Obscured: George Lewis Jr.’s ‘Eclipse’
Daniel O'Boyle | Wednesday, March 25, 2015
George Lewis Jr., better known as Twin Shadow, keeps his album titles short, never using more than a simple two-syllable word to make his statement for the album clear.
2010’s “Forget” was an intimate piece of bedroom synth-pop. Its deliberately limited production and thoughtful lyrics ensured it remains his most personal album. There’s a sense of nervousness to the album, like Lewis would rather forget some of what he sings about. With “Confess,” Lewis made a bigger statement, with choruses that grab you like he needs to tell you everything he’s been feeling, and the result was one of the best albums of 2012.
“Eclipse,” then, was a word likely chosen with a purpose. Lewis might have hoped to evoke images of something beautiful, something you would simply have to stop and listen to, letting you notice the wonders all around you. The album certainly sounds like the most ambitious Twin Shadow record to date, one that he might have hoped would be a masterpiece.
But if this is what Lewis hoped to make, he did not fully deliver. There are some brilliant points in the album that could compare to the best of “Forget” and “Confess,” but too many songs are awkward, go nowhere and add nothing, while Lewis’ lyrics and vocals — not as clearly at the front of “Eclipse” as they were on Lewis’ earlier albums — sound less personal and more bland than in the rest of his work. The result is a scattered album, where Lewis’ brilliant songwriting is sometimes there but not enough to make the whole album memorable.
The good songs on “Eclipse” are still definitely some great work. The second track of the album, “When the Lights Turn Out” drags you in towards its memorable chorus like Lewis did time and again on “Confess” and builds itself up as it goes on, with the chorus of “jealousy and ecstasy slowly taking over me” becoming more and more addictive.
But “When the Lights Turn Out” is found among some decidedly average tracks. The album opener “Flatliners” never really drags you in; if Lewis was hoping to make an album bigger than anything he’s done before, he’s lost any kind of personal touch in doing so. Too many tracks on the album feature loud, buzzing synths Lewis might have hoped would add some extra power to his words. Instead, they just get in the way. Many songs lurch back and forth, briefly finding what seems to be something great and then moving back to the blandness and overdone synthesizers.
“Old Love / New Love” — released in 2013 for the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto V — remains the highlight of the album and a reminder of what it could have been. Noticeably different from the rest of Lewis’s work, it’s a full-blown dance track with a pounding drum, unforgettable piano hook and screams of “drill me to the floor.” If Lewis was done with personal albums, more work like this could have been somewhere for him to go, but instead it feels a little out of place and although it quickly improves, it starts off rough before thankfully lurching into a more pleasant gear.
“Eclipse” was released only days after Northern Europe experienced a solar eclipse, which served as a useful reminder of the realities of an eclipse: they’re often obscured by cloud and not quite the sight that they could have been. If this was the kind of image Lewis hoped to convey with this album, he achieved his goal. If not, “Eclipse” is a hit-or-miss affair with some brilliance but too much obscuring it.