Eleanor (The City & Sea) - The Secret History (from 'Americans Singing In The Dark' LP)
‘Killed in the suburbs by My Favorite’ and ‘This Melodica kills fascists’ are two of the things it says on Michael Grace Jr’s Twitter page. In my wilder moments I might suggest this is all you need to know; might darkly mutter that if those words mean nothing to you then you don’t deserve to hear 'Americans Singing In The Dark’ and that you can all just piss off back to your whatever the heck it is you listen to anyway. But it’s the season to be jolly, so I’ll push that character back into his dreary box and tell you that, by golly, The Secret History made a second album that glistened with the magic of Dr Marten boot boys sprinkled in glitter cavorting with Modernist besuited bedroom balladeers.
There is a great article available here in which Michael outlines twenty five albums that were in some way influential in the writing and making of ‘Americans Singing In The Dark’. It’s as much a wonderfully telling portrait of Grace as it is of the album, and that’s as these things should be after all. On Dylan he says “Bob Dylan is IMHO the greatest songwriter that ever was. Boring, I know. But if you wanted to be Jack Kerouac as well as Sid Vicious when you first sniffed glue behind a 7-11, then maybe you understand. Heck I wanted to be Herman Melville more than I wanted to be Tony Hawk which explains a lot of the scrapes and bruises I had in the early 90s.” Which I think is just magic, and in honesty I often imagine Grace as some kind of Ringolevio character, or as a member of Bruce Davidson’s legendary Brooklyn Gang, and I suspect he’d quite dig those kinds of references too.
Here’s another one I think he would appreciate: ‘Americans Singing In The Dark’ was, in my mind at least, a kind of 2013 American equivalent of ‘Back In Denim’ - a literate and intensely personal Protest Record: very much of it’s time yet like the best protest songs full of timelessly acute observations and reflections. Certainly it is one of this year’s essential records.