Lucius have long been a buzzed about band that seem to be popping up everywhere over the last couple of years, whether backing up Roger Waters and Mavis Staples on stage at Newport Folk Fest or teaming up with Wilco, all the while amassing a steady following. The faces of the group are lead vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig and their colorful, matching ensembles and similarly vibrant hairdos, making them impossible to miss. They made waves with their studio debut, 2013’s Wildewoman and the anticipation for its follow-up has been rising the more they show up in their various collaborative projects. Now it has arrived in the form of Good Grief, which builds upon the sound of Wildewoman, making it much bigger and more epic. The songs on Good Grief swell and sweep, giving the pair’s vocals a chance to really expand and grow.
Whether you are a fan of their sound or not, it is difficult to deny the appeal of Wolfe and Laessig’s harmonies. Their vocals complement each other so much, they often manage to sound like one voice. This time around, they have added a healthy dosage of drama to the mix and it suits them. Whereas Wildewoman had a sweetness about it, Good Grief has depth and complexity. They can still craft a sugary pop hook, and on this record, they certainly do. But the overall shade has darkened. And the band still looks to the 1980s for sonic inspiration with copious amounts of synth. For instance, a song like “Something About You” feels like it erupts right out of a time capsule. What it lacks in freshness, though, it makes up for in its ability to get you pumped up.
The ginormous moments on Good Grief like “Madness”, “Born Again Teen” and “Almighty Gosh” make for a stark contrast with the sparer styling of songs like “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve”, an almost a capella beauty brimming with heartbreaking sadness. Or “Dusty Trails”, an acoustic guitar-led folk song that stands out among the rest. “We’ve been gone for such a long time/That I’m almost afraid to go home,” they sing in perfect harmony. This is the album’s most deeply personal and introspective tune, and it is all the better for it. In fact, this feels like the sweet spot for Lucius, and given their work with other rootsier artists (Tweedy, anyone?), you may be left wondering what a Lucius folk album might sound like.