At first listen, Twin Shadow’s latest is a far less immediate record than 2012’s excellent ‘Confess’. The 80s electronic meets soft-rock sound remains, but it’s less punchy, less gritty, less hooky. ‘Confess’ may have drifted into pastiche territory, but compared to ‘Eclipse’ it didn’t take long to make an impact.
Instead, here the exhilarating highways of ‘Confess’ make way for dreamier territory. The production is overall less distinctive, a widescreen blur of synths, guitars and processed beats. The loud, brash melodies lack bite and, whilst the aesthetic has been updated to merge the 80s sound with more modern trends, ‘Eclipse’ lacks the musical variety of its predecessor.
Mostly, it’s the album’s sense of scope that overwhelms. Initially, the lofty sounds are difficult to grasp, the dramatics are empty and it seems clear that the album is overreaching. This third album is Twin Shadow’s major label debut, pumping his sound with steroids and pushing it to the extremes of ‘epic’. The album’s mantra is defined in its opening track: “we don’t want to be flatliners – pump pump pump it up”.
Yet eventually the pleasures of the album begin to unfurl. Amongst all the wishy-washy production are small moments that stick in the mind: the yearning melodies of Alone feat. singer Lily Elise; the way the verses of Turn Me Up sound just like Massive Attack’s Teardrop before bursting into a soaring chorus; the catchy pre-chorus of I’m Ready when the production drops to a minimal, bassy tone; the more experimental, electronic sound of Watch Me Go and its distorted vocals; the slowly sliding bass in opener Flatliners that sounds like a zip chord in slow motion. There’s an intimacy in the lyrics too that struggles to ground the music, ‘Eclipse’ a series of brooding heartbreak songs of apparent poignancy.
That poignancy is difficult to discern as any emotional efforts are undermined by the album’s bulldozer-ish tendency to eclipse any subtlety in a wave of ever-soaring crescendos. As a whole the album is loose and lacks tension. The best track is Old Love/New Love featuring D’Angelo Lacy, a track that dares to break up the formula with a staccato dance rhythm that adds a welcome disco flare. Otherwise, this album sadly flatlines, albeit with all dials turned to eleven. The overall sound is dreamily seductive, but it’s in need of reining in a little – for that, be sure to give ‘Confess’ another listen.
* Old Love/New Love
Listen: ‘Eclipse’ is released on March 17th.