Lucius: Second Nature
If there’s a lesson from Lucius’ stunning new album Second Nature, then it’s that the best way to deal with darkness is to dance through it. The indie-pop duo led by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig have crafted a 10-song, smart-pop masterpiece that explores the unraveling of a marriage set to a four-on-the-floor beat. After 2016’s Good Grief, the band nearly imploded—Wolfe and drummer Dan Molad separated and, ultimately, divorced, with both players remaining in the band—and the singers went on a detour backing Roger Waters. (The group briefly reunited to rerecord some old songs and covers for the acoustic Nudes.) Meanwhile, Wolfe and Laessig kept taking on gigs as backup singers, recording vocals for The War on Drugs, Harry Styles, Sheryl Crow and Brandi Carlile. When it came time to work on a new album, Lucius’ singers decamped to Nashville to record with Carlile and Dave Cobb just as the pandemic was taking hold. Though Lucius’ 2013 breakout Wildewoman was an Americana-leaning affair (and Carlile and Cobb are renowned for their Americana bonafides), Second Nature mostly skirts folksy acoustic guitars (save for the hooky “Promises”) in favor of synth-heavy disco vibes. The ‘80s-indebted “Heartbursts” might be the group’s catchiest single yet—emblematic of Second Nature’s slinking, sexy grooves, which implore listeners to get up and let loose, even as it openly explores the end of Wolfe’s marriage. “Dance Around It,” featuring backing vocals from Carlile and Crow, plays like an update to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” Where that millennial dance-floor anthem was about the feeling that comes from watching an ex with a new lover, Lucius’ cathartic club banger is about embracing—while avoiding—the inevitable end of a relationship. “Our love’s burning out,” they emote. “We’ll keep dancing around it.” Wolfe and Laessig often sing in unison as one, and dress the same onstage, like twins or mirror images. Their shared vocals have always given their songs an otherworldly power. On Second Nature, it’s revelatory.