Review: Lucy Dacus — Historian

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 4:30 PM
Review: Lucy Dacus — Historian by Livia Homerski


Lucy Dacus’s “Historian,” opens with the quirky and honest line, “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit” thus setting us up for the central theme of the album. Part break-up and part coming of age, the twenty-two year old singer-songwriter’s sophomore release captures moving on, closure and becoming at peace with death, as she sings in “Next of Kin.”

Released on Mar. 2 to Matador Records, “Historian” was produced by Collin Pastore, a friend of Dacus’s and graduate of Berklee College of Music, which is made apparent by the delicateness of the overall production. The album isn’t overrun with distortion nor acoustic softness and each track is laid down carefully and each instrument mastered to the mood of the stories being told.

Dacus makes use of descending minor chord progressions throughout the album before bringing the notes back up so that the songs have an equal balance of pep and release. Many of the stylistic choices are symbolic of Dacus’s ability to cope and present her stories in a way that isn’t blase. Her softly polished vocals and clever tongue float over those many, distinctive chord progressions, making “Historian” the refreshing indie rock album this year needed and deserved.

Although “Night Shift” opens “Historian” with the quirky line about making out, that is just barely a highlight in the 6 minute track. Clean guitars with a bit of delay and reverb back the piece tentatively while Dacus goes through the verse and first chorus. Then the rest of the instrumentation slides in laxly until the song reaches its climax during the refrain and Dacus sings brilliantly, “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers dedicated to new lovers.” Such a candid sentiment about the cycle of moving on is entirely too relevant to anyone who has written break-up songs or has an all-too-gloomy heartbreak playlist.

“Nonbeliever” is another song grappling with disenchantment and a break-up, but this time it's a split with religion. The song is sang from the third person, and Dacus coos with a hint of irony directed towards herself about her own desire to find answers in the chorus, “And if you find what you're looking for, write a letter and tell us what it is, and tell us what it is.”

The soft ballad, “Body to Flame” is kept in three-fourths time with a paintbrush on snare and dramatic strings before the twangy guitar takes the song out of its slow dance sway. Dreamy and slightly nightmarish in parts through the unexpected, unclean instrumentation, it encompasses the push and pull of trying to understand someone who hates themselves.

The following track, “Timefighter” also features similar musical qualities as “Body to Flame” but the tone is completely different. The song creeps further and further with Dacus’s vocal finesse as she tackles runs and the bass that helps keep a strong, buzzing beat. She admits, “I’m just as good as anybody. I’m just as bad as anybody” as the unclean guitar picks up for the second time in the song, lifting into a shredding wail and cuts off in the final 5 seconds of the almost 6 minutes it lasts.

The singer-songwriter capabilities of Lucy Dacus wrap “Historian” in a veil of experiences that come to shape many young people’s lives, and her succinct ability to calmly express that makes this album incredibly visceral. Dacus’s own rich and smooth velvet vocals glide through the collection of her wit and anecdotes, which contend that maybe Dacus has it a little more figured out than she thought.

Standout Tracks: “Night Shift,” “Next of Kin” and “Timefighter.”

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