Bumbershoot, 2014. Mid-afternoon on the Fountain Lawn, during a break between songs in the middle of my most anticipated set of the weekend. Behind me, an exchange:
“Do you know where these guys are from?”
Twin Shadow, summarized.
Three versions of this week’s song, each different from the last:
More than anything else, George Lewis, Jr. is a performer. Whether it’s onstage in front of hundreds at a music festival, standing in the center of his band on Conan’s soundstage, or singing with only an acoustic guitar in KEXP’s tiny studio, there’s something captivating about how he twists and turns a single song into different ways of expressing the same heartbreaking sentiments.
Those sentiments? From his Soundcloud:
What is it when you realize that someone isn’t right for you? Or when you find that you do not and can not posses someone entirely? You want someone so bad and it feels like hell.
It’s not like the first time, once loved love evolves, and you no longer have as much control, and it frustrates you. I think because of this feeling we find ourselves constantly wanting to reset, like new years resolutions, like dreaming up moments from the past where the ending flips on its head, like true forgiveness…We just want to say “wait wait wait, this went too far in the wrong direction, can we try that again.”
Beneath the synth, sheen, and “Faith”-era George Michael leather jacket-and-stubble aesthetic, Lewis displays a virtuoso-level talent for production and a vulnerability that eludes on first listen. “To the Top,” in particular, is slick nearly to a fault—every aspect of the song lines up so neatly that, when he deliberately delays his delivery of the chorus late in the tune (approximately 2:30 in the track), shifting the audience out of the comfortable rhythm, it’s jarring. It seems like an accident, but it’s not. It can’t be.
And that’s the point.
Two extra beats before the chorus’s first line: “I know it’s not the right time tonight.” A line he’s already repeated several times, but this pause, this contemplation, is the idea truly sinking in. It’s over. All he wants is to reboot, to try again, but, for now at least, the battle is lost. He wants to reset, to “go back to the top,” even if he knows it’s a lost cause.
Unlike Lewis, listeners have that option. Restart the track, listen again and again, as I did when it made its debut last summer, and still haven’t stopped.
For an artist singing about a breakdown while on the verge of a breakthrough, there’s no time like tonight.