By guest reviewer: S.H.
The Secret History is an indie pop/rock band hailing from New York City. New Haven has the pleasure of welcoming the seven piece band to its walls during Tweefort (soon to be February) Records’ Elm City Popfest, which spans from May 14-15, with a follow up show on May 26. The Secret History will be playing at ArtSpace Underground on May 15 alongside two New Haven locals: Butterflies of Love and The Procedure Club.
The Secret History comes from a rich background of music notables: Michael Grace, Jr.’s former band, My Favorite, opened for, among others, Belle & Sebastian and The Magnetic Fields. Lisa Ronson, moreover, is the daughter of glam legend Mick Ronson.
Released March 22 of this year on Le Grand Magistery, other critics have described the band’s newest record, The World That Never Was, as “a modern classic.” Such praise is not undeserved; The World That Never Was ranks among my favorite new releases of 2010. As one who had not previously been exposed to The Secret History’s work in the past, the record certainly succeeded in catching my attention.
The record begins with “Johnny Anorak,” a very upbeat and catchy song which sets the tone for the rest of the album. The vocals are consistently strong throughout the entirety of the record; and “Johnny Anorak” indeed captures the brilliance of Lisa Ronson’s vocal ability. “Johnny Anorak” certainly has rock elements which are pervasive throughout the record; “Our Lady of Stalingrad,” also among my favorites on the record, demonstrates The Secret History’s ability to finely craft a more poppy tune. We get a first taste of Michael Grace Jr.’s singing on the third track, “God Save the Runaways,” the first song which features the band’s capability to shift to a slower tempo yet still hold the listener’s interest. “Love Theme (from The World That Never Was),” the fourth track, features one of my favorite bass lines on the record. Each member of the band shines in one way or another in the record; this kind of cohesion among the band makes for the kind of live performance that I, for one, will not want to miss. “Sex With Ghosts” is another one of my favorite tracks as far as vocals go; Ronson’s voice works almost perfectly with the dreamy kind of atmosphere which the song presents. “Johnny Nightmare” picks up where “Johnny Anorak” leaves off, and along with “Sister Rose” treats listeners to a pair of late-record pop-rock delights. The album concludes with “How I Saved My Life,” which begins with a slower arrangement featuring accordions and acoustic guitars. The track later morphs into a far more upbeat tone before slowing down again, helping encapsulate the range of emotions which the band is able to touch upon throughout the entirety of the record.
Overall, The World That Never Was is a very strong showing for The Secret History. Mark your calendars for May 15 when The Secret History comes to New Haven.