After listening through the latest from Brooklyn retro-pop quintet Lucius, we have one prevailing exaltation: Good Grief!
Louder, bolder, and more unafraid; this aptly-named sophomore effort, out now on Mom + Pop, both reasserts the dynamism of their sound and pushes beyond the thematic maturity of Wildewoman (2013).
Lucius hit us right where it hurts from the outset, featuring strongly the soul-stirring, hypnotic harmonies of Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig. Opening track “Madness” is an emotional rollercoaster of uncertainty singing of “running through the airport catching escalator rides / down and up again we never find the flight” rife with synesthetic guitar melodies, instrumental explosions, and screeching halts.
Similarly, “Something About You” features enough layers to make your head spin. Percussion and synth-heavy, the song is at times whimsical, at others deep, and all the while stimulating. Like attempting to decipher the intricacies of a lover, we are left breathless, high, and dissociated.
Fittingly, “What We Have (to Change)” leads in with a perfectly positioned tempo change, keeping us enthralled in this sensational saga. The song evokes longing, calling out to “find me a mountain, or any grand canyon / just find us an igloo and I’ll freeze with you.” The stakes are high: “If we don’t find a way / I’ll have to get over you.” Soaring harmonies over an elegantly simple piano melody places “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve” teetering atop this peak of desperation. Feelings of bitterness and agony, loneliness and defeat are delivered with sweetness and grace.
“Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” kicks it up a notch. It is bouncy, punchy, and unapologetic, a change in speed to shed light on another stage of grief — anger and defiance. The strong gospel-like backing vocals in the pre-chorus and retro feel of this track pay tribute to the quirky aesthetic of the group.
Disorientation and confusion dominate the listener’s thoughts in “Gone Insane.” Self-doubt sneaks back into the frame here, where all conclusions are drowned in uncertainty. Lines like, “All alone in this togetherness” and lyrical repetition in competing voices leave one wondering who is arguing with whom in this ode to instability. In “Truce,” lines are drawn in the sand and steps are taken toward resolution. It is dreamy, delicate, and determined.
“Almighty Gosh” transcends — it is more instrumental and sound-driven than any other track on the album. The hectic and slightly dissonant guitar riff sounds almost Eastern. Broken lyrics with many interjections and invocations are met with psychedelic and ecstatic side notes. The cacophony was so consuming towards the end I thought my audio was blown out until the closing whisper.
The explosive single, “Born Again Teen,” has young hearts are beating at our rib cages. We are transported back to those first encounters with euphoric freedom and invincibility. Characteristic explosions and palpitations have us screaming at the top of our lungs. The oceanic life force of this song — its hysterical, exuberant, and manic textures — trap us in a stranglehold.
“Better Look Back” provokes some reflection. It seeps somewhat painful revelations of bliss-blind decisions made with incomplete information. Stirring in its acoustic simplicity, “Dusty Trails” is the perfect resolution, simultaneously unsettling and reassuring. “A long road is a long dragged out imagination / where things can go wrong, but we keep rolling on,” the lyrics acknowledge suffering; “painful as growing is we can’t forget / it’s our ticket to taking the reins, and we’ll all be okay.” Halfway between heaven and misery, we are left wondering which direction to go.
The seven stages of grief — disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance — are masterfully splattered across the walls of this album, each song a different room in a mansion simultaneously grandiose and sepulchered. We are forced to come face-to-face with daily truths we so easily relegate to the closets of our hearts and the halls of memories long silenced. It is fun and flippant, painful and poignant, stirring and sensational
Lucius have something truly special to offer, defying genre-binaries and staying true to their artistry while on a meteoric rise from supporting gigs in semi-rural North Carolina to sold-out shows in London. They reel you in with catchy melodies and hook you with the substance that fills the spaces in between. I guess sometimes, grief can be good.
Article by Conner Smith