To describe the beat in “Bird,” one of the four songs included on the debut EP Liar’s Notebook from Lace, as being an important element in the track’s construction wouldn’t be doing its role justice – truthfully, its mild pulsations forge the emotionality behind the lyrics more than anything else here possibly could have. In neo-soul, there are only so many things that a single player can do on their own before losing steam, and hence, this Indian-American joint collective is relying on the wits of their musicians to form a collective wallop as powerful as any tidal wave (and winning this critic’s heart in the process).
In terms of production quality alone, Liar’s Notebook sounds a lot more polished than it feels, which isn’t to say its studio varnish fails to cover the bases here. Rather than trying to doll up with harmonies with a synthetic backing, the texture and tonality of the melodicism in this record is left intact and untouched, as it would be in a live performance, while the mix itself works all of the kinks out of the levels through equalization. That used to be considered a cut and dry way of making soul music, but in 2020, it’s enough to make Lace sound like revolutionaries.
Liar’s Notebook is one of the most harmony-driven EPs I’ve heard in a really long time, and overall, I think it crafts a narrative more through the way the players deliver the catharsis unto us than it does any on-the-nose lyrical statements or allusions to a common emotional premise found in most any strain of pop music. For Lace, it would have been too pedestrian to merely top grooves with lighthearted lyrics that test the depth of the rhythm as limitedly as possible, and I couldn’t agree with their choice any more fervently.
Though the guitars are a bit louder than they actually need to be in “Lima” and “Remember,” I understand the concept that was in use for this feature. In the Emi Desire-featured “Bird” and “Liar Liar,” the volume on the vocal is equal to the strings to yield a melodic wall impenetrable by any percussive force in the mix, but for “Lima” (which features Alina Sarna) and “Bird,” the strings have to be just a bit bolder in tone in order to blend the bassline with the drums in the background. It’s a complicated way of coupling sonic brawn with aesthetical brains, but then again, no one ever became a soul legend by taking the easy route in the studio.
Lace aren’t looking to be the next mainstream soul hit – that much is clear even from a distance – and Liar’s Notebook proves this to the world beyond a reasonable doubt. They’ve got much loftier ambitions than what the straight and narrow life of a pop/rock syndicate would allow for, and in crossing two different oceans to make this project happen, these players issue a declaration of war to those who would suggest that the best neo-soul of the 20’s will emerge from the American underground alone.