Tonight in Music: Twin Shadow, Diamond Rings, Systems Officer (Pinback Offshoot), and more!Posted by Sean Palmer
A hairstyle-themed tour. It’s a simple idea, but very few musicians could pull it off as casually as George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow. The stylish 27-year-old crooner has become something of a pop icon since the release of his debut album, Forget, last year. Twin Shadow’s take on synthpop resonates with other young champions of nostalgia while still producing its own unique synthesis of electronic, R&B, rock, and pop. After their first major tour supporting The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Lewis and his live band are ready to headline their own big circuit with the support of kindred spirit Diamond Rings.
Though born in the Dominican Republic, Lewis grew up in Florida and spent time living in Massachusetts, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark before establishing a base for Twin Shadow in New York. While living in Boston, Lewis became the frontman for punk band Mad Man Films (as George “Zapata”; video) and cultivated a solo project on the side. After a few trips to Europe visiting his twin sister and working with a theatre group, Lewis finally decided to settle down again in New York. There, he began working on what would eventually become Twin Shadow.
Around the same time Twin Shadow came into being, Grizzly Bear‘s Chris Taylor (of whom Lewis is a fan) had just launched Terrible Records. Impressed with what he heard, Taylor signed Lewis and co-produced Forget—Terrible Records’ first LP release. Musically, Twin Shadow has been frequently described as “New Wave revival” and drawn many comparisons—from Echo & the Bunnymen and Morrissey to Depeche Mode and Hall & Oates. Lewis generally disagrees with such labels and comparisons, describing his music as “pop” or “R&B” and citing acts like David Bowie, LL Cool J, and Arthur Russell as influences. Forget was written and performed by Lewis, with most of the recording done at home. Explaining the album’s title, Lewis said, “It’s about remembering the things that I had forgotten, and trying to forget them again.”
Beyond Forget, Twin Shadow also released a split 7″ with Violens and has dipped his toes into the remix realm, revamping tracks by Lady Gaga, Oh Land, The Drums, and others. He also reinterpreted Neon Indian‘s “Psychic Chasms” and, most recently, paid tribute to 80s Italo disco act Bagarre with a cover of their “Circus Is Gone”—which he retitled “Changes” (download).
Joining Twin Shadow for the Clean Cuts Tour—as though by fate—is 26-year-old superchic Canadian pop artist John O’Regan (of Matters / The D’Urbervilles), better known as Diamond Rings. Over the past few years, Diamond Rings has also been rising towards pop icon status with frequent comparisons to David Bowie due to his glam, androgynous style. Musically, his influences range from David Bowie and Grace Jones to Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy) and Salt-N-Pepa. Last year, Diamond Rings released his widely-acclaimed debut LP, Special Affections. Shortly after signing with Astralwerks earlier this year, he turned more heads with his Remix Rainbow series, in which he remixed songs by Miracle Fortress, Austra, Motëm, Theophilus London, Handsome Furs, and Junior Boys.
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Attention, Pinback fans! Tonight, Armistead Burwell Smith IV (aka Zach Smith; also formerly of Three Mile Pilot) is bringing his solo outfit, Systems Officer, to Ballard’s Sunset Tavern. Seven years in the making, Systems Officer is Smith’s personal take on that signature Pinback sound. Back in 2004, he released Systems Officer’s self-titled debut EP (streaming here) on Ace Fu; but shortly after had to set the project aside to focus on Pinback’s Autumn of the Seraphs album. Once that record was finished, Smith was finally able to revive Systems Officer and finish a full-length album, Underslept, which was released by Temporary Residence Ltd in 2009. Now, with the help of Kenseth Thibideau and Chris Prescott—both of whom have experience performing as members of Pinback—Smith is taking Systems Officer on the road for the first time ever! Joining Systems Officer for this gig will be local rock trio Steradian and Chicago’s Phantom Works.