those who might shun dancing. Instead of opting for penning a fairytale romance on the songs in Confess, Lewis chooses to show the listener how things can be harsh in reality as he sings, “Some people say there’s a golden light, you’re the golden light / And if I chase after you, doesn’t mean that it’s true.” Simply put, particularly in the position that Lewis has found himself in since Forget broke him through to relative notoriety, love is hard to come by. By acknowledging that there are those that have found their golden light, Lewis is open to the idea that love could find its way into his life, but for now he is just enjoying himself. Over the course of the ten tracks on the record, Lewis constantly finds himself questioning love as it pertains to his life; perhaps due to his newfound prominence he is more wary than ever of those attempting to get close to him.
Aside from the thematic unity within Confess, the record plays cohesively from start to finish, in a way that is new to the typically single-centric genre. Not to say that Confess is lacking singles; any given track sprinkled throughout could easily serve as a single with their crisp production and polished hooks. “Five Seconds” chugs along with an intensity perhaps unmatched—sonically—on the remainder of the record, led by high-tempo rhythms and instantaneously memorable guitar lines. While Lewis admits to seeking a lover’s heart in the emotional “Five Seconds,” he declares that his heart is not necessarily open for business on “Run My Heart.” The track is built around cagey, reverb-soaked guitars, muted like the flickering lights spaced on a tunnel roof before exploding into a city night flying by through the car windows—Lewis makes sure to let whomever the song is directed to that, “This isn’t love, this isn’t love / I’m just a boy / And you’re just a girl,” over a propulsive chorus. It’s such a simple, yet powerful message, especially when coated in the gorgeous production present throughout the record. Backing vocals careen off one another as they wrap up Lewis’ lead vocal in a warm embrace—not unlike the one that he just can’t seem to accept as love.
The record naturally winds down while never feeling forced. In fact, some of the best tracks are in the territory often considered an afterthought with records, the second half. Lewis is obviously a perfectionist with his craft and delivers a record that demands to be listened to in full. “I Don’t Care” sees slow-dance-at-an-‘80s-prom synthesizers meeting pounding tribal rhythms, complete with guttural gasps as Lewis delivers one of the most poignant tracks on the record. In detailing a relationship with a partner whose past Lewis simply wants to ignore, he cuts into a deep well of emotion that seems to be brimming inside of him. He shows the vulnerability and longing to trust another person as he says, “Before the night is through, I will say three words / I probably mean the first two and regret the third / I don’t care, ‘long as you dance me around the room as you lie to me.” The way that Confess unfolds allows the listener to gradually get deeper into the mind of Lewis, seemingly revealing more about himself the farther away we get from the man we see on the cover. Album closer “Be Mine Tonight” shows that Confess isn’t a total rejection of love, that the cool and collected face peering out of the record’s sleeve is capable of breaking into an uninhibited smile that only love can bring.
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