Good grief, is this ever a catchy album. Good Grief is the second album from Brooklyn’s Lucius, an indie-pop quintet fronted by two incredibly talented women who mostly sing in unison. Co-frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig and multi-instrumentalists Andrew Burri, Peter Lalish, and Dan Molad have created an album that sounds like a ‘60s girl group time-travelled to the early ‘90s and fell in love with synth they found there. The vocals soar as if they’re leading Madonna’s gospel choir from “Like a Prayer,” yet on most songs it’s just the two voices of the front women that contain so much power that they might as well be a choir. This is pop as it should be: adventurous, mixed to perfection, and capturing the feelings of everything from infatuation with a new love to a failing relationship.
Lucius takes a whole bunch of influences and mixes it into a dramatic album. “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” has a late ‘80s, early ‘90s pop sound to it. It even has a touch of the cheesiness you remember from the time: it ends with rain sounds. It’s not just the rain theme, it actually does sound like a more upbeat, catchier version of Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It on the Rain.” “What We Have (to Change)” and “Truce” have some ’60s pop sounds to them. The low vocals and heavier bassline on “Something About You” reminds me a lot of the sound of “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. “Dusty Trails” is slow, sad folk with a slight country twang. “Madness” is like an Adele song on the choruses, but has different, soft, evolving verses that start with a simple string accompaniment and turn into synth-backed confessions. No matter how many familiar influences the ear can pick up, the mixture works in such a way that you don’t have to question it.
On the first listen, the first single “Born Again Teen” sounds pretty insane. It’s upbeat but can come off as frantic and there’s a lot of changing vocals (from sugar-sweet to a belting backing choir) and odd sounds. However, on subsequent listens, it becomes a fun pop song with a few eccentricities. Thematically, it’s similar to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” but it’s so much more adventurous and the lyrics are more clever. Because it sounds so odd on the first listen, it’s an interesting choice for the first single, but it is damn catchy if you let it grow on you. And somehow, even though the song is an odd mix and shouldn’t sit well with the other tracks, it does. “Born Again Teen” is adventurous pop, “Dusty Trails” is slow-burning folk, “Gone Insane” is basically a powerful descent into insanity, but they all fit into a cohesive package.
Speaking of lyrics, they’re original and clever. The themes expressed are nothing new to pop music: feeling like a teenager in love (“Born Again Teen,”) falling for someone (“Something About You,”) trying to fix a broken relationship (“What We Have Got [to Change],”) loneliness on tour (“Dusty Trails,”) having to make your band marketable for the record company (“Better Look Back,”) and wondering when things will go wrong because everything is going so right (“Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain.”) Even with common themes and when referring to common idioms, the lyrics are original, like “This hatchet’s rusted out, don’t need it anyhow” on “Truce” or “A penny for his thoughts is leaving me broke” on “Dusty Trails.”
You’ve probably heard Lucius on a variety of TV ads with “Turn It Around” from their debut album, or from their backing Roger Waters at Newport Folk Fest. Get ready to hear even more from them once Good Grief is released on March 11th.