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Lucius' Five Essential Talking Heads Songs

Lucius' Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe (photo by Piper Ferguson, PR)

Lucius' Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe (photo by Piper Ferguson, PR)


When the members of Talking Heads released their final album, Naked, in 1988, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the Brooklyn band Lucius were just kids. So it was a pretty thrilling experience for Lucius to be asked to work with David Byrne on last year's Contemporary Color shows.

The project, conceived by Byrne and commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Luminato Festival, was an inspired pairing of ten artists, like St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Blood Orange's Dev Hynes, with ten North American high school colorguard teams. Together, musicians and colorguard teams created a dynamic synthesis of pageantry, movement, and live performance finally presented in arena-sized venues, Toronto's Air Canada Centre and Brooklyn's Barclays Center, for four days in June 2015.

Lucius wrote and contributed the song "What's The Use of Crying," collaborating with New York's Shenendehowa High School, for an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired piece.

This year, Lucius released a vibrant new album, Good Grief, and they've been busy touring (including a forthcoming gig at SummerStage Central Park on September 23). Still, when Wolfe and Laessig heard that Byrne's former band was one of our FUV Essentials, they sent along a list of the Talking Heads songs they loved best: a thank you from one New York band to another.

Lucius' Five Essential Talking Heads Songs:

"Slippery People," Speaking in Tongues (1983)
The first time I heard this song was thanks to Mavis Staples. She had asked us to sing some background vocals for her 75th birthday Newport Folk fest performance. Amazing how a song can carry such a wide range of dynamics and a heavy percussive throughline—regardless of who is performing it. It's a song that can't really change too much, regardless of performer, or maybe just that it shouldn't be. The background vocals and vocal tone of this song are so soulful, so unapologetic, and psychedelic. It's impossible not to feel it in your heart and in body; you just have to bob your head to this one. - Jess

"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," Speaking in Tongues (1983)
Probably my favorite song of all of Talking Heads' repertoire. There's something so simple, so nostalgic, and yet you almost can't decide if you should feel sadness or sweetness. It sits somewhere between the two. It's both. This song isn't a hit and yet it's somehow made its way to our ears time and time again, in many iterations. Maybe what made it so special, aside from the obvious lyrical mastery, is that this song separated itself from the rest of the Talking Heads catalogue at the time. Which is probably why it's been covered by the likes of Arcade Fire, Iron and Wine, and hundreds of others. - Jess

"And She Was," Little Creatures, (1985)
Always loved the unexpected but somehow seamless chord changes in this song; it feels like a fresh splash of water every time the chorus comes around. I guess modulating between E major and F major sounds like a sweet Super Soaker battle in the summertime to me. I’m going to remember that! There’s also an equal amount of instrumental riffs and vocal parts that stick with you which I am a fan of. The video is wonderfully surrealistic which goes so well with the idea of this girl on some psychedelic trip floating above her mediocre surroundings. It always reminded me a lot of Monty Python—I found out the director Jim Blashfield is a big Terry Gilliam fan so that made a lot of sense! - Holly

"Burning Down the House," Speaking in Tongues (1983)
I have a distinct memory of sitting in the grocery store parking lot with my mom, on a hot Ohio summer day, and I turned on the radio just before we got going. Flipping through the channels, my mom said, "Stop it right there!"—and the inner wild child reared its ugly (yet so beautiful) head. It was the first time I heard "Burning Down the House," painfully loud with the volume dial all the way up, mom in full groove mode, and smacking the steering wheel. It was a window into some other realm of hers I hadn’t seen yet, that I recognized in myself. So I always think of this song as a mode of transport; it was the soundtrack to our next destination in every sense. - Holly

"Psycho Killer," Talking Heads: 77 (1977)
This track has one of the most recognizable bass lines I can think of: you hear the first bar and you just know. It’s such a driving groove throughout. The thing that attracted me the most the first time I heard "Psycho Killer" was the sense of freedom and humor in the lyric, the phrasing, and vocal performance. I love off-the-wall hooks—the further out there the better so long as it’s memorable. Our voices are so capable of so many different sounds and sentiments and Talking Heads were really good at using the full palette. It’s articulations like those that people find the most fun to impersonate and let loose with. - Holly

- Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius
August 2016

Read all of FUV's Five Essentials.