Through all of the promotional material surrounding Confess, the second full-length release by Twin Shadow, it isn’t hard to imagine George Lewis Jr. as a modern day Ponyboy Curtis. Donning a worn-out leather jacket on the album cover and performing dangerous motorcycle stunts in the video for the album’s first single, “Five Seconds,” Lewis looks wild, like a guy who could do some dark and seedy things. Listening to the album only confirms these suspicions, but then something else becomes clear: Lewis is also a guy who has been in love before, and because of it, has experienced vulnerability and raw fear. He’s that lone wolf who wants to tell you everything but can’t find the words, so he gives you a stolen gold locket instead. Confess is that locket, and the duality of grit and recklessness coinciding with pain and uncertainty, are the polish that make it shine.
While 2010’s Forget was a gentle whisper steeped in unobtrusive melodies and shy lyricism, Confess is a shout of vigor and, sometimes, cold wickedness. Lewis steers away from the dreamy bedroom sound and lo-fi production of his previous effort in favor of a sound more polished, sonically full, and forceful. Twin Shadow is very much still a new wave revivalist act—you’ll hear the ubiquitous synthesizers, echoed vocals, & electronic production on “Golden Light,” “Five Seconds,” (with it’s drums as frantic as a racing heart) and the dreamy “When the Movie’s Over.” It’s true Confess has it’s predecessors Genesis, Robert Smith, and The Police all over it, but in Lewis’ hands these affectations become modern, edgy, and sexier than ever.
Most of the songs focus on love and have Lewis playing the part of untouchable recluse. On the slow ballad “Run My Heart” he sings, “you don’t run my heart, don’t pretend to care… I’m not in love, can’t you see?” and later, over the tribal beats of “I Don’t Care,” “before the night is through, I will say three words/ I’ll probably mean the first two and regret the third/ I don’t care.” Lewis softens up a bit on the “The One,” the beginning of which sounds like it was lifted straight out of a Wham! songbook, and in the dazzling “Beg For The Night” in which he sings, “I want every word, I’m hung on your lips/ I know it’s absurd to shake when we kiss… I have to be with you.”
The world of Twin Shadow seems to have expanded and narrowed simultaneously. Sonically, the album is substantial in ways I never would have expected, but some of the nuance and subtlety that made Twin Shadow so special seems to have been lost. It’s only natural. Nevertheless, Confess is a unique and masterful work, a small treasure to hold in one’s hands or to clasp around the neck and keep close to the heart. It’s the gleam in Lewis’ eye from atop his motorcycle, the one that let’s us know he intends on riding full-speed into the distance. But it’s okay—he’s taking us along for the ride.