HISTORIAN by Lucy Dacus
Genre: Indie Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Favorite Tracks: “Night Shift,” “The Shell,” “Nonbeliever,” “Yours & Mine,” “Timefighter,” “Pillar of Truth”
HISTORIAN is a full-bodied coming-of-age story. Lucy Dacus takes us on a mostly mid- and low-tempo journey of falling in love too young, evolving from the gullible girl she used to be, and realizing she’s just as good and bad as anybody else. Since becoming an indie star, she has had to face negative relationships, navigate adulthood, and make peace with her struggles and mortality.
Her sophomore album opens with the ballad “Night Shift,” made up of simple guitar strumming, steady drums, and bold lyrics; nothing says this is a break-up song like referring to kissing someone new as, “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit.” The first half of the track is acoustic, with the music building and the guitar distortion pulsating while the vocals maintain a lullaby quality that echoes the nonchalant, wry songwriting for which she is loved. Dacus switches to a chorus/mantra which offers a resolution to the failed toxic relationship described in the first half, closing with, “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers,” both a reference to the length of her relationship with previous bassist and a nod to David Bowie’s “Five Years,” which she attributes to her decision to pursue a career in music. It seems she’s fully embraced the idea that there is only so much time to fill our lives with what’s important throughout HISTORIAN.
The biggest change from Dacus’s 2016 debut album, NO BURDEN, and this new release is the composition: she’s included different subgenres and instruments to accentuate her style and give her a more professional sound. In “Timefighter,” she pairs a soulful blues melody with a metal solo by the all-star classical guitarist Jacob Blizard, who also arranged the horns (“Addictions”, “Pillar of Truth”) and strings (“Nonbeliever”). My favorite piece is the Pink Floyd–esque sound on “The Shell”: the psychedelic rock vibe is subtle but accentuates the reverb used to create the echo you’d expect from the empty shell she hauntingly sings about.
Amidst the personal experiences, Dacus also broaches larger topics such as the first Women’s March in “Yours & Mine” and the struggles of mental health in “Next of Kin.” From there she quickly brings her existential exploration in the spotlight for the final act of HISTORIAN. “Pillar of Truth” is an ode to her grandmother in which she seamlessly switches perspective between them, repeating, “I am weak looking at you / A pillar of truth / Turning to dust,” a chorus that serves both perspectives; to Dacus, the pillar of truth is her grandmother, while her grandmother is looking at her faith as a pillar of truth while she turns to dust. This song is a beautiful mix of loss and religion: “Lord, have mercy / On my descendants / For they know not / What they do / For they know not / Who you are / And they know not / What to do.” She manages to capture with a bright melody what it’s like to have faith to rely on when you die and to not have religion as you lose someone who is important to you.
HISTORIAN ends poetically, with the enchanting, lo-tempo title-track—a longer epilogue which explores Dacus’s recording of her own history as a legacy she can leave behind while acknowledging that death isn’t easy to talk about. Be that as it may, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter seems to have no difficulty sharing all these experiences with a finesse and humor you don’t often see in Rock.