From Richmond, Virginia, Lucy Dacus is the daughter of a music teacher. She was raised in a Christian family, and her grappling with faith – once a fervent believer in her early teens, she’s now a lapsed Christian – is a central part of her music. Dacus went to film school, considering music merely a hobby even though she’d been writing songs since second grade. She only started playing live to audiences in 2015, the same year that she recorded her debut album.
Lucy Dacus Album Reviews
No Burden | Historian | Boygenius (EP) | Home Video
Dacus’ debut album was recorded in a single day, while Reba McEntire’s studio was unused. Dacus had only played solo shows before recording, so her pickup band had to quickly learn the songs in the days leading up to the session. No Burden was a college project for guitarist Jacob Blizard, who recorded it over his winter break. Unsurprisingly No Burden is raw, but there’s certainly potential with Dacus’ honest lyrics and gritty guitar. No Burden suffers in comparison to Dacus’ later work, as there’s little variation in mood with nonstop intensity.
Dacus’ wry humour is evident on ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore’, when she sings “I don’t need to be the frontman/if not, then I’ll be the biggest fan”. Dacus’ best tune on No Burden is ‘Strange Torpedo’, backed by some terrific squelchy guitar. ‘Troublemaker Doppelgänger’ has the memorable line “I wanna live in a world where I can keep my doors wide open”. ‘Trust’ is pared back to just Dacus’ voice with an acoustic guitar, while ‘Dream State…’ is pretty country.
No Burden was a successful debut for Dacus, topping some year-end critics lists but, in hindsight, it’s overshadowed by her subsequent work,
Dacus’ second album was recorded for notable indie label Matador. It isn’t radically different from her first, again centred on a muscular rock band, but it’s more developed. The production is more professional, but it’s the depth of the songwriting that stands out. Dacus’ songs are deeply personal – she told RemoteControl that “this is the album I needed to make. Everything after this is a bonus.” The angsty guitar rock is reminiscent of Mitski albums like Bury Me At Makeout Creek.
The record is bookended by two epics – ‘Night Shift’ is Dacus’ first breakup song and it’s eloquent. On the closing ‘Pillar of Truth’, Dacus takes temporary solace in the faith of her youth. “Then my soul/Screams out to you” is a rare moment of hope on a harrowing record. ‘Pillar of Truth’ is among several songs with lovely lead guitar from Blizard – the introduction to ‘Body to Flame’ is also beautiful.
Historian confirms Dacus’ talent, able to turn personal memories into great songs without getting overwrought.
Female artists Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers had never all been in the same room together when they decided to form a band. The three are all at a similar career stage, but have different approaches to indie; Dacus is more rock-oriented, Baker specialises in emotional slow-core, and Bridgers plays poised folk-rock. With three distinct personalities, they sound full of vitality when they sing in tandem. The three named their project boygenius after a type of self-confident male they’d all encountered in the music business.
boygenius is a six-song EP; each of the writers bought in a completed song. The opening rocker ‘Bite The Hand’ is from Dacus, ‘Me & My Dog’ is from Bridgers, while ‘Stay Down’ is one of my favourite Baker tunes. Additionally, the three worked on each other’s incomplete ideas, enjoying the mutually supportive environment.
It’s difficult for an EP to make the same impression as an album, but these songs are strong and it’s a great taster for three talented writers.
Home Video provides a graceful broadening of Dacus’ musical scope. There’s still guitar muscle but the tempos are slower and there’s more emphasis on Dacus’ lyrics. She’s an interesting lyricist, both offering futile advice to friends and revisiting her adolesence. On ‘Thumbs’ she sings to a friend;
You’ve been in his fist ever since you were a kid
But you don’t owe him shit even if he said you did
On ‘VBS’ she remembers the Vacation Bible School of her youth.
It’s mostly mellow and introspective, but there’s stylistic variety all the same. My favourite track is ‘Partner in Crime’, which blends some tough guitar with pop-style processed vocals, while closer ‘Triple Dog Dare’ is a lengthy rocker with a rawer sound. The quieter songs put Dacus’ voice and lyrics in the spotlight – ‘Brando’ delivers another great one-liner:
You called me “cerebral”
I didn’t know what you meant
But now I do, would it have killed you
To call me pretty instead?
Home Video is a very strong third album, setting Dacus up for a long and varied career.
10 Best Lucy Dacus Songs
Pillar of Truth