Twin Shadow - Confess

You may have already noticed this, but we’re having a big week for new music. It seems weird to think that the big-leap sophomore album from a young, hyped-up Brooklyn ’80s pastiche-artist might fly under the radar, but that’s happening just a tiny bit with Twin Shadow’s Confess. Confess happens to land on the same day as the surprise early release of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and the non-surprise on-time release of the Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan, two rabidly anticipated and undeniably stunning new LPs. Confess is merely a very good second album from someone who gets better at what he’s doing all the time. But in the past week or so, we already posted breathless endorsements of both Channel Orange and Swing Lo Magellan, and god knows you’ll hear more about both albums in the weeks ahead. So let’s talk a bit about Confess, since Confess deserves to be talked about.

On a very basic level, Confess does what a whole lot of sophomore albums try and fail to do: It builds on its predecessor, further developing its maker’s voice without forsaking any of the virtues that brought its maker to the dance in the first place. 2010′s Forget was gauzy New Romantic balladry as seen through a few layers of fanciful Williamsburg orch-pop frippery. It was nice. Confess is better. Forget’s producer, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, left exquisitely smudged fingerprints all over it. But George Lewis, Jr. produced Confess himself, bringing it a few levels closer to the music it echoes. Keyboards sigh. Basses pop. Drum machines smack hard. Lewis himself wails and mutters and coos like an old pro. The hooks sink a bit deeper. The melodies bounce around in your head a little while longer. The album builds and subsides and builds again, sounding a bit more like an album and less like a collection of songs. It’s an effective pop music, made by a person who has evidently spent a lot of time thinking about pop music.

Digging a little deeper, though, some interesting contrasts emerge. Lewis is an honor student in the Morrissey school of singing. His voice is a breathy, preening moan, and it carries echoes of fake British accent from time to time. It hovers over tracks rather than plunging in. And even though Morrissey’s great topic is personal estrangement, so many of the singers that have followed in his wake have used that style to send sweaty love notes to various crushes. 10 years ago, when I was in college, the shit was practically epidemic. It’s a vocal style that has come to represent a tremulous sort of romanticism. But that’s not Lewis. He uses it to harder, more sinister ends. Lewis’s great topic is being sort of an asshole — or, at least, a rambling-man player type who’s happy to coldly explain to various different girls that he’s not their boyfriend and he never will be. “I don’t give a damn about your dreams,” he croons. You can’t hear the sneer in his voice, since he’s singing it in a style that was once called emo. But once the words sink in, you know it’s there.

And then there’s the music, which leans retro without quite wallowing in it. The mix is thick and detailed, with lots of beautifully recorded bells and whistles flitting in and out. I’ve seen people compare it to mid-’80s Peter Gabriel, or to the Top Gun soundtrack, and those comparisons make sense. But it reminds me more of some of the first albums I ever loved: Dark, paranoid, catchy-as-fuck late-’80s black pop like Michael Jackson’s Bad, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, the first Roachford album. Those were, to be sure, crossover pop records, records that the eight-year-old me couldn’t wait to spend tooth-fairy money on. But they were pretty twisty and complicated and harsh, too. These were albums about being pissed off and desperate and misunderstood and defiant. Confess is like that, too. It’s a good one.

Confess is out now on 4AD. Stream it here.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Frank Ocean’s brilliant instant classic Channel Orange.
• Dirty Projectors’ twisty but surprisingly instinctive Swing Lo Magellan.
• Aesop Rock’s knotty art-rap return to form Skelethon.
• Delicate Steve’s lush, composerly Positive Force.
• Swedish punks Holograms’ tense, wired self-titled LP.
• Holy Fuck side project Dusted’s haunted rock album Total Dust.
• Family Of The Year’s bright, shiny power-pop effort Loma Vista.

Comments (22)
  1. I wish they’d remake Miami Vice (again) just so all these songs could be on the sound track.

  2. Breaking News: Stereogum issues the first ever ALBUM*S* OF THE WEEK to both Confess and Channel Orange!

    No? Oh. Hm.

  3. I still can’t get into Twin Shadow on record, I wish he sounded like he does in the live clips I’ve seen, with a little more guitar pushed to the front of the mix. Anyone else think the new records sounds like another victim in the loudness wars, super compressed and at times hard to listen to?

  4. This album took a bit of listening to get into, more so than the last record, I think. I expected to be more immediately gratifying like the first but right now I’m VERY pleased with where it’s at now. Makes me want to see this band EVEN MORE live now.

  5. I hated it at first. Now, after probably 20 listens and some painful ones at that, I love the crap out of this album

  6. Wait so Frank Ocean doesn’t count till next week right??

  7. Flippin right! This is my AOTY so far.

  8. right from golden light and that fucked up lil vocal snippet throughout, i can’t put this baby down.

    cry on baby, you’ll stay in my arms.
    you can’t’ do harms
    with your sweet lady melody

    i love you.



  9. Most of Twin Shadow is just painfully too ’80s…like beyond nostalgia-inducing, it’s just too derivitive. I would like “5 Seconds” if the cheese was taken out of the sound.

    “Patience” is awfully boring and parts of it seem to be ripping off Nelly Furtado’s “Say it Right”, of all things.

    • the album is full of catchy songs no doubt. took it for a few spins in the car, enjoyed it. but it’s not one of those album,s id listen on a regular basis. like hank55 said, it reminds me too much of the 80′s shoulder pads and big hair. i still cant see how a lot of reviewers are saying this is the sound of 80′s adapted for the instagram generation. this album would not be out of place at all in the 80s.

    • I mind not the derivation of Peter Gabriel.

  10. I really liked “5 Seconds,” but kinda feel underwhelmed by the rest of the album. I kinda wish he would drop the whole 80s thing and just go ahead and become his own private version of TV on the Radio.

  11. least we forget Van She released this week

  12. This is the best video that will come out of this album. It’s fan made and is a beautiful thing:

  13. Welp, I said this in the premature eval comments, but I’ll say it again. I LOVED Forget, still do. Confess is very good, and it’s definitely just as much a grower as Forget, I just don’t think it’s as consistent. It seems to be bookended with a few weak tracks, but everything in the middle is golden…light. Sorry. Still a really good album though. “Run My Heart” kills it.

  14. I think it’s a disappointing album from an artist capable of much better. It suffers from a glut of adornment and a deficit of quality songwriting.

  15. Like live… not sure about recorded. Why is that?

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