George Lewis Jr., who performs under the name Twin Shadow, has a distinctive look: pompadour, mustache, clothes that are flashy but in a muted color palette. He has said he’s aiming for a style that looks like “James Dean in Bollywood in the late ’80s,” and it’s hard to top that description. It’s harder to pin down what his music is all about and what makes it so compelling.
Earlier this millennium, Lewis led a punk-ish band in Boston, and he moved to Brooklyn five years ago to begin working solo in a quieter style based mostly on his crooning vocals and decidedly ’80s-reminiscent electronics. He made his debut as Twin Shadow last year with Forget, produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. The songs glisten and bounce along like something Molly Ringwald might have danced to at her prom but with a strong undercurrent of melancholy or something more disturbing. “Castles in the Snow” may be a sweet love song to a woman with a bow in her hair, but it repeats the phrase “You’re my favorite daydream/ I’m your famous nightmare.” Elsewhere, Lewis sings of ghosts, domestic violence, and doomed love. Standout track “Slow” sounds like some long-lost collaboration between the Pet Shop Boys, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Smiths as Lewis wails, “I don’t wanna believe in love.”
Lyrics and retro effects tend to get lost in a live setting. When I saw Twin Shadow last spring, Lewis made up for that by employing a full band, a little bit of guitar heroics, and, yes, that distinctive look.
Diamond Rings also performs.
TWIN SHADOW: The Casbah, Tuesday, September 20, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 day of show.