April 6, 2016 3:47 pm

What is it that we Americans say? Two heads are better than one. Case in point, Brooklyn’s Lucius, and their new album Good Grief. Equal parts dream pop and indie rock, Good Grief finds itself in a nice place—it somehow sounds both new and familiar. Solid production supports some good songs and a few great ones. The album fits squarely within current the indie pop realm, but sounds different enough that it doesn’t feel tired or played out.

Lucius jumped into the consciousness after the release of their first EP and album, Wildewoman, which scored them a run of shows opening for Jack White. Good Grief is not a huge leap for them, but it does bring a different overall tone. It seems like Lucius turned down some of their Americana influence and turned up the eletro-pop. Good Grief is pretty thoroughly stuffed with hooks. There are pensive hooks like in Madness” “What We Have (To Change)” and super danc-ey hooks like “Something About You” and the infectious “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain.” Their single “Born Again Teen” seemed a bit frantic on its own, but in the context of the album, it is a blast of energy. Ballads “Dusty Trails” and “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve” bring a tender side to the album and let the two front-women Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig show of their Berklee pipes.

The combo of Laessig and Wolfe is really what defines Lucius. Their backing band are no slouches. Dan Molad on drums, Peter Lalish on guitar, and Andrew Burri, on more drums and more guitars, and they all sing. The crew consistently provides busy and interesting music that can test the boundaries of having “too much going on” without actually stepping over. But it’s the ladies that really set the band apart.

On my first listen, Good Grief reminded me of St. Vincent’s self-titled album. But, while these two acts are definitely in the same ballpark in terms of music and style, there is one pivotal difference. St. Vincent is all about Annie Clark. I know it took me probably a year to learn that her name is Annie Clark and the band’s name is St. Vincent. Blondie fans know what I’m talking about. This misunderstanding could exist with Lucius but, it gets eradicated as soon as you look at a picture of the band and see two women in matching costumes. “They can’t both be ‘Lucius’… or can they?” Wolfe and Laessig dedicate their image to being as alike as possible. Setting aside the sheer amount of work that must take (two of every piece of weird mod clothing, identical hair color and style ALWAYS…), it achieves several effects. Having two identically costumed front women is like doubling a vocal on a recording, but all the time and with everything. When they perform live the power of a doubled vocal is there, but it’s also there when they pose for a band photo.

More importantly though, having two identical frontwomen depersonalizes both of them. Annie Clark and Debbie Harry took all the attention from St. Vincent and Blondie because they are beautiful women pushed to the front of the stage in wild costumes. But when you have two beautiful women pushed to the front of the stage in wild costumes together, something different happens. They don’t come across as an individual with a backing band, because they aren’t. They come across as two people that are part of something bigger. It encourages the fans in the audience to not just “look at the girl singing the songs,” but rather actually listen to the music and experience the show. It stresses that this band is not about one individual, it’s about the band.

December 13, 2015 10:53 pm

Have you ever thought what Lou Reed might sound like if he was born in South Carolina?

Maybe. Maybe not. But with Shovels & Rope‘s new album Busted Jukebox, Volume: 1 you can get a taste of what legends like Lou Reed, The Kinks, and even Nine Inch Nails might sound like if they had a southern twang.

The 10- song cover album comes from a talented duo who definitely knows what they want, and what their sound is. It’s folksy, and interesting. The band gives each song an Americana-esque edge that you’d never think of, but you really wouldn’t object to. Lucius, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band all have guest spots on the album, and they fit well into their respective songs.

On “Patience,” Milk Carton Kids aided the band in covering Guns N’ Roses. While interesting, to me it felt more like if Axl Rose was covering the song while drunk at a bar.

However, “Last,” a Nine Inch Nails cover, got my attention. They called upon Caroline Rose to join them on the song, and I think it’s brilliant. The band’s bluegrass roots give the already edgy song a completely different feel than the original.

For me, Lou Reed has such a prominent reservation in my heart, and no one can really do “Perfect Day” quite like he can, however if I were at a music festival (where I’m assuming super groups like Shovels & Rope and Preservation Hall Jazz Band would form to play) I’d definitely stop and listen, and get really excited for it.

I’m always a sucker for covers and strange crossovers, so if you’re curious give it a listen and see for yourself.

Interviewing Frances Cone
July 2, 2015 10:00 am

Frances Cone sounds like a name of some male singer song-writer, but they’re actually a indie-pop band based in Brooklyn. They played at a cute little venue in the Lower East, the Cake Shop as a part of New Music Seminar last week and awed the crowd with Christina’s mellow voice. Though they were on a tight schedule and arrived only 30 minutes before their set, Christina made time to answer some questions I had while chowing down on some bananas and sipping on white wine.

How did Frances Cone form?

I met Andy at the end of 2012 through a mutual friend. I needed a bass player so he came to my house and auditioned and was ridiculously attractive and definitely talented. I was like “yeah, you’re definitely in the band!” He’s known our drummer Alex since like 3 years old, so we have wonderful band photos of them hanging out at put-put when they were little. Jeff and Andy met earlier on Myspace back in 2006. Andy was in a Boston band and he wanted to play a show in New York, so he would just get on Myspace to find a band that want to share a bill with him. So that’s how they met, they started playing shows together.

What made you want to move to NY?

You’d go to elementary, middle, high school and then go to college in the same place, and then to me NY was next. It was just a natural progression in my 22 year old head. When I got here I didn’t know why I lived here. It took me about 2 years to get settled and we talked about moving recently, but I just can’t! I love it here so much. I love that it makes general anxiety that you just create in your mind that you cannot somehow make it in New York, because everything is hard to do, like going to the grocery store. The day to day difficulties make me calm down in a way. I drank a Red Bull just now and I have a lot of anxiety, so its weird for me to be saying that I’m totally calm and peaceful…Because I’m actually freaking the fuck out.


Living in NYC for a while, what do you think about the indie music scene here?

It’s packed with artists. I feel like I know thats true, but I still get to do my thing. I don’t feel competition, is that crazy? I’m very committed when I’m in it. I want to be inspired by everybody here. I think it’s a great place to be in and meet people and make music.

Have you discovered any local bands that you’re into?

I love Lucius, they’re great! And so is Howard. Those are probably my two favorites right now.

Whats the best show you’ve played so far?

We played at Webster Hall last fall and I think it was sold out when we were opening up for Ron Pope and it was amazing. I don’t really get nervous for big shows like that, but I’m nervous now! And I’m pretty sure there’s going to be only 10 people there. I think for the big ones there’s so much weight to it that forces me to focus away from being nervous. And when it’s a small show, I find right beforehand that I’m like “Oh my god!”

What do you do to calm your nerves?

I eat bananas and drink white wine

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?

Is Rihanna a guilty pleasure? I’m a guilty pleasure person . I like Taylor Swift, she’s doing a really bang up job right now with the whole apple music thing. I really respect her, as a musician and as a person. I think she’s a good human in that she’s made really cool mature decisions.

Do you come from a musical family?

My mom is a classical pianist and organist and my dad is an opera singer. Thats how he met my mom and became a pastor later. My grandmother went to Julliard in the 30’s too. They’re very confused at what I do because they’re all classically trained.

What was their reaction when you told them about Frances Cone?

They’re really supportive.  I guess they always thought I’d go away. My grandmother sent me an article the other day that was in the back of the Charleston South Carolina paper with a tiny picture of a musician- and she was like “see, you can do music in SC too!” And I was like “Nonna- I’ve been in Vanity Fair and you don’t care! What are you talking about that I can do it there too?” (laughs)


Frances Cone at New Music Seminar