Twin Shadow’s Caer was born of a very specific trauma: a bus accident that left the artist, born George Lewis Jr., seriously injured and in need of reconstructive hand surgery. If the album, with its stark beats and cinematic atmospherics, is his attempt to find meaning in a harrowing event, it also represents a new chapter for him. Lewis is known for the way he plunders ’80s pop to create nostalgic yet modern soundscapes, and Caer doesn’t lack for vintage synths and drum loops. But while it employs similar genre tropes as previous Twin Shadow albums, Caer is more downcast and introspective.
“Saturdays” is a sugar rush with a heavy undertow of melancholy, erupting with big vocal hooks and crisp beats that sound borrowed from HAIM, who show up toward the end of the track to harmonize with Lewis. For much of Caer, however, Lewis is in a more pensive mode. “Bombs Away” is built around colorless synths and a plodding beat, with spoken-word asides that only add to the song’s self-seriousness. Other tracks, including lead single “Brace,” find Lewis opening with slow, stately verses that give way to volcanic, movie trailer-ready choruses, a trick that offers diminishing returns throughout the album. That sense of sameness permeates songs like “When You’re Wrong” and “Littlest Things,” both of which employ similarly staid midtempo beats.
These songs put a considerable drag on the album’s momentum, but there are moments where Lewis breaks out of the pattern. The fleet-footed disco jam “Too Many Colors” is one of the most effervescent songs in Twin Shadow’s catalog, a welcome reprieve from the heaviness that generally weighs down Caer. At the other end of the spectrum is “Little Woman,” a song so intimate and hushed that it suggests a whole new avenue for Lewis—one where he ditches retro pop altogether in favor of a full-fledged singer-songwriter approach. Though much of the rest of Caer is mopey and monochromatic, these songs suggest new possibilities for Twin Shadow’s next phase.