Release Date: Mar 11, 2016
Record label: Mom + Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Jackson Browne set the standard for road songs in 1977 with “Running on Empty,” a tune (and album) about the contradictions of life on tour: the disconnect from home and the camaraderie on the bus, the exhaustion and exhilaration, all blending into a kind of weary romance for an itinerant existence that can be surreal. Lucius knows just how Browne felt. The Brooklyn band spent most of 2014 on the road—“We didn’t sleep in our own beds for more than 20 days in a row that year,” singer Jess Wolfe says—and came home with more than enough inspiration to write a road song of their own.
2001: A Space Odyssey imagined a future of haughty computers and psychedelic intergalactic travel. If director Stanley Kubrick turned his eye towards including girl groups in his 1968 masterpiece, he’d be hard pressed to conceive of anything more fitting than Brooklyn quintet Lucius. Co-frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig’s twinsie meta-modern look (matching angular hairdos, dramatic makeup, and mod-influenced outfits) is matched only by their out-of-this-world voices.
Review Summary: Delicious indie-pop with underlying potential. Do you remember Halloween when you were eight years old? How you’d go door to door, stashing fistfuls of chocolate into a bucket or bag that got so heavy you could barely carry it at the end of the night? Then, upon arriving home you’d dump it all out on the table and just go to town? Well, that’s sort of like Lucius. They’re an incredibly indulgent bunch, making tight, upbeat pop music with more hooks than the recommended dosage, harmonies that overflow from your headphones, and production so polished that you can see yourself in the reflection.
Maybe hearing Lucius' "Turn It Around" on that one Samsung commercial 50 times around when the Super Bowl was broadcast reminded you of what an out-of-this-world, bona fide jam it was, and just how little it had to do with smartphones or football. Maybe you avoid television advertisements, which is frankly sensible, but in this case: your loss. (Maybe you also avoid bona fide jams, instead favoring the increasingly cited certified banger—rest assured they are one and the same.) .
Lucius' full-length debut, Wildewoman, packaged the seductive, tandem lead vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig in a musical array that spanned earthy folk textures and dramatic, '80s-glossed dance-pop. Their follow-up, Good Grief, springboards off of the latter and lands with a slick and boisterous design colored by '80s pop production to a degree that it may cause occasional flashbacks to anything from high-tension ABBA to the brightest of Whitney Houston. The vast majority of the time, though, the album keeps all attention in the moment as the two songbirds belt, flit, and croon their way through a bold song list.
On Brooklyn quintet Lucius’ second album, duel vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessig bring identical eye popping fashion and vocal harmonies, leaving Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri to provide moustaches, drums and guitars. Most lead singles give a taster of the album, which makes “Born Again Teen” an odd choice, its brash, noisy and vocally too high pitched and not at all representative of the rest of the album. This second album, mixed by Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes) sees the group moving away from their debut Wildewoman's hooks, pretty vocals, cow bells and 60s girl group sassiness and towards 80s synths, punchier singing and RnB rhythms.
The Brooklyn band Lucius has been a stylish presence on the tour and festival circuit for the past few years. Though the group released one album before Good Grief—2013’s Wildewoman—this sophomore collection feels like one of those debuts that arrive preternaturally fully-formed, with songs as polished as the quintet's outfits. Singer-songwriters Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who met while studying at the Berklee College of Music, provide prominent, explosive close harmonies of the ‘90s folk rock sort lately repopularized by the likes of Girlpool.
In early 2016, Lucius, after a couple years of touring and watching their 2013 debut Wildewoman slowly seep into the greater music consciousness, got the definitive stamp of crossover approval, finding their music soundtracking a commercial. Backing a Samsung Galaxy ad, the stomp-inducing jaunt of “Turn It Around” would appear numerous times across television screens nationally, presumably eliciting searches to the tune of “What’s that song in the Galaxy commercial?” As tech commercials have been gatekeepers for indie bands waiting to be discovered by a wider audience, those who looked up the album on which “Turn It Around” appeared would not have been disappointed. But now, nearly two-and-a-half-years after the bright debut, a whole host of emotions seem to be weighing down the follow-up, Good Grief.
“I cannot lie, there is a tingling down my spine” sing Lucius’ co-founders’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig on the opening track of their second LP ‘Good Grief’ and it’s hard to disagree. Dark alien electronic moments, beguiling vocal harmonies and full-on euphoric pop bangers are all part of this curious sonic confectionary. Produced by Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Weezer) and Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd), along with the band themselves, ‘Good Grief’ came out of two years of touring the band’s 60s inspired luscious indie folk debut ‘Wildewoman’, working out a sonic resolution of the emotional highs and lows of being on the road.
What’s not to like about pop music? It’s catchy. It sums the trials and tribulations of living either in or through a certain time. When it’s done right it can be the most life-affirming or heartbreaking thing you’ve ever heard. It’s great isn’t it? While I’m not a massive pop fan, I do love hearing something that invigorates me and makes me forget everything for three and a half minutes.
An album influenced by touring is an album that sets alarm bells ringing. Thankfully, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig spare us the laments about Arkansas service stations running out of jerky in favour of focusing on the emotional swings that occur after too much time away from home. You can hear it in the titles – Madness, Truce, Gone Insane – and in the references to being held at gunpoint and difficult relationships.
Four tracks into its second album, Lucius drops what is effectively its mission statement. The song in question is a forlorn plea built on nothing but simple piano, restrained strings, wrenching harmonies, and quiet, untethered heartbreak. But the title — “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve” — captures the defining aim of the Brooklyn quintet.
“We are not two…” Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe let the words hang for a second on their cover of The Kinks’ “Strangers”, before hitting the final line together in unison, as they always do. “We are one.” On the deluxe edition of Good Grief, this stripped-down cover serves as a fitting epilogue to the sprawling set of pop tracks that come before it. Throughout Lucius’ sophomore album, Laessig and Wolfe are constantly crooning together in glorious harmony.