After a delayed release date last year and a rescheduled tour, George Lewis Jr.’s new wave synth-pop outfit, Twin Shadow, is back with its third studio full length, Eclipse. On his latest release, Lewis really pushes the “pop” in synth-pop. He has definitely been leaning more towards this transition over time since his 80’s synthesizer filled new wave 2010 debut Forget to the 2012’s Confess, which featured more rock oriented instrumentals.
The main appeal of the debut record was the incredibly simplistic approach to synth-pop Twin Shadow took. Everything was so smooth as Lewis’ vocals seemed to sort of ebb and flow along with the electronic drums and synthesizers, giving a distinct R&B type feel on many of the tracks. On Confess, Lewis went for a more grand approach, with similar verse structure to Forget, but as soon as the choruses hit, the vocals and instrumentals exploded. While most songs followed the similar instrumental structures, each track had it’s own distinguishable sound that created a great listen all the way through.
Upon Eclipse‘s first listen, those song structures found on Confess were seemingly recycled. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, on this new record, they kind of broke it. Almost every single track starts off in the exact same fashion: slow, synth driven, and emotional. As soon as the chorus hits, the songs switch up and usually turn into a grand arena rock ballad. While not a bad thing (some of these songs are actually pretty enjoyable), to be blunt,Lewis went in a pretty radio pop orientated direction on this album.
Now radio pop is not a bad thing by any means. There are tons of artists who do it effectively and produce really creative albums, but the key word there being creative. All Twin Shadow did on this record was copy Confess and strip a lot of the instruments back, replacing them with synthesizers. Because of this, most of the songs come off as sounding nearly identical. The album is incredibly fun to listen to in the beginning, but as you give it multiple spins, Eclipse starts to feel pretty redundant. It hurts me to say this, but I never would have expected something so generic sounding from Lewis.
There are a few really strange moments on this record. The first is a feature from vocalist Lily Elise on the track “Alone.” Having never heard her name before, I looked her up, just to find that she was a contestant early on in the first season of The Voice. While she does have a nice voice, it seems incredibly out of place on the record. Its possibly Elise and Lewis know each other personally, but it is pretty strange to call up a very little known name for a very generic, bland feature on an indie synth-pop track, especially when Lewis’ voice is versatile enough to carry tracks on its own.
I was equally disappointed to see the song “Old Love / New Love” on this record, which was featured on the Grand Theft Auto 5 soundtrack, as it has been out for two years already. While this track is incredibly catchy, it feels way too upbeat and bouncy to be grouped together with the newer tracks on Eclipse. I almost feel as if Lewis included this on the album as a hype tool, as the song did get relatively popular. What is most bothersome, though, is the conclusions to Eclipse‘s last three tracks. They’ve got some cool individual ideas, but rather than having the instrumentals fade out, they just seem to completely drop off, with the song abruptly and awkwardly ending. Rather than some experimentation, the songs fall flat. Three disappointing moments in a row to end the record really discourages further listening to the record’s back half.
All is not lost though. The most redeeming part of the record is its catchy hooks, which is where Lewis has proven that he can really shine over the years, both in his vocals but also his songwriting talent. Almost all of Eclipse is emotionally churning, and is probably one of the few reasons I will come back to this record.
Overall, as a huge fan of Twin Shadow, I left this record pretty disappointed. Eclipse faced delays last year, which Lewis said was due to the fact that he wanted to perfect the record before releasing it, leaving me really excited. I always enjoy when bands go through sound changes, but I’m not sure of the direction he took this one. After hearing these bland song structures on Eclipse and going back to Confess to re-listen, it actually also made me like that album just a bit less too. Maybe I’m just holding this album to too high of a standard because I have been a fan since day one, but I’m really hoping this will grow on me. At least there will always be Forget.