Monday, July 19, 2021

LUCY DACUS’s ‘Home Video’ shares relatable teenage memories in a painfully honest way

Home Video’ is a nostalgic, witty, beautiful album that feels so honest and genuine that you can’t help but feel like you’ve gotten to know her in a real sense by the close of the final track. Her third solo album so far, Dacus has carved out a special place for herself in the indie scene as an understated poet who has a great ear for composing music that will allow her narrative lyrics to resonate most effectively with listeners. She may have outdone herself in this regard with ‘Home Video’.

Hot and Heavy’ opens the album gracefully with reminiscent lyrics at the forefront, then slowly building the instrumentation and leading into a catchy beat that still lets the potent and striking lyrics shine through. “Heavy memories weighing on my brain / Hot and heavy in the basement of your parent’s place” Straight away listeners feel like this album is going to take them on a memory-filled journey, with Dacus’s silky smooth and soulful voice as your guide and master storyteller. 


Leading into the elegantly simple ‘Christine’, with piano arpeggios and acoustic guitar chords with the hint of strings and sparse use of atmospheric synths that all work together to draw you in but keep her voice as the star. ‘First Time’ follows with a rougher, indie rock energy, picking up the pace and clearly steering things away from the typical indie waif zone, showing Dacus’s range and desire to not be confined to a purely gentle and ponderous artist but also one that can bring the heat when she feels like it. 


VBS’ is undoubtedly a stand-out track (which even pains me to say as they’re all deserving in their own right) smoothly melding Dacus’s folk and modern indie rock sensibilities. This track tells the story of a connection Dacus made at Vatican bible school (hence, the title) which, like much of the album, is delivered as if she is talking to that person in a very frank but caring way, with love coming through even when exposing harsh, cutting truths.


Cartwheel’ follows with a stripped back, but orchestral and spacey feel complimented by Dacus’s resonant doubled vocals which give her honest, deliberate, and personal lyrics a choral quality. Indeed, everything she sings feels so filled with truth and poetry that it sometimes may feel like gospel. Some lyrics are so painfully aware and honest that they could be lifted from her teenage diary, only accompanied by the wisdom of her now twenty-six-year-old self. While she may know better now, there’s no sense in dismissing her old feelings or experiences but enabling herself to revisit them and trying to make sense of the past for herself - we're simply bystanders.


Thumbs’ is a prime example of the strength and confidence of her lyrical ability and delivery. Apart from some sustained choral synth notes and the odd rhythmic or harmonic gesture, this song is all Dacus vocals, recounting a painful experience of meeting a friend’s toxic parent and wanting to reassure them that they don’t owe them anything, delivering haunting lyrics full of quiet anger and wanting: “I would kill him if you let me / I don’t know how you keep smiling”.


Going Going Gone’ is another simple, stripped back number which has a lighter feel to some of the previous tracks, showing more innocence in her voice and lyrics, accompanied by slow acoustic guitar strums and some well-employed backing vocals, added to by a charming voice clip of her celebrating the take and thanking her collaborators. This is followed by an unexpected twist in style, using heavily processed drums and autotune vocals in ‘Partner in Crime’. The mix of sounds and styles works well and prevents the album from sounding too repetitive while still sounding like a genuine and poignant Lucy Dacus song. 


As the album draws to an end, Dacus continues to show her extensive range and intense lyrical ability. ‘Brando’ has a bit more bite to it, with ‘a woman scorned’ type lyrics that are countered nicely by a steady beat and melodic guitar riffs that balance the mood nicely. ‘Please Stay’ is perhaps the most vulnerable track on the album, as Dacus feels like she’s become completely exposed, singing with palpable longing. 


The playfully named ‘Triple Dog Dare’ closes the album on what feels like a bookend, considering the adolescent, reminiscent tone of the opening track ‘Hot & Heavy’, with a slightly more severe mood this time. While remembering vivid moments both good and bad from her youth, this track feels almost like a warning to herself, replaying what she wished might have gone differently. "I never touched you how I wanted to / what can I say to your mom to let you come outside" Ending with a piercing thought ‘nothing worse could happen now’, Dacus exposes that relatable truth of everything feeling like the end of the world when you’re a teenager. 


Home Video is out now.

Aoife McMahon
Image: Ebru Yildiz

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