Not many bands can boast that one of their fans is a highly influential and well regarded economist, but, thanks to – of all people! – celebrated economist Paul Krugman’s endorsement late last year, Lucius can boast just that. The Brooklyn-based five-piece have been building momentum over the last year and their debut, Wildewoman, is finally set for a UK release, having been out in the US for some time. What is it about them that can make a respected Nobel Prize winner deliver up gushing and giddy praise?
On first listen, the answer is pretty straightforward. Wildewoman is, to be blunt, straight-up indie pop and unashamedly so. With a palette that’s reasonably varied and never in danger of being one-dimensional, it sports a healthy mix of organic and digital textures, and it’s always unrelentingly bright. The heart-on-sleeve songwriting is certainly charming – everything, even when the brashness is toned down, is incredibly upfront. However, not everything works, making for a slightly bumpy road.
First, the good stuff. The album is, if nothing else, reliable. They have a knack of creating moments of joy so easily that provide immediate satisfaction; at times, it sounds as if they’re having a ball in the studio, with perky handclaps and perky keyboards galore, such as on the pleasant and breezy Turn It Around. When they need to grab the heartstrings, they do so without it being too much. Until We Get There, which starts off with gentle, Local Natives-esque guitar plucking, gradually morphs into something uplifting without wasting any time, whilst Two Of Us On The Run moves swiftly along from intimate ballad to rousing singalong.
There are qualities in their overall aesthetic that are delightfully warm and fuzzy, but it’s clear that the vocals are the centrepiece, with nearly every song’s beats, guitars and synths content to sit in the background whilst Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the two lead singers, effortlessly shine in the limelight. Tempest’s melancholic, rich melodies sound as if they were borrowed from ABBA, and they turn How Loud Your Heart Gets into a really moving and soaring closer. Their talents are even more impressive when things take a subdued turn, such as on the sparse and slow Go Home, which is more of a match for the uptempo numbers.
All that being said, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that, from the opening seconds of the title track which opens the LP, it’s fairly paint-by-numbers stuff. It’s no less enjoyable because of this – bemoaning cheery pop for not being original is sort of missing the point in the first place – but certain tracks could have done with a bit more punch and flair. The problem is exemplified by the weaker numbers in the second half, such as Monsters, which isn’t really effective at all and seems stuck in autopilot. It also means that some of the better tracks on that half, such as How Loud Your Heart Gets, are too easy to ignore.
For all the passion that Lucius display, the quintet are still finding their feet, to an extent. Wildewoman is only partially successful, though anyone who can appreciate this kind of charismatic music will have no problem cherry picking the best tracks. It’s pleasant enough, but there are not enough killer tunes to make this a standout.