Make no mistake; NYC duo the Family Band belongs to one thing only and that one thing is the night. So much so I’d expect every trace of Grace & Lies’ very existence to magically evaporate at first sunlight, just like dreams, vampires and Keith Richards. Prepare then to be amazed as Grace‘s nine spirits each fill your home with graveyard mist, creaky porch rocking chairs and silvery moons…then at no extra cost, shazam, come dawn no trace! Well, save for the odd punctured jugular.
“There’s a secret here a grown man could not find!”. Our nocturnal witching hour (OK technically “witching 38 minutes”) begins cryptically and fittingly with “Night Song”. Kim Krans’ mesmerizing vocal is distant, icy and alluring as a Siren’s whilst her ex-headbangin’ hubby Jonny Ollsin’s six-string flickers electricity like batwings’ aflappin’ over the crunchy, footstompin’ zombified backbeat. “Hold me ‘til morning takes my eyes!” mourns Krans, possibly whilst wearing a willowy-white nightdress, holding a lantern and crossing the moors. By the time the tense Halloween piano chords strike we’ve firmly established “This is not LMFAO”. “Lace” continues the pulsating John Carpenter-rush and is akin to being chased through a dream either by Michael Myers or Robert Smith. It’s hard to tell in this light. A pale hand breaks the darkness. “I will walk you home tonight!” beckons Krans.
But what impresses most is Grace & Lies’ heart. It’s a beautiful, bloody heart, especially when it enters David Lynch territory. The aching waltz “Moonbeams” is vintage Twin Peaks. Mysteries and magic, “Moonbeams in your mouth / Stardust pouring out”. Lightly-brushed percussion, mournful ‘50s guitar and Krans’ blurry, slo-mo torch singer clutching every moment tight as if this were the last dance, “I gotta hear your wanderin’ sound”. Absolute, terrible beauty. A single spot of blood on the party dress and the sense of inescapable dread. Hell yes. The lonesome melody of the title track similarly recalls White Lodge alumni Julee Cruise’s divine “Nightingale”. Its heartbeat patter and mirrorball drift illuminates a softly swaying tide of leather jackets and prom dresses. Sweathearts and tattoos at the Roadhouse. The glacial, slowdance drag of “Keeper” is equally tragic-romantic. “You have named me as the keeper of this dream”, sighs Krans with intoxicated devotion.
“Lord the ending is coming!” The Family Band clearly care little for concerned locals’ advice to “Stay on the road, keep off the moors” and wilfully favour the trail of the lonesome pine. The Gothic blues of “Ride” echo Neil Young at his most raggedly atmospheric and conjure the spirits of Deadwood, South Dakota, 1870. Awash with ominous stormclouds, seers and “Trouble that’s coming”. Elsewhere the poetic, delicate acoustics, cracklin’ campfires and distant mountain howl of “Your Name” light the night like Eddie Vedder’s tender, troubled Into the Wild soundtrack. “Your Goddamn name…is no good. I will call you what I wish!” cries a exhausted but defiant Krans. There’s much January frost across Grace but the brooding and smoky “Again” comes closest to bringin’ some Tennessee heat. Sultry drawl, sweaty brows and, to quote the great philosopher Nelly, “It’s getting hot in herre…”
‘Tis true the night falls darkest just before the dawn, but the epic, spiralling spook-folk finale “Rest” lulls you into a false sense of security. It begins wistful, with open horizons, twinklin’ stars on fire and whispy tumbleweeds, before Krans suddenly appears halfway, entranced and wrapped in a hooded cloak with flaming torch in hand. It’s time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man! As we march the last mountain peak to celebrate the breaking dawn, Krans dances her parting mantra “Oh sweet! Old friend! Rise the end! Forgive the rest!”. It’s enchanting, contagious, dizzying.
Grace & Lies isn’t the kind of record you could, or probably should, play every day. Not simply because it’s intense or occasionally over morose but mainly because it’s pretty, bloody, special. It’s a little box of whispers and secrets that’ll haunt your heart and dreams aplenty. Perhaps not for mass consumption but for night owls, consider Grace a hearty knock on the door at the strike of midnight.