The Secret History – Americans Singing in the Dark album review

Americans Singing in the Dark sounds like it was fun to write, fun to play, and fun to sing—like part Broadway musical, part 80’s romantic comedy, part glam tribute.  All eleven tracks are distinct, and lyrics aside, each melody sounds like it’s telling a story.

Songwriter Michael Grace, Jr’s style lends itself to the imagination.  It is possible to spend this entire album (thirty-eight and a half minutes) in a musically induced daydream—within each two to five minute burst is a concise harmony, an energetic baseline or a surprising riff.  Compelling verse, playful refrain, repeat.  The music does so much work that the words sort of fuse themselves into the instrumental background.

This approach is not novel for The Secret History.  Desolation Town and The World That Never Was both contain a musical narrative.  From “Our Lady of Pompei” to “Our Lady of Stalingrad” to “Johnny Panic (Forget Everything)” a thematic motif is prominent.  Even the track titles overlap.  The longstanding notion (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkle) that storytelling is at the cornerstone of good song-writing is clearly in play, and it’s satisfying to hear the whole band get in on it.

It is striking how well the tempo of this album matches the tone.  For the most part, it’s upbeat, like the sort of pop you might want to hear at a beach party, which is certainly consistent with the album’s general imaginative whimsy.  The slower tracks, “Age of Marianna,” “Isabelle & The Music,” and “Ages of Lulu” fill in the gaps to this primarily lighthearted tale with spotless melodic contour.

Americans Singing in the Dark is the sort of album you’ll likely keep in the disc changer (so to speak) for months to come.  It’s wonderful day to day music—delightful going down and probably not what you’re used to.

By Erin Ginder-Shaw

Erin Ginder-Shaw is a writer from the East Bay who loves scribbling about music and listening to words.

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