Soft but spindly and tonally aggressive when we’re least expecting it to be, the melodic moxie to be discovered in the song “Bird” is seemingly limitless, but truth be told, it serves as only one-fourth of the magic you’re going to encounter in the debut EP Liar’s Notebook from American/Indian collective Lace this season. Giving soul a sensuous and modern makeover worthy of the genre’s pedigree, Lace are determined to do something different in Liar’s Notebook, and their willingness to think outside of the box in an era that features many of their peers doing the exact opposite is why I would rank them as one of the more important bands to watch in 2020.
Indulgence is usually regarded as a negative element in pop records, with its presence often signifying a loss of identity on the part of songwriters and producers the same, but that isn’t the case at all in Liar’s Notebook. Instead of its influence creating a negative buffer between the artists and their target audience, excess is utilized as an intricate aesthetical component of the catharsis we hear in songs like “Remember” and “Lima (ft. Alina Sarna).” What others would have trouble getting around, Lace use as another ingredient in their recipe for chills.
I would love to hear “Liar Liar” and “Bird,” both of which feature Emi Desire in their studio incarnations, in a live setting sometime, mostly just to experience their warmth in person. There’s so much to be felt from the instrumentation alone in these two tracks, and when adding in the feathery vocals, they make for a pair of transcendent soul songs that are powered as much by guitar theatrics as they are any lyrical emissions. That’s not common anywhere in pop anymore – outside of the more experimental patches of rock and hip-hop stationed mostly in the American and British undergrounds.
The flow of the tracklist here invites some smoky nightclub imagery into the fold unintentionally, but there’s nothing spectacularly campy about any of the themes discussed by the lyrics in Liar’s Notebook. By and large, Lace are really good at staying focused on multidimensional music while straddling black and white poetry in their verses, and if there’s a way that this can become a larger trend among indie circles in both the United States and India in the years to come, I would be a much happier critic.
I had never heard of Lace before being handed a copy of their debut record Liar’s Notebook this October, but if there’s one thing I learned about their songcraft in listening to these first four songs, it’s that they’re onto something really special with their hybrid sound. I haven’t heard another band quite like them since starting to keep up with the soul underground a little more closely in the last two years, and with a bit more exposure – and appreciation from college radio, where an EP like Liar’s Notebook could seriously thrive – they’re going to have an impeccable cult following.