LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Home Video' - Lucy Dacus
On her third record, Richmond born singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus takes the listener on a journey through her formative years - feelings taken straight from teenage diaries, conspired with lyricism so powerful it creates a palpable sense of nostalgia for a life that you never even lived, but somehow understand as distinctly as your own.
‘Home Video’ opens with ‘Hot & Heavy’, a sentimental, pop-tinged track that immediately sets the tone for the record - it's concise and catchy, but it doesn’t have to sacrifice anything of the candour and storytelling that Dacus has so carefully crafted in her past work - in fact, it elaborates on it beautifully. The musical development between her past album, 2018’s Historian, is best described by Dacus herself on this track. Recounting what people said to her on return to her hometown, she sings: ‘You used to be so sweet / Now you’re a firecracker on a crowded street’.
Lucy Dacus is clearly an immensely powerful storyteller, every song a snapshot from her youth so vivid it's as if you’re staring straight at a photo, and never is it stronger than on ‘Thumbs’, a stripped-back, yet brutal and gut-wrenching reflection on a memory of meeting a friend's estranged father, in which Dacus quietly and eerily sings “I love your eyes/And he has ‘em/Or you have his/’Cause he was first/I imagine my thumbs on the irises/Pressing in until they burst.” It’s a song that presents its anger so softly, but it’s boiling searingly away beneath the surface of Dacus' soft voice and mellow synths so viscerally it's almost uncomfortable.
Musically, the mood lightens on ‘Going Going Gone’, a campfire esque ballad that employs Dacus’ fellow Boygenius band members, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, on backing vocals, and plants you in the middle of an awkward teenage romance that develops into a poignant message “about the cycle of boy-girl, man-woman, father-daughter, and how protective fathers may be because they know firsthand what men are capable of. The cycle of innocence to corruption to fear.” through beautifully repetitive choruses and lyrical imagery so strong it makes you stop in your tracks and reconsider the way you think about everything - “The sunset threw a tantrum/It wasn't ready to go just yet/Mother Earth said, "Time for bed"/It resisted and the sky went red”. Another standout moment on the record is ‘Brando’, an upbeat and indie imbued ode to old movies and the kind of boys that watch them, scattered with cinematic references and careful pensiveness.
Something that adds real wonder to ‘Home Video’ is the way it describes others, and the genuine sense of respect it has for them, and the impact they’ve had on her, whether negative or positive. It feels like a love letter to her past and everyone in it.
Especially on ‘Triple Dog Dare’, the record’s closing track and a nearly 8-minute ode to young love, queerness, and religion - In which Dacus heart-wrenchingly sings “I'm staring at my hands/Red, ruddy skin, I don't understand/How did they betray me? What did I do?/I never touched you how I wanted to” after spinning a tale of being separated from a childhood friend who was maybe something more than either realized at the time. The song takes on a more fantasy turn as it progresses, a hopeful childlike tale of two girls who run away together to escape the judgment of the people around them. It’s a song that demands to be listened to and understood, wistful and painful in its casual urgency as Dacus repeats the phrase `It's a Triple Dog Dare’ almost desperately. The song ends on one of the most powerful lines of the whole record, a call forward to the future that ties up the whole album perfectly: “Nothing worse could happen now”.
A musical coming-of-age memoir that guides you through Dacus’ past hand in hand, ‘Home Video’ is a fiery mix of sentimentality and sexuality, anger and awkwardness, burning brightly and unflinchingly by virtue of Dacus’ immense talent and refreshingly relentless honesty.
‘Home Video’ is out now via Matador Records.