Lucius have been slowly cultivating a cult following even before their first official studio album Wildewoman in 2014. The dynamic duo’s penchant for pop-adjacent disco has made them dancefloor-ready for nearly a decade and without a new record for some time, the nightclubs of Los Angeles have been yearning for a new release. It makes Second Nature, their latest record, a highly anticipated project.
Produced by Dave Cobb and Brandi Carlile, and featuring Carlile alongside Sheryl Crow on one of their tracks, this album has all the makings of a chef-d’oeuvre, albeit a slightly quirky and disjointed one. The record starts off strong with some pop-disco inspired sounds, and although it wanders off course in the middle, it does find its way back around.
The title track holds onto this neo-disco flair, channelling a sort of Haim-meets-Harry Styles vibe. Of course, this is likely not an uncommon comparison considering the group’s association with the latter. The album begins to hone an identity in this sound, it’s punchy, unique, and feels like a solid direction for Lucius. Second Nature captures the essence of their artistry, while still moving in a new and exciting direction.
However, don’t get too comfortable with what you hear as the needle drops, because Lucius shakes things up at every turn. ‘Heartbursts’, for example, I can lovingly compare to Wii Sports music, with its peppy, shimmery harmonious bop. Again, it’s tons of fun. By the time we get to ‘Promises’, the vibe shifts again, this time producing a tune comparable to old Taylor Swift and early ’00s Sheryl Crow. With its acoustic-pop twang, shining lyrics and chorus vocals, it offers an entirely different flavour of nostalgia.
The trajectory of the album isn’t all rollercoaster, however. In fact, by the time the last few tracks of the album arrive, that indie-pop disco flair comes back around to bookend the release. ‘LSD’ and ‘Tears in Reverse’ give us that satisfying full-circle sound that brings intention to every previous vibe switch. ‘Tears in Reverse’ is a knockout among them all. Its heavy bass groove and ambient sexiness set it up for a low-lit music video and a slot on any number of movie and TV show soundtracks. While it undoubtedly has a synth-pop inspiration, it’s rooted in their indie-rock production flavour.
The album’s final track ‘White Lies’ slows things down with the kind of ballad that every record needs. The song feels like the only place on the record that makes you sit with the feelings. And even here, the beat that comes in behind the clear vocals and piano gives it the push it needs to work with the rest of the album. It kicks up with bigger vocals and swelling instrumentals towards its closing show, as is expected of any album-ending ballad.
When it comes to the flow of the record, vocalist Jess Wolfe puts it best as she explains, “It is a record that begs you not to sit in the difficult moments, but to dance through them. It touches upon all these stages of grief—and some of that is breakthrough, by the way. Being able to have the full spectrum of the experience that we have had, or that I’ve had in my divorce, or that we had in lockdown, having our careers come to a halt, so to speak. I think you can really hear and feel the spectrum of emotion and hopefully find the joy in the darkness. It does exist. That’s why we made Second Nature and why we wanted it to sound the way it did: our focus was on dancing our way through the darkness.”
I could imagine that this album will leave some trying to figure out how the pieces fit together, but it’s clear that the ebbs and flows in tone and sound were born of a vision for the project. Songs such as ‘Next to Normal’, ‘Tears in Reverse’, and ‘Dance Around It’ are bound to stand out, especially with the latter’s star-studded features—album producer Brandi Carlile as well as Sheryl Crow.
Whether this album is a true no-skip is up to each listener to decide, but it’s clear that this is an effort dripping with creative vision and star-studded support. As this is their first full-length effort since 2016, it’s obvious that a lot went into it, and when that spark gets a chance to truly shine, boy does it follow through.