On ‘Home Video,’ Lucy Dacus Digs Into Her Deepest Cuts Yet (ALBUM REVIEW)

Lucy Dacus, the young singer-songwriter phenom and one part of supergroup boygenius, has never been afraid to open herself up to the world. Perhaps even more than her fellow heart-on-their-sleeve band members, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, Dacus has built her first two albums around visceral and often voyeuristic honesty. Home Video is nothing different, in fact, it takes Dacus’ penchant for nostalgia to its logical end, digging into her deepest cuts and pouring out the blood. 

 Her breakthrough, 2018’s Historian, was a dynamic rumination on love, one of the more biting singer-songwriter albums of recent memory, and one of that year’s best albums period. It continued the lyrical prowess promised on her debut and displayed some incendiary guitar work to act as a counterpoint to Dacus’ naked emotional output. Instead, its follow-up, Home Video, strips that vigor back and turns the emotion way up.

Nearly every track here works as either a tearjerker or a celebration of perseverance, never letting itself meander or get too solemn but always pulling a different heartstring. These songs go a little farther back in Dacus’ history as well, presenting a collection of stories from her youth, cut with the prescience of hindsight. “Hot & Heavy” opens the record on an upbeat note, telling a story of an introvert becoming more extraverted and wrapping it in an arrangement that does the same.  As an opener, it presents the key to Home Video, nostalgia drenched in both pathos and jubilation in equal measure. 

On the darker side of the album, “Thumbs”, a concert staple and frequent album holdover finally finds a proper studio release. As a stately and deeply personal character study, Dacus unravels the story of an absent father who has done a lot worse than just be absent. She doesn’t hold back in showing her disdain and loathing either, excising a brutality that never comes off as unwarranted even when we don’t know exactly what the father did. Dacus instead isolates herself and the listener from the relationship, shedding light on the intricacies and strange nature of blood relationships.  “Thumbs” may be the strongest track Dacus has ever written and its absence of almost any instrumentation leaves the audience hanging on every word. It’s a darker side of adolescence, but one that’s too easy to relate to, as Dacus fixates on the frustration of not being able to alleviate the suffering of someone she cares about.

Dacus’ lyricism is pushed farther on Home Video than ever before, with each song contributing its own characters and memories and developing a work tight and succinct enough to be called a concept album.  Dacus uses that concept to compile a look back at her own youth, a work of suburban angst and dread that benefits wholly from the maturity of its author. Even more importantly, she has proven once again that she is amongst her generation’s strongest lyricists.


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