***1/2 (out of four)
While many of its contemporaries in ‘80s new wave nostalgia drowned their music and accompanying emotions in electronic filters, Twin Shadow’s 2010 debut “Forget” embraced the era's tradition of moody music on its own terms. George Lewis Jr., Twin Shadow’s creative force, delivered sharp production and musicianship that recalled actual period bands rather than merely leaning on the ‘80s shorthand of Human League-style synth effects.
For a breakup album, however, “Forget” could have the effect of leaving its listeners more impressed than moved. Twin Shadow’s sophomore album “Confess,” despite lyrics that focus on a less inspiring brand of petty emotions associated with some undefined modern relationships, is stirring, sing-along, fist-pump stuff end-to-end. This record again looks to the '80s for a blueprint, embracing not just the sound but also the spirit of an era when rock music was chart-topping pop material. That’s reiterated in the album cover, which shows Lewis posed alone in a leather jacket--a sort of bad boy pop star image that seems oddly anachronistic at a time when rock has become so generally self-effacing. Indie rock bands don't brand themselves this way; Bruce Springsteen does. And that's the point: While the music on “Confess” still draws heavily from bands like The Psychedelic Furs, it's really reaching for the territory of arena-friendly artists like U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
In another era, songs like “Five Seconds” or “Beg For The Night,” with its killer guitar coda, could have been the kind of massive, unifying anthems that totally crush at karaoke. Other highlights like the defiant “Run My Heart” and the perfectly tense “Be Mine Tonight” should be soundtracking movies.
Instead, they'll probably suffer the misfortune of soundtracking vintage T-shirt purchases alongside less accomplished but equally “retro” indie contemporaries.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
Album review: Twin Shadow, 'Confess'
Twin Shadow, 'Confess' (July 10, 2012)