The cover of Confess, the second album by George Lewis Jr aka Twin Shadow, is a stark illustration that things have very much changed in his world. Lewis Jr stands alone, clad in a leather biker jacket, gazing out insouciantly, framed against a clear stark blue background.
The artwork has echoes of Prince‘s Parade album, an artist who Twin Shadow frequently brings to mind. More importantly, the artwork image immediately indicates that Confess is an entirely different record than his 2010 debut Forget. While the debut was clouded in hazy and understated dreamy melodies, Confess is far more direct and intense. It is the sound of Twin Shadow very much laid bare. Bigger in both a musical and personal sense.
Confess was recorded after Lewis Jr suffered a motorcycle crash in 2010 and was subsequently inspired by the early morning motorcycle rides he undertook as he sought to regain that thrill. The parallels between the adrenalin rush mixed with a touch of nervous apprehension of riding a motorbike and Confess’s nervy intensity and driving spirit are obvious throughout the album. There is a real sense of headlong abandon to much of the music on Confess, but it’s countered by much more deeply personal lyrics. The album title is apposite in the extreme.
You Call Me On is indicative of this album’s stronger spirit as the crunching guitar riffs and offbeat rhythms are far removed from the wispy nostalgic lilts of old. Lead single Five Seconds offers an even better example of how Twin Shadow’s sound has developed. There is a real white-hot quality reminiscent of TV On The Radio at their most thrilling. The extremely direct ’80s new wave sound fits Twin Shadow’s music perfectly.
A beefed up, sonically superior sound would not be much use if the quality of songwriting did not match up. Fortunately, Lewis Jr has progressed hugely as a lyricist and writer. Run My Heart is a gorgeous RnB slow jam given a shiny ’80s pop sheen, Lewis Jr impassioned in his rejection of a tainted love: “You don’t run my heart, don’t pretend you can.” He goes on to further emphasise this with an impassioned wail of “this isn’t love”.
The influence of Prince shines through on the numerous guitar solos and ’80s pop jams like The One, with its elastic bass and clipped funky guitar, and Beg For The Nights’ exuberant chorus. But whereas Prince had a cocksure swagger to him, Lewis Jr is characterised by vulnerability; it gives much of Confess an engaging quality.
Perhaps the most interesting track sonically on Confess is the tribal drum based RnB rhythm of Patient. This is the sound of ’90s RnB taken to a wholly different plane. The lyrics again indicate some form of emotional turmoil: “I’m patiently waiting for you to give up everything and say just what you mean.” There are times throughout Confess when the air of nostalgia and revivalism becomes slightly too obvious. When The Movies Over is a saccharine piece of ’80s synth pop that echoes the first album, while a few of the songs bear their influences in an overtly reverential manner.
The album’s standout track however is a piece that sounds very much of the moment. I Don’t Care takes the morose RnB drawl of Drake and The Weeknd and gives it a real surging grandiose quality as the piano twinkles away. The lyrics are once again stark and honest, as Lewis Jr croons, “I don’t care as long as you dance me around the room while you lie to me.” Confess is an album that marks a real step forward for George Lewis Jr. As the cover image suggests this album is Twin Shadow baring his soul. As such, it works tremendously well.