Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Dine Alone Music
Genre(s): Americana, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Co-lead singer Jess Wolfe told Paste earlier this year, “We’re two voices singing as one.” And from the first vocal notes of “Wildewoman” on Lucius’ eponymous debut, her description couldn’t be more perfect. Wolfe and fellow frontwoman Holly Laessig sing in unison or in close tonal harmony throughout the record, bringing an extra dose of force to an album already fortified by strong song structures, substantive lyrics and precise playing. Lucius, a Brooklyn-based quintet, also includes Danny Molad, Peter Lalish and Andy Burri, who collectively handle the production, percussion, guitars and bass.
It’s Thursday as I sit down to write this review and, according to Twitter and Facebook, it’s another “Throwback Thursday”. Throwback is a word I find riddled throughout music journalism lately; indeed, one I find myself using a fair bit. I’m hardly going to defend the shameless and lazy ripping off of a style or artist, but as far as being retro, I’m beginning to now think, who cares? Often, if you think you may have heard something somewhere before, chances are you probably have, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sound great.
For those dismayed by the pervasive dilution and corporatisation of pop music - instigated by terrible things like user-generated hashtags and shallow Vevo partnerships - a certain wistfulness for the past inevitably arises. The songs of yore serve as a nostalgic reference point for a time when the music itself was more important than the way in which it was presented. The misty-eyed among you, then, will be attracted to Brooklyn five-piece Lucius, their unassuming rise up the hype scale fuelled not by scandalous video shoots or a debauched press tour in an aeroplane, but by glowing comparisons with the much-lauded Sixties girl-group dynamic canonised by acts from The Supremes to The Shirelles.
Wildewoman, the Mom + Pop-issued debut long-player from stylish Brooklyn-based indie pop outfit Lucius, is a strange beast. On the one hand, it's an evocative, sepia-toned torch ballad of a record that invokes names like Neko Case and Phil Spector, and on the other, it flirts with propulsive, Santigold-kissed R&B and dense, '80s-fueled, Killers-esque melodrama. As polarizing as the sudden shifts in style can be, it's hard not to get caught up in the luster of it all, as co-frontwomen and Berklee College of Music voice majors Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are both formidable sirens who can croon, coo, comfort, and howl with the best of them, and when paired with the lush chamber/electro-pop production and meticulously detailed playing from drummer Danny Molad and guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri, the results can be dizzying.
Sixties girl-group sounds inform lots of indie rock these days. But it rarely sounds as fresh or thrilling as Brooklyn’s Lucius. That’s because Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig can motherfracking sing: Listen to the outsize drama of “Go Home,” which goes beyond just echoing Brill Building bouffant-chic. You hear the Andrews Sisters and the Roches as much as the Shangri-Las, and the production gets freaky in ways that always serve the songs: Check the smeary guitar solo on “Don’t Just Sit There,” and “Monsters,” a parlor-room waltz that cleaves to a kind of sonar bleep.
“She’s no beauty queen but you’ll love her anyways”, sing Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig together on the title track of their debut album. It’s a line that neatly reflects a record that’s not flawless, but possesses enough charm, exuberance and positivity to suck you right in. The Brooklyn duo (backed by three further musicians for the recording of ‘Wildewoman’) excel on the wistful, lush pop of ‘Tempest’ and the sprawling Haim-gone-folk closer of ‘How Loud Your Heart Gets’.
At first, a casual listen to the album’s opening title track suggests the song-writing ideas on ‘Wildewoman’ are that bit too classic. Clip-clopping percussion accompanied by a delicately melodious third-person narrative makes for warm nostalgia, but little else – think The Staves, with a slightly richer, earthier tone. But come two and a half minutes in, a sudden crescendo and chanting of “we’ll only be bound by the things we choose”, and we’re in completely different territory, with a steely grit that doesn’t so much surprise as make you question why you hadn’t seen it coming.
Not many bands can boast that one of their fans is a highly influential and well regarded economist, but, thanks to – of all people! – celebrated economist Paul Krugman’s endorsement late last year, Lucius can boast just that. The Brooklyn-based five-piece have been building momentum over the last year and their debut, Wildewoman, is finally set for a UK release, having been out in the US for some time. What is it about them that can make a respected Nobel Prize winner deliver up gushing and giddy praise? On first listen, the answer is pretty straightforward.
There's something intriguing and also something slightly unconvincing about Lucius. On Wildewoman, the Brooklyn-based five-piece, co-fronted by singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, deliver a debut of 60s girl group-inspired songs doused in a tonic of baroque pop and saccharine folk. Wolfe and Leassig's powerful voices meld beautifully in harmony, particularly during a few a cappella bars on Go Home, and in the rousing choruses of Turn It Around and Two of Us on the Run.
Brooklyn five-piece Lucius spins some intriguing sounds on their debut full-length album, Wildewoman. Siren vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig front the band with an identikit aesthetic, their mod fashion and matching hairdos producing the expectation of a retro sound. Yet, while there are obvious nods to ’60s girl groups in songs like the thrusting “Turn It Around”, the material shows a surprising range and an individualism that marks the record as far more contemporary.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There is no doubting the hugely catchy nature of New York five-piece Lucius' debut LP; Wildewoman has tunes to burn. Unfortunately though, a confused sonic palate and uninspiring lyrical content make for a record of anomalous, and ultimately, anonymous pop. Released in the US towards the back end of 2013, and out in the UK on 31st March, a lot of Wildewoman is reminiscent of the Brill Building pop of the '60s.
Lucius Wildewoman (Mom+Pop) Four letters: ABBA. Whereas Lucius' debut EP introduced three pop tunes anchoring October full-length Wildewoman, the Brooklyn fivepiece didn't have the production budget to take dual singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig explosively Swedish à la Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Fixed! Not only does the noirish blond front duo now boom, the group's theatrical flourishes wail like the harmonies howls punctuating the title track ("her smile is sneaky like a fiery fox").