The Secret History’s 2010 debut, written by Michael Grace Jr. following the joyless fall of My Favorite (whom I’d personally hold up high as one of the most important pop bands of the past 15 years), never sunk in the way I’d hoped. The record, the band, the loss of My Favorite, everything felt disjointed to me. I recognized some of the features, but The Secret History felt like a stranger asking me to get into a car with them. I couldn’t bear to do it.
Turns out I just wasn’t ready to grow up yet.
A mere three years and some change later, The Secret History have released their sophomore LP Americans Singing In The Dark and it’s a brilliant flash of unabashedly earnest, heartbreaking pop songs aiming to resolve a bit of unfinished business. The record claims to be the natural continuation (or conclusion) of the characters and narratives of My Favorite’s swan song The Happiest Days Of Our Lives. The vignettes running through the minutes of that record were, well, dark—melancholic at best and, occasionally, downright dysphoric. And the post-millennial world hasn’t exactly been any kinder to their dreams.
Ten years later, there’s a certain personal comfort in learning that these fictional characters, while not particularly better off than they ever were, are still dragging themselves through the dark streets and even darker dreams of NYC for better or worse. And just as the characters exist outside the supposed bounds of their modern world, as does the record itself. Americans Singing In The Dark is an indiepop record with no visible interest in being an indiepop record of the current climate. Life-affirming saxophone blasts break through glammed-up guitars solos with such joyful perfection, that it would, quite frankly, make the gutless, Wake-worshipping ranks of the new pop shit their pants. Except that’s not nearly all, and elsewhere you’ll find flecks of country, dance, even a few strokes of dub all under the careful watch of a group of massively talented dreamers who could turn anything into an evocative pop gem if they so wished.
Whether this record functions simply as a reunion or a funeral is a little bit unclear. But whether these characters and songs find the bright lights or dissolve into the night with little fanfare, I’m terribly glad to have known them.
Buy the damn thing!