Lucy Dacus: ‘Historian’

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After her 2016 debut, No Burden, Lucy Dacus was hailed as one of rock’s most promising new players. With her sophomore release, Historian on March 2, Dacus fulfills that promise—and then some.

Dacus’ delicate—but not in any way frail—vocals lead the way through the album, which almost feels like a rambling stroll through a narrative carefully sculpted with tattoo-worthy one-liners. The album screams maturity, carrying a sense of depth and knowledge that many decades-older veteran musicians at times struggle to grasp. In Historian, Dacus asks the big questions and allows herself vulnerable realizations while simultaneously staking her ground and declaring her space in rock music anyway.

The album opens with “Night Shift,” a track that’s equally heartbreaking and beautiful. Opening slowly, the track grows, seeming as if it’s never going to end but in a way that’s entirely positive. Though not one of the biggest stand-outs on the album, its a nice opener to the lineup.

The first real kicker in the album is the third track, “The Shell.” Upon opening, the song almost feels like being drunk at a party, a great party, but nevertheless still trapped in one’s own head. With lines like “I am busy doing nothing and you’re rudely interrupting/ It’s a myth but now I see it clearly / You don’t have to be sad to make something worth hearing,” the lines feel like a stream-of-consciousness, but somehow still entirely relatable.

The real shining moment of the track is towards its end—a trend that will come up again as the album progresses. The last third of the track almost evolves outside of this stream-of-consciousness to something wholly other, with the instrumental taking front in a way that builds similarly to that of great psychedelic ballads, entirely unexpected but definitely nice.

Next, to look at “Yours and Mine,” another standout in the lineup. She amps up the vocals on this track, bringing in some heavier, but still simple, harmonies to round out the lead—proving that Dacus doesn’t need to do crazy things with her vocals for her vocals to be crazy good. The best moment on this track, however, is the guitar solo rounding out the end. It’s fuzzy, it doesn’t feel overdone, and it seems to perfectly compliment the rest of the song in a nice juxtaposition.

“Body to Flame,” the sixth track, is practically cinematic in its greatness. It’s fairly calm, ambling, before Dacus belts, “Laughing aloud at the spinning stars” and the track explodes.  It’s fuzzy, it’s a sensory-overload, it’s fazing in-and-out and it’s exactly what the album needs. With lines like “I see you holding your breath with your arms outstretched/ Waiting for someone to come rip open your chest,” the track almost feels like a Joan Didion essay, giving you all of the details you didn’t know you wanted—but somehow Dacus did.

Finally, the funkiest track on the album, “Timefighter.” This particular song feels self-assured, as if written by someone confident enough to walk away from a love and be able survive the fallout. It’s groovy and definitely a track you can lay back into and get comfortable with, just swaying to the beat as she spells out the story. This track, again, shines in guitar solos, but this time they’re particularly gritty, rough, and harsh on the edges. Further, the almost staccato stop-and-go towards the middle of the song shows her own self-restraint as an artist, her own maturity to know when to pull back. It fits, so well, in the overall narrative—proving her own badness in the best way possible.

On her sophomore album, Lucy Dacus confidently strode into the world of rock—showing that though it’s just her second album, she already has the chops to be a mainstay in the industry.


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