George Lewis Jr. has a lot to hang his hat on. Twin Shadow, his stage persona, has maintained a strong presence in the indie pop scene for the past five years. “Forget” (2010), his debut album, introduced listeners to his unique booming voice, one infused with a confidence and masculinity rarely seen in pop. The tracks on “Forget” were upbeat and danceable, but the production was refined and pristine. Lewis was able to avoid the pitfalls that many pop singers stumble over: overly grand beats, cliché subject matter, simple, repetitive song structures — everything that can be heard on JAM’N 94.5. His second album, “Confess” (2012), was equally effective, and it quickly became clear that Lewis had created a sound that could really stick in the genre, and one that could stick for a while.
Twin Shadow’s third album, “Eclipse,” is his first under new label Warner Bros., and it’s a clear step back for him in terms of artistry and musicality. It feels like Lewis succumbed to the pressure of developing a commercially appealing sound for a major label.
The production of “Eclipse” is more grandiose than anything on “Forget” or “Confess.” The highs of “Eclipse” are so overblown that any intended message — a common theme is rejuvenation — is made irrelevant, as Lewis’ boastfulness seems undeserved. Lewis’ voice, his best skill, rarely varies in dynamic range, and the majority of “Eclipse” feels repetitive. One may argue that “Eclipse” has more commercial appeal than Twin Shadow’s previous works, which may have been Lewis’ desired goal for this project, but playing to such a supposed appeal has diminished Lewis’ artistic integrity in the process.
Eclipse isn’t a total failure, as some songs hold up to Lewis’ previous work. “Old Love / New Love” is the album’s strongest track. On the song, Lewis’ sings “drill me to the floor/ this hurts even more than I expected it to do,” as a catchy, drum-and-piano beat thumps in the background. It’s a playful take on the relationship between the singer and his lover. He progresses the theme — love is harmful and addictive — and, despite the lover calling and hurting him, the singer “loves her still.” “Old Love / New Love” preaches a familiar message, but here, for once, Lewis seems self-aware of its cliché nature.
There are other pleasant moments on Eclipse. “Turn Me Up” paints a bleak scene at the beginning, as a simple beat is broken up by an intermittent, jarring guitar riff. The listener is left wondering where the track will end, and, unfortunately, it climbs to the same zenith of self-gratitude that other tracks on the album are all too eager to reach. The rest of “Turn Me Up” plateaus on this same high energy level after the intro.
On “Watch Me Go,” Lewis sings over a groovy beat, and the drums are particularly nice, but Lewis’ grainy vocals get lost somewhat in all the excitement. On “Flatliners,” the album’s opening track, Lewis sings the least, and allows the background noise some breathing room. The focus on the instrumentation gives the track an impressive depth, and as a result, “Flatliners” is more effective than other “anthem” songs with a similar structure.
“To the Top” is the track most representative of the hollow message presented throughout Eclipse. While not a bad track by any means, “To the Top” adds little to Twin Shadow’s unique profile, one previously filled with original, rich and refined pop songs. Twin Shadow feels he’s near the top of the mountain, and he wants you to high-five him for his achievements and sing-along, too. The subject matter on “Eclipse” lends itself to predictable, unoriginal production, and Lewis’ vocals can’t save the album from its ultimate collapse. On Eclipse, Lewis is quite far “from the top.”