It was not without drama that I came into a ticket to Twin Shadow’s second of two sold-out NYC performances. I’d planned to skip both sets since tickets were $22 and one of them was at Webster Hall, which I kind of hate. But a friend of mine who’d gotten tickets in advance had just turned thirty, thrown a temper tantrum, and bailed, so I found myself at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I’d seen Twin Shadow play a CMJ show at Le Bain in October 2011, with the twinkling ribbon of the West Side Highway unspooling across giant glass windows behind the band. I’d ruined a suede skirt by spilling wax on it in attempt to light a joint in the bathroom; I’d also embarrassed myself during the dance party afterward when I toppled sideways in uneven heels at the very moment I’d finally caught the eye of the tall, bearded dreamboat I’d been spying all evening. As it turns out, he had a girlfriend anyway.
But I’ve come a long way in the last year, and so has George Lewis Jr., the man behind Twin Shadow. He has released two albums to tons of critical acclaim (including Pitchfork’s coveted Best New Music for this year’s Confess on 4AD), survived a motorcycle accident to have an epiphany that majorly influenced the songwriting and recording of his sophomore album, and headlined a two month tour across the United States and Canada. The MHoW show was the second-to-last stop on that tour, and the fact that Lewis is a bit fatigued from it all was likely a factor in his somewhat bitter between-song banter.
Twin Shadow’s songs have been compared to just about every pop band from the eighties, and it isn’t hard to hear why. 2010’s stellar Forget, produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, was all airy synths, anthemic choruses, bouncy bass, and shimmering guitar riffs. These parallels also grew out of Lewis’ personal style, in which leather jacket and pompadour were de rigueur. With lyrics hopelessly meant for chanting (namely that moment in smash single “Slow” when Lewis croons “I don’t wanna believe / or be / in love”) it was pretty inevitable that Twin Shadow would blow up, and when Confess was released it was apparent that he’d stayed on that same trajectory and managed to amp up the nostalgia factor even further.
Honestly, Confess is almost too over-the-top for me. In certain moments, like personal favorite “Beg For The Night”, it takes the form of giggle-inducing orchestra hits which are somehow still endearing. But on album opener “Golden Light”, the backup vocals sound so much like the closing theme from Lost Boys that I can’t even see past it to enjoy the rest of the song, which is unfortunate since without that, it would actually be really lovely. Slowly but surely, however, Confess has grown on me; it’s something in the transition of Lewis’ low, sultry moans into easy falsettos, the urgency and desperation on songs like lead single “Five Seconds”, the heartbroken but detached callousness of pretty much every lyric Lewis has ever penned.
That cockiness is something that Lewis may as well have trademarked at this point. While his swagger is not unwarranted, it certainly permeates every aspect of his persona, from song to image to stage banter. I had always assumed that it was a bit put on, but last night’s show may have convinced me otherwise once and for all. When I saw him less than a year ago, he didn’t say much and mostly kept his eyes trained on the floor while he hunched over his guitar. Friday’s performance was an entirely different thing – he wore his mohawk slicked back, jumped around on stage with his guitar swinging, and belted out his most raw lines with fierce bellicosity.