On Forget, the still-great 2010 debut album from George Lewis Jr AKA Twin Shadow, the woozy, lo-fi production acted as a welcome corrective for Lewis’s borderline-nihilistic musical persona (“I don’t want to believe or be in love” he implored memorably on that album’s Believe). On Forget’s follow-up, 2012’s Confess, the homespun production values of Forget were replaced by gleaming and pneumatic musical arrangements. These, coupled with the album’s macho, cynical lyrical sentiments, meant the album came across as off-puttingly butch.
Fortunately, Lewis didn’t misplace his hook-writing abilities on Confess, so the album still contained a number of keepers. Twin Shadow’s new album, Eclipse, is his first album for Warner and, though it barely seemed possible listening to the super-glossy Confess, it sees him buffing up his arrangements to an even more brilliant shine. Guitars are almost entirely absent; in their stead are booming drums and precision-engineered keyboards.
Lewis has toned down the machismo of Confess, but still refuses to allow any humour to permeate his lyric sheet. Most of Eclipse’s songs seem to unfold at some crucial, dramatic juncture in his relationship with a lover – whether that’s the initial courtship (“I’m addicted to the chase / Just make me feel it’s worth it”), its unravelling (“jealousy and ecstasy slowly taking over me”) or its desperate death throes (“Drill me to the floor”, he pleads on Old Love / New Love).
These stony-faced lyrics are matched by equally bombastic music. The majority of Eclipse’s 11 tracks are, essentially, power ballads. At times – as on its title track – the album threatens to collapse under the weight of its self-seriousness. On other occasions, these songs feel calculated to the point of joylessness: Flatliners’ repetitive refrain is just plain dreary, while To The Top recalls the tubthumping pop of Fun. without the sense of, well, fun.
On his previous two albums, one of Twin Shadow’s strong suits was his ability to flit between – and master – a number of different paces. Those albums were alternately brooding (Tyrant Destroyed, When The Movie’s Over), fleet-footed (At My Heels, Castles In The Snow) and urgent (Believe, Five Seconds). Eclipse is, however, largely one-paced and, unfortunately, that pace is ‘plodding’. As a consequence, many of these tracks tend to bleed into each other even on repeated listens.
There are, however, a couple of outliers and these are the album’s best tracks. Old Love / New Love deploys some four-to-the-floor house piano and makes one yearn to hear Twin Shadow fully embrace EDM on his next record (or, at the very least, record a cover version of What Is Love by Haddaway). And on When The Lights Turn Out, everything comes together on a humdinger of a song that showcases Lewis’s knack for writing dramatic, thrilling pop music.
On Eclipse, Twin Shadow hasn’t completely lost the plot – scattered across the album are some nice little melodic turns. But while his debut album sounded wonderfully effortless, this one feels effortful in the worst possible way.