Review: Lucius' Good Grief

Publish date:
Lucius Good Grief.jpg

“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. In their live performances, they match outfits and hairdos, standing on opposite sides of the same microphone. So if you find the deeper meaning of the Kinks cover to be a little too obvious, that’s the point. Subtlety isn’t exactly Lucius’ style.

In fact, their style is quite the opposite: Big, bombastic pop anthems with massive beats, sugar-coated synths and playful flourishes everywhere. And on Good Grief, it’s just as effective as it was on their magnificent debut album, Wildewoman. But just because Laessig and Wolfe sing with a singular voice doesn’t mean the five-piece band has a singular sound. This record is overflowing with ideas and musical styles—in just a three-track stretch, the listener gets thrown from a stadium singalong (“What We Have”) into an orchestral ballad (“My Heart Got Caught On Your Sleeve”) before getting whisked to the dance floor with an old-school disco beat (“Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain”).

It’s all over the place, but in a good way. After all, when two people come together to create one identity, it makes sense for that identity to be a bit mercurial. The album’s title hints at these conflicting feelings from the start—even when grief is good for you, it’s still grief. So naturally, Good Grief is full of moments that channel multiple emotions at once. “Something About You,” for instance, feels like it’s on track to top the warmth of Wildewoman’s happiest songs, but the melody takes a slightly sour turn when you’re expecting complete sweetness. Conversely, “Born Again Teen” hits its loveliest vocal moment on its harshest lyric: “Could somebody help me, please?/ I don't think it’s just me,/ I’m dying, dying.” That second “dying” lands on a tender note, you can almost hear them smiling as they sing it. That is, until the same line is repeated immediately after with a vicious, high-pitched wail.

Good Grief’s two-faced nature reaches a peak on the theatrical “Gone Insane”, when the singers’ two voices become unusually discordant. As this must-read Village Voice feature explains, the song recreates a studio fight, with real emotions in play as Laessig and Wolfe replace singing into each other’s faces with yelling. It’s not exactly ear candy, but it’s a memorable moment—one that expands the theme established on the very first track. “Maybe I’ll drive myself to madness,” they sing on that opener. “Spinning in circles, don’t have it figured out just yet.”

By album’s end, they still don’t have it figured out—but it’s beautiful to hear them try. “Dusty Trails”, the wistful, glorious closing song, finds Lucius continuing to waver back and forth between soul-crushing pessimism and wide-eyed optimism. Laessig and Wolfe sing that they’re “halfway to misery,” before reassuring themselves that’s not the case: “We’ll all be okay.” “We’ll be alright.” It’s a road trip tune for the ages, perfectly capturing that universal feeling of uncertainty about the future.

As the song wraps up, the two voices sing in unison one more time: “Everyone’s around right now and I'm still alone.” That is, alone together. B