Lucius - Good Grief (B+)

I recently posted on my blog page that I’ll be implementing a grading system when it comes to the albums I review. I’ve been considering it for some time, but this album (and last weeks Ouroboros) are what you can officially thank for it. They’re not just good, they’re great, and I want that to be known definitively! *slams gavel, removes robe, chest bumps fit friend* Generally artists, after experiencing success with their debut record, will duplicate the sound in an effort to solidify themselves. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, it still sounds great, often times (and hopefully) better than the previous album because they’ve grown as artists. This approach cements their presence as more than just a “one hit wonder” so to speak, but ultimately leaves us with more of the same. Some artists don’t have the need to expand further, their sound is their sound (Jack Johnson is a perfect example of this). For most though, that desire to explore and build on their sound is there. Whether they grow into something great or something good, or even something bad, is the real question. Lucius, I’m happy to say, is already growing into something great. 

The opening track sets a great tone for this evolved sophomore effort. Good Grief isn’t a massive departure from their first album, Wildewoman, so don’t take my use of “evolved” as a message that they’ve changed their sound completely. The soul of their first record is very much here, it’s just progressed into something more grandiose. When I’m listening to a bands second record I always try to pick out how many songs would fit on their first record as well. This helps to establish progression in sound and shows a bands willingness to expand. I’d venture to say about 3/4ths of this record features material that is apart of their new sound, and that ambition definitely paid off. Good Grief was one of the rare listening experiences where I’ve enjoyed it from start to finish on the first listen through. So often when I put an album on for the first time it’s just to get a feel, some tracks will hook me, but there’s a lot to take in, so it’s more a casual listen through to get my mind right. Here, I was hooked instantly.

I’m still in awe of the beautifully fluid harmonies achieved by vocalists Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Whether it’s in support of one taking the lead or when they’re matching each other through vocal intricacies, it really is the foundation of what makes this group a joy to listen to. Another highlight here is their control of the mood and pacing. It’s so smooth and well thought out, you can tell they took their time with the process. I honestly feel like I could put any track as the single and it would be satisfying, that’s how much I loved this record. One of my favorite moments was the continuation of emotion from track three to track four. “What We Have (To Change),” about the confusion of where a relationship went wrong and the desire to make it work, into the subtle “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve,” where they softly, almost sheepishly, request for their heart back. Beautiful. Though, that’s as down as they’ll let you get as it’s right back to dancing with the electro-pop groove “Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain.”

I generally think that sans a concept album, a record should never be longer than 12 tracks. However, I would gladly dismiss that rule for the inclusion of “Strangers” and “You Were On My Mind,” which feature on the album’s deluxe edition. The simplistic tracks would have added a more raw feel to the album, the only thing I felt was lacking. The first record had it in spades, which was part of the appeal, but as the group has grown, so has their production value. This is just a slight nitpick of an otherwise spectacular second record from Lucius. On “Better Look Back” they joyously sing, “Something for everyone. Something that’s so different from before!” and they couldn’t be more right. Easily one of my favorite albums so far this year.