Lately there has been no shortage of 1980s New Wave sound-alike artists. Fortunately Twin Shadow’s Forget is at the top of the Brat Pack with sophisticated melodies, R&B intimacy, poetic lyrics and George Lewis Jr.’s laid-back, yet never too precious, delivery.
The Brooklyn artist on Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor’s Terrible Records label has an unusual past. He was born in the Dominican Republic and rooted in Florida as a Baptist. His father worked for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Lewis’s unique biography seems to have shaped an artist with a fresh perspective.
Twin Shadow, Tyrant Destroyed
The album’s elegant opener “Tyrant Destroyed” establishes the view of an outsider (“I know you spent some time / From the town to the city / Looking for a life to start / And when you were fifteen / I know what you said / ‘I’d never let another black boy break my heart’”). The lyrics and the slow, stately synths set up a moody record haunted by the past (“You waited a decade / For me to come find you”). The next track, “When We Were Dancing,” inverts the melody of “Tyrant Destroyed.” Things pick up a bit with its bubbly bass line, but everything is still infused with ache.
Twin Shadow, When We Were Dancing
The torments of Twin Shadow shouldn’t turn off listeners. There’s a complexity in the relationships between lyric, melody and sound rarely heard on electropop albums. The record is breezy and disarmingly fizzy, but also arresting.
Akin to George’s alias, doublings and contradictions prevail. The album constantly traces tensions between old and new, gloom and joy. The poppy “I Can’t Wait,” which shares a title with the buoyant Nu Shooz cut, is one of the more danceable tracks mired in longing (“I cannot wait for summer / I cannot wait for June / When all the ghosts are quiet / When everything is new”).
Lewis said he was inspired by Ingmar Bergman films. One can feel the chilly temperature, the removed yet lingering past in the stories and visuals of Bergman’s work within Forget. Stuck in the present, the songs are daydreams of an era of The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen. The album shimmers and pops but not in a way that’s self-indulgent. The dark, swirling synths and insistent drumbeat on “Tether Beat” have a Kate Bush Hounds of Love vibe. “Castles in the Snow” (“You’re my favorite daydream / I’m your famous nightmare”) is sprawling and perverse, riddled with the frustrations of both being an artist and the pain of unrequited love (“Everything I see looks like gold / Everything I touch goes cold”).
Twin Shadow, Slow
Things become most emphatic with “Slow” (“I don’t wanna / Believe / Believe / In Love”) and then are immediately brought back down to the melancholy title track. The echoing drumbeats, spiraling guitar and keyboards recall Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.” As the synths swirl, Lewis tells us, “This is everything / I’m wanting to forget,” but it’s hard to agree when there’s so much to treasure.