Lucius releases new album Good Grief – review

If you have heard of Lucius, it might have been via Matt Sharp, of Weezer past, and his incarnation as The Rentals, where they did sharp work providing vocals for Lost in Alphaville. Or it might have been Wildewoman, their debut album. Or maybe you noticed the two highly stylized look-alike women providing a unique visual. Doesn’t matter. Short version, whether you have or haven’t had the pleasure, their newly released album Good Grief is something you need to listen to. Now.

Lucius, at the center, are Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who met at the Berklee College of Music, then moved down to Brooklyn. They now play with Dan Molad, Peter Lalish, and Andrew Burri. They’ve spent their lives listening to music, and an enormous amount of time touring. When the present is this good, history seems a distraction. But Lucius might say it matters a lot.

What makes Good Grief so listenable is the toying with genres and ideas found within, playing in a sandbox of sound. And that their songs and harmonies fit together – and ignore trying to fit into the pop brand of the moment. Instead, Lucius is their own creation. The production, while offbeat at times, never intrudes. Someone actually thought about what would suit the two women, their galactic prism of vocal ability, and their clever songs – rather than imposing some identikit tone and mood. That thrill of risk taking and experimentation – using what they’ve got to do what they want – is heady.

The first five songs go by in a moment. No clock watching here. “Madness” is storytelling, and all the vocal talent is used to make a song, not a point, not a genre. Yes, there’s a bit of a country vibe, but the background and the music feels complex. The huge wave of emotionally charged vocals cuts through – all the bullshit.

“Something About You” has that 80s feel but the vocal is clear and direct, taking control, slightly on edge. When the immense pop chorus with the bone shaking reverberation of bass comes in, “if only you could see yourself through my eyes” – even through the odd synth and the syncopated drums, you’re propelled. It’s like pop country – after a long visit to a spa on Neptune.

“What We Have (To Change)” is a song where again the thick production provides a foil for the clever Aimee Mann-like lyrics, but fortunately everyone knows when to stop, leaving space, something for each part to bounce back against. The otherworldly vocals in the background next to the guitar form a contrast that works together.

“My Heart Got Caught On Your Sleeve” is just beautiful. Harmonies and simple piano with sounds filling the air around them. It’s got an emotional kick, so rare. The song swells and grows, a little like After the Gold Rush era Neil Young. “I am lost in my own home, I am lost,” cries like the emptiness echoing from the walls.

“Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain” has that Prince vibe, reminding of the great Wendy and Lisa solo albums, the funky simple complication of the post-Prince era. The rain at the end of the song. And listen to “Truce”. On repeat. That chorus, the way it moves forward under the space funk vocals.

Words aren’t casually thrown away. You can feel the edge, the ability to unravel, in “Gone Insane”. Lyrics like “My fists are clenched and I’m so angry with myself” and “Go on call me the one who’s gone insane” are transmitted with force. Again, there’s a whole story in that one line, and Lucius know when to push and when to fall back, their soaring vocals able to rise out of a state of calm. Dynamics that feel that natural display a fine polish. The craft in this music is evident.

The start of something. Just listen.

Review by Alice Severin

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