Twin Shadow’s career has followed such a direct slope downward that it makes a perfect case study. How do you nail that descending order from great, to mediocre to horrible in three albums? Relistening to each album is like watching a train wreck in slow-motion. The opening of the voyage goes smoothly, but the flaws are obvious and become even more glaring as time wears on until, finally, it hits the penny on the track, completely derailing. That moment of sheer failure is cocooned neatly on Eclipse.

Twin Shadow’s (aka George Lewis Jr.) love of ‘80s synth-pop is nearly as obvious as his love for himself. He’s the guy who lugs around a cardboard cutout of himself on tour and his lyrics obsess over three figures: me, myself and I. All of that came together well on his entrancing debut, Forget. There was a creepy, lo-fi desperation in that album. When he cried “I don’t wanna believe or be in love” you could believe he was seconds away from tearing his heart right out of his chest. Confess pumped up the ego and the production values, delivering some of his best (“Golden Light” and the rapturous “Run My Heart”), but it also held some cheesy slog that wouldn’t have dared to appear on Forget (“When the Movie’s Over” being the most glaring example). Now, the transformation is complete. His post-punk roots and fuzzy recording equipment are gone, erased by blindingly bright production and diva-sized dreams of Top 40 hits.

The thing is, Lewis could probably become a pop star. He’s got the vocal chops and the smoldering delivery that can seduce any listener. Vocal quality only gets you so far, though, and Lewis seems to have grown addicted to overstuffed and drama-obsessed slow burners that are completely toothless. “Watch Me Go” has Lewis distorting his voice through a vocoder, revealing that some of his cheesiest lines were only covered up by his delivery. Laid bare, “Like the ocean needs the rain/ We feel one, the same” becomes laughable. “When the Lights Turn Out” holds some interesting ideas, like the violins swirling in the chorus, but it feels painfully formulaic, sounding like a thousand other songs, vying to be in the next Kia commercial. “To the Top” is the most painful example of Twin Shadow’s ugly transformation. It’s the amalgamation of bad ‘80s pop songs, pseudo-U2 guitar riffs, “Born in the USA” toms (that feel flat as paper next to the original) and a supposedly uplifting chorus that centers on Twin Shadow’s rise to fame. Instead of moving, it feels cheap because of how sincere it is. “Yup, I’ve gone to the dark side, fuck you” is the general message of “To the Top,” an ugly celebration of selling out.

Nothing else is as shudder-worthy as “To the Top,” but so much of Eclipse is disposable fluff. Sure, the title track and “Turn Me Up” are momentarily catchy, but they’re the musical equivalent of cotton candy, sweet for a few seconds, but entirely unfulfilling. “Old Love/New Love” holds a great house stomp that never ends up going anywhere and “Half Life” sounds like a sleepy take on some of Forget’s finer moments. The lyrics, unfortunately, seem to cement Lewis’ ego. “Isn’t it unfair that I should be alone?” he mewls on “Alone.” In the hands of another singer, it might have come off as a sympathetic plea, but with Eclipse’s vanity, it sounds like the “nice guy” whining about how he never gets laid.

All is not completely lost; Twin Shadow can write a hell of a song when he wants to and he does deliver a few gems on Eclipse. Opening track “Flatliners” crashes and sways wonderfully in the chorus with Lewis nearly screaming “you breaking promises” over thumping drums. “I’m Ready” starts with a terrible spoken word verse, but the chorus is pure bliss, with a rare, understated performance from Lewis that actually makes it moving.

And that’s all you get. It’s weirdly impressive how the well of Twin Shadow’s good songs has dwindled. He nearly went 11 for 11 on his debut, about six out of 11 on Confess and now two measly songs here. The term “sellout” is thrown around far too often, but it does feel like Lewis made some Faustian deal in L.A. exchanging his songwriting abilities for pop fame. But you know how deals with the devil usually go: they bite you in the ass at the end.

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