Dark is dark, but night isn’t necessarily night. The sound and feel of a city is different in the hour before sunrise than it is after final call. There’s less commotion but the movement is faster, unimpeded by congestion. The music George Lewis Jr. created for “Confess,” his second recording under the name Twin Shadow, sounds like the prelude to dawn. There’s spaciousness, yet every individual sound is audible. It also sounds fairly lonely.
It comes as no surprise that “Confess” came following a tour for its predecessor, 2010’s “Forget,” which found Lewis watching a couple of art-house movies a day. It also coincided with a period of early a.m. rides on a 40-year-old Triumph motorcycle.
“My vehicle is my sense of freedom,” Lewis says. “It’s also this thing I need to take care of, so it takes care of me. It’s a very simple thing. And there’s a real beauty to it that you don’t get on the Internet or from a cellphone. It’s something from the old world that kind of gives and gives.”
Lewis just offered a fitting metaphor for his own music. There are elements in his songs that suggest he knows his history, but “Forget” and “Confess” are both utterly modern sounding. The ways they most remind of the past is the fusion of rock, soul and pop before the three were relegated to different frequencies on the radio; when Prince, Depeche Mode and Bruce Springsteen might be played in sequence.
Take “The One,” which shows the faintest fingerprints of George Michael and Morrissey without sounding like a song by either.
“I don’t get hung up a lot on era,” Lewis said. “Though a lot of people seem to think my music is very 1980s. What I like about my music is that aspect of pop where it feels genre-less. I think it’s important, and I don’t hear it done very often. But that’s the way I’ll continue to make my music.”
So synths pulse through the record, as do short but powerful bursts of electric guitar. Less showy but perhaps more integral is the percussion, which gives the album a more aggressive tone than its predecessor. Lewis was born in the Dominican Republic, whose music is plenty percussive. Which isn’t to say “Confess” pulls from merengue or bachata, but Lewis says “the percussion was a huge part of the foundation of a lot of these songs. I felt like it was pretty important to have the energy up on this record, and percussion was a good way of doing that for me.”
The percussion is particularly prominent on “Five Seconds,” whose build and release suggests a chemical rush (“she said five seconds and you’re high”) or a sudden acceleration. “It’s about all those things where you’re waiting, that moment just before or after something happens,” he says.
The beat often sounds patterned after heartbeats on “Confess.” This makes a certain amount of sense given multiple deliberate references to the heart on the album. Pinning down the narrator on the album’s 10 songs is a tricky pursuit. There was a certain vulnerability on “Forget,” but with “Confess,” Lewis’ intentions as a writer often come across as honestly base. While some may hear the musings of a cad, there’s something novel in hearing a musician sing about lust without trying to disguise it as love.
“Before the night is through I will say three words,” he sings. “I’ll probably mean the first two and regret the third.”
The album was largely written in the wake of “Forget”’s success, when Twin Shadow’s audience grew such that Lewis spent much of the next year touring.
“There was a great deal of writing about being simply honest to someone else, that’s what a confession is,” Lewis says. “I think the songs are transparent. They’re just blunt. Which nobody loves. Bluntness isn’t always charming. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth can be pretty grim.
“I can see why somebody would hear it as a negative, but I don’t think it’s a negative.”
Twin Shadow With Niki and the Dove, Bang Bangz
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak
Tickets: $14; 713-862-3838 or www.fitzlivemusic.com