Wednesday, April 1, 2015
TS's first album, Forget (2010), was one of many low-fi 80s new wave homages to come out towards the end of Aughts, but it stood out from the rest of the Captured Tracks crowd due to Lewis' clever, memorable lyrics, his musicianship, and most of all for his supple, elegant voice. M83's Saturdays = Youth and Craft Spells' Idle Labor are great records, but they lack Lewis' vocal presence and personality. Forget's opener, "Tyrant Destroyed," has more good lines in it than the entirety of Eclipse. His voice is hushed and understated, sexy and persuasive. There's also a playful sense of humor to that first album that is conspicuously absent from this new record. Eclipse's production sounds like an embarrassed reaction to the bedroom recording of his debut.
To be fair, this move isn't a complete surprise. Lewis had begun to move towards this epic direction on his sophomore release, Confess (2012). That album broadened the Twin Shadow sonic palette and brought a more cinematic sweep to a batch of songs that, although good, were not quite up to the standard's of Forget. The one exception being "Five Seconds," which is still Lewis' absolute New Romantic apex - 4:20 of new wave heaven. That song excepted, the rest of Confess suffers from sounding like it's trying too hard to be too cool for school, betraying a self-consciousness not found on Forget. Eclipse expands on the slick production of Confess, but leaves behind the cool-guy pose for a populist commercial appeal.
Eclipse is Twin Shadows' first record after moving to L.A. and his first for a major label (his first two were released on 80s stalwart 4AD) and it sounds like it. I admire Lewis' disregard for the indie world's obscurantism and applaud his sense of ambition (an all too rare thing in rock and roll these days). At the same time, Eclipse feels so over the top, desperate to connect to an arena-sized audience that all individuality is lost in its global reach. Another casualty of this new record is Lewis' (great) guitar playing, notably missing for much of this record. In a recent Pitchfork interview Lewis even went so far as to say that he was planning on giving up guitar for good, again, sounding embarrassed by his ability.
This new record is not without its moments. "Eclipse," "Half Life," and "Watch Me Go" have a bit of the old spark in them, or at least provide evidence that Twin Shadow may still have another good record in them yet. Lewis is a talented guy. He could make good music again if he goes back to listening to his Smiths albums and learns to stop watching himself being watched. Instead of including a player to stream Eclipse I've made a playlist of tunes that the best Twin Shadow reflects.