Nakedly borrowing from Reagan-era electronic pop is a fairly successful tactic nowadays (Vampire Weekend, for example, have built an entire career around Paul Simon’s Graceland), but in most cases, the new-wave touch is a fairly shallow tactic—a smattering of spiked-up brass synths, perhaps, or a percolating drum machine with the kind of short echo Phil Collins loved to employ—designed to lend a band a Members-Only-jacket cool that has quickly become more annoying gimmick than endearing quirk. Yet, as most indie-pop acts have moved on to co-opting ‘90s R&B, at least one artist remains true to a more authentic emulation of all things ‘80s: George Lewis Jr., a.k.a. Twin Shadow, whose debut, Forget, contained none of the opportunistic insincerity of his Brooklyn contemporaries.
Lewis employs ‘80s tropes with much more panache and romance, making Forget a rare gem in that it managed to carve out a rather unique niche for its sadly crooning creator while still remaining firmly committed to the whole retro synth-pop craze. The only real knock against Forget was its drowsiness, a quality exacerbated by Lewis’s slow, self-pitying voice. Judging from Confess, however, it’s a failing he recognized: His sophomore effort is much more emotional and muscular, racing through its pathos-filled contents with speedier, high-energy melodies. Lewis desperately barking “There’s no way to forget it all” on the album-defining “Five Seconds” not only represents his most visceral moment to date, but also a marked step away from Forget‘s hazy resignation. Confess is, in effect, a sharpening of that album’s offerings, refining Lewis’s promising, if aimless, sound into something far more polished, kinetic, and driven.
As on Forget, Lewis has little to no regard here for how outmoded some elements of his music might play. Album highlight “Beg for the Night” throws canned orchestral hits at its listeners in the lead-up to its ascendant chorus, while “Run My Heart” lovingly borrows the paper-thin guitar of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” for its despondent sound. In the hands of cynical, less-skilled artists, such anachronous parts would sound cheap and clumsy. But while both of Lewis’s albums are brimming with nostalgia, Confess jettisons Forget‘s sense of caution for adventure and a greater spectrum of genres, making it an altogether superior effort, and one of the few modern indie releases that handles its ‘80s reverence with dexterity.