Personal Soundtrack

11 Jul

The Song


Five Seconds by Twin Shadow

Drum machine- and synthesizer-fueled sounds from the 80s have been experiencing a revival in contemporary music over the past few years.  At some point, the sounds that dominated neon-drenched nightclubs and aerobics classes three decades ago were deemed to have lost their cheesiness and took on some indie credibility instead.  The motivation behind this neo-80s sound usually seems to swing back and forth between two different viewpoints.  There’s a detached irony in which the artist is almost mocking themselves and the listener for grooving to their vintage synths, while on the other end, there’s a full-fledged desire to re-create the music that the artist grew up loving.  Usually, the music that comes from a purely ironical standpoint will sound hollow, and overly stylized – if you can’t love the music you’re making, that comes through.  It’s when the neo-80s sound comes more from a true music lover standpoint that the songs become less like a nostalgic exercise, and more like a great piece of music.  Brooklyn-based Twin Shadow, aka George Lewis, Jr.,  has found this sweet spot.

Twin Shadow’s general sound is soaked in the 1980s New Wave influences – polished guitar licks, chiming synthesizers, surgically-timed drum beats.  The style is immediately evident, but as you listen further, it’s easy to see the quality substance beneath the shiny surface.  “Five Seconds”, off of the new album Confess, is a great example of Twin Shadow’s skillful pairing of nostalgic sounds with solid musicianship.  The song has the 80s elements straight from the beginning – a spare drum beat keeps the time while chilly synths pound away and a guitar line sounds out straight from the “I Ran” school of music.  It all sounds great, but below it all, there’s the core elements of a great song keeping everything together for repeat listening.  Shifting layers of sounds keep everything dynamic and moving forward, and Lewis, Jr.’s vocals are full of the strongly-felt emotions brought up in the lyrics.  Underneath all the manufactured pop touches, “Five Seconds” is a simple, yearning love song.  And you can feel all the emotions behind that song even as you nod your head furiously on the dance floor.

The Activity

The sun is slowly disappearing below the ocean horizon, casting the palm tree dotted landscape in a contemplative shade of burnt orange.  It’s a good match for your current state of mind, which is swinging slowly between ‘contemplative’ and ‘restless.’  You drove your motorcycle out to this peaceful stretch of coastline because you needed a place to think.  It didn’t matter that the Base had a policy about leaving in the middle of training periods – you’re a goddamned fighter pilot for the US of A.  You don’t need to check in when you need to do your reflective thinking.

The reason you had to leave, the reason you’re out here right now, pulled off the road and gazing at the sunset behind your deep-blue Aviators, is about five-three, blonde, and put together in a way you never thought possible.    In addition to all that, she’s got an attitude to match yours, which you also never thought possible.  At first, it was just some harmless flirting in the debriefing rooms – you playfully challenging her authority, her teasing you about time trials in front of the rest of the squadron.  After a week, though, feelings got in the way.  It wasn’t just another girl anymore.  She was actually getting to you.  And when you’re a self-designed rebel like yourself, that’s a problem.

The issue of changing up your badass image isn’t the only thing that’s got you out here, pondering the ocean.  To make things more difficult, you don’t know if she has the same feelings for you.  If you take the roses that are on the back of your bike right now and speed up to her house and put it all on the line, you don’t know how she’s going to respond.  She could say no.  She’s that kind of girl – tons of other options.  The rejection would be a crushing blow.  Even thinking about the possibility of that has you all rattled, getting sweaty palms and losing your focus when you’re on training runs.

What are you going to do?  A fighter jet streaks through the sky over the ocean, heading home after an end-of-the day run.  You wish you could just get in your jet and fly away, never coming back.  Just another lost maverick in the sky.  But you can’t.  What are you going to do?  You’re in the danger zone.  The danger zone of the heart.



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