- The Magazine
Often a convenient shortcut to warm, fuzzy feelings, artists of all stripes tend to get a lot of mileage out of nostalgia. But for Lucy Dacus, never a stranger to casually baring her soul, nostalgia is a fraught, heavy, potentially painful emotion. Her third and latest album, Home Video (★★★★☆) thoughtfully teases out what it means to leave a version of ourselves behind, and what we might find when we revisit that self years later.
Since her 2016 debut, Dacus has made an art of astute self-observation. With this record, she sharpens her focus beyond general patterns and feelings, preferring to get specific. Each of the album’s eleven tracks turns up a particular memory of hers, examining it and often offering some piece of insightful and unexpected wisdom that her past self might have liked to hear.
“VBS” recalls her time at vacation bible school, a rite of passage in some Protestant households, and the ensuing awkwardness and pain of the Christian summer camp romance that ensued. Dacus revisits her religious upbringing again on the album’s closer, “Triple Dog Dare,” a deceptively lighthearted number rife with that singularly queer tension between her faith and a crush on a same-sex friend.
At times Dacus gets particularly raw, revealing in a press release that writing the single “Thumbs” made her “feel weird, almost sick.” Listening to the song it’s not hard to see how, as Dacus’ voice, echoing and atmospheric, calmly recalls a time she accompanied a friend to an intense meeting with that friend’s estranged father, at one point fantasizing about killing him if only her friend would give her permission. “Thumbs” is sung slowly and deliberately, demanding attention for its intense lyrics, making it by far the most haunting song on the album.
The crushing intensity of “Thumbs” turns out to have pointed towards a more daring approach to instrumentation. Like her fellow Boygenius alum Julien Baker, Dacus branches out and gets more eclectic with her sound on Home Video. “First Time” layers grinding guitars over sunny, glimmering synths, while “Partner in Crime” adds a small distortion to her voice, giving it an almost robotic edge as she reflects on a relationship she has outgrown, a “welcome waste of time.” Though the effect is sometimes subtle, the more varied palette of sounds Dacus and her band play with adds depth and richness to the tracks.
Home Video sounds like the work of someone looking back a whole lifetime removed from the experiences she sings about, though they still resonate deeply in the present, where, with hindsight, they often turn out to be something other than what she thought. “Being back here makes me hot in the face,” Dacus sings on “Hot and Heavy.” Although she’s singing about a relationship that has withered, it’s hard not to get the feeling that the sentiment could just as easily apply to the rest of this thoughtful, intensely personal album.
Home Video is available for streaming and purchase everywhere. Follow her on Twitter at @lucydacus.
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