The Secret History

Americans Singing in the Dark

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The Secret History's debut album from 2010, The World That Never Was, was an inspired bit of modern-day mythmaking that placed the band firmly in the bloodily melodramatic tradition of great groups like the E Street Band, Dexys Midnight Runners, the Smiths, and the early New Pornographers, who told a desperately true story with their words and punctuated them with life or death musical backing. To follow it up would seem a Herculean task, but on 2013's Americans Singing in the Dark, Michael Grace, Jr. and his group of like-minded bruised but battling romantics are totally up for the task. The album boils with the same passion, the musicianship is equally as impressive (not surprising considering the same players are on hand), and the singing is just as divine and inspired. Lisa Ronson's vocals have a brilliant sweetness in their restraint, and when she sings in harmony with new member Jamie Allison it makes you want to write poetry. Grace again brings hard-won wisdom and passion to his vocals, this time sounding even more like he's leaving it all on the pitch. The songs this time out are just as powerful and affecting, ranging from boisterous rockers that jump with a feverish drive ("Johnny Panic [Forget Everything]," "Gideon & the Zeroes") to classy synth pop (without the synths) that would make Martin Fry jealous ("Age of Victoria") to heartbreaking ballads that hurt like broken dreams ("Isabelle & the Music," "Age of Marianna") and even a couple perfect-world hit singles ("Sergio," the impossibly bouncy "Anthony!"). Not content to just write great songs and play them with tons of passion, they conspire to fill the arrangements with the little bits and bobs that hook you and then reel you in -- the sax solo in "Johnny Panic," the handclaps on "Eleanor (The City & Sea)," the dub echoes on "Danny Boyd (Low Tide in Harbor Town)," the amazing bassline on, well, every song actually. The desperately true songs, the raw and nuanced performances, and the perfect balance of vocalists prove over and over again that Americans is the work of a band doing everything exactly right...again. Tell all your friends about the band and the album, especially if they like music that is uplifting, inspiring, and speaks directly to your bleeding, beating heart.

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